The Dictator Next Door: The Good Neighbor Policy and the Trujillo Regime in the Dominican Republic, 1930-1945- Eric Paul Roorda

51zy0kw2akl-_sx322_bo1204203200_On May 30, 1961, Rafael Leonidas Trujillo, the dictator of the Dominican Republic was assassinated in the capital city of Santo Domingo.  His death concluded a 30 year reign of oppression inflicted upon the Dominican people and the neighboring country of Haiti.  Widely considered to be the worst dictator Latin American history, he is responsible for the Parsley Massacre in 1937, the deaths of the Mirabal sisters and an unknown number of murders. True to the form of an egomaniac, he went as far as to have statues of himself constructed throughout the country while at the same time renaming the capital Trujillo City. His initiation of the system of ethnic cleansing that attempted to “whiten” the republic created a climate of racial dysfunction that affects the island to this day.  A thirst for blood and supreme dominance encouraged him to plot the assassinations of several Latin American leaders and threatened to destabilize the Caribbean and curtail American business interests. Fifty-five years later, the question of how Trujillo assumed power is often asked.  The relationship between the U.S. and the Dominican Republic is a long fractured story and a prime example of the effects of imperialistic foreign policy.  Eric Paul Roorda has studied the complex relationship between the two nations and the rise of a tyrant.

The first question that we must ask is how did Trujillo come to power?   The Monroe Doctrine and the added corollary by Theodore Roosevelt paved the way for occupation by the United States Marine Corps of the island of Hispaniola.  Later in an effort to relinquish control of the island, the Marines began to train young men for positions in government and the military.  Among  these young men was a young man from San Cristobal that would later rule the Dominican Republic with an iron fist. His persecution of  political opponents, parties and exiles often came to a bloody and deadly climax.  The murder of Jesus Galindez highlighted the level of vengeance attained as he re-enforced his status as the “Benefactor of the Fatherland.”

The rise of the Trujillo regime and its influence over Dominican society represented the dark side of the U.S. foreign policy.  Roorda reconstructs the puzzle showing how U.S. intervention and later non-intervention, created the most brutal dictatorship in Latin American history.  The Good Neighbor Policy and the battles that waged within Washington between the White House, Marines and State Department are examined in detail revealing the disdain and contempt for Trujillo and also the reluctant acceptance by Washington of the malignant nightmare in the Caribbean.  Under the facade of the Good Neighbor Policy, diplomatic relations continued with Trujillo until 1958 and were never fully restored. Without the backing of the United States and his power slipping, Trujillo’s days became numbered.  Mounting opposition and dissatisfaction gave rise to calls for social reform and paved the way for his assassination three years later.

Roorda’s investigative account gives clarification to the complex history between neighbors bonded together by imperialism, greed, murder and racial ideology.  A genocidal tyrant was allowed free reign over his subjects bringing shame and regret to the powers that allowed his ascension to the throne.  He is only one on a long list of dictators that have seized power at the heels of faulty U.S. foreign policy.  The story of the Dominican Republic is a mirror image of other Latin nations ravaged by imperialist ideas.  But with this book, there is hope that we can go a long way in preventing the rise of another dictator next door.

ISBN-10: 0822321238
ISBN-13: 978-0822321231


In The Time Of The Butterflies – Julia Alvarez

alvarezRafael Leonidas Trujillo (1891-1961) ruled the Dominican Republic with an iron fist for over thirty years before he was assassinated on May 30, 1961.  The late dictator was sixty-nine years old.  His death brings a sigh relief to the people of the Dominican Republic and the United States, Trujillo’s sponsor through direct intervention in Dominican affairs in the early 1900s and later through the Good Neighbor Policy which allowed the government to turn a blind eye to the atrocities being committed by Trujillo’s regime.   The name of the capitol was changed back to Santo Domingo, the name assigned to the oldest city in the Caribbean by Christopher Columbus. Although Trujillo’s tyrannical reign came to an abrupt end, the nation found itself in political turmoil.  Poverty, class division and corruption have continued to plague the republic to this day.  Throughout his reign, Trujillo was faced by many opponents, some of whom he had executed in cold blood to silence any and all opposition to his maniacal conduct.  Officially, he is known to have persecuted thousands of Haitian immigrants and Dominican citizens repulsed by the policies of his administration.

Among his many fierce critics were a group of sisters that became martyrs in their cause for change and protests against Trujillo’s repressive ways.  Julia Alvarez has adapted their lives into this phenomenal account that tells the story of the famed Mirabal Sisters.  Their names are Patria, Minvera, Maria Terese and Dede. Their goal was to transform Dominican society into one in which equal rights existed for women and all people in the Dominican Republic.  As they raise families and mount their opposition to a maleficent tyrant, their lives take twists and turns along the way showing the reader the true costs of freedom.  In a time where the movement for equality for women still had much ground to cover, the lives of Mirabal sisters are nothing short of inspiring. Despite being incarcerated several times and threatened by Trujillo’s regime, they refused to relinquish their crusade for a free Dominican Republic.  Their resilience had tragic consequences and the deaths of Minvera, Patria and Maria Teresa on November 25, 1960 near the now famous resort town of Puerto Plata is known was one of the darkest moments in the history of the country. Dede, the youngest sister, made a decision through fate not to be with her sisters on that November night and lived to carry on their legacy until her own death at the age of eighty-eight on February 1, 2014. Her daughter Minou Mirabal is currently a congresswoman with the Alliance For Democracy Party and remains an active force in Dominican politics while carrying on the Mirabal name.

The book does not simply read like a biography but more like a novel allowing the reader to intimately know the central characters. Each sister is a force on her own and together they form a family bond that was tested on a routine basis.  As we make our way through the book, we begin to feel that these incredible women are our sister as well and their safety becomes our primary concern.  The intimidation by Dominican authorities and jailing of their husbands and eventually the sisters cast a dark cloud over their daily lives and gives the book an edge of suspense which the reader will be unable to shake.  But through their courage and unwavering ideology, they press on and they take us with them all the way until they meet their fate in Puerto Plata. And once they are gone, their story will stay with the reader as an example of the courage and strength that women exhibit in the face of adversity.

Following their deaths, there was outcry and rage at the horrific actions taken against them.  The Trujillo regime was known for its excessive violence and the death of the three sisters served only to plunge his regime deeper into infamy.  The United Nations recognized the sisters and the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women was created in their honor.  It is celebrated every year on November 25 in memorial of their untimely deaths.  In 2001, this book was adapted for the silver screen under the title of the same name. The film stars Selma Hayek, Edward James Olmos and singer Marc Anthony.  Their family home was turned into a museum is still open to and visited by tourists from all parts of the world curious about the lives of the fallen heroines.  Nearly 60 years have passed since their deaths but the light that is their memory shines bright and each year on November 25, we can look back at the lives of these iconic women.

ISBN-10: 1565129768
ISBN-13: 978-1565129764