The Perspective of Women
Reform, Revolution and Counterrevolution

Beginnings of Trujillo

From 1916-1924, the United States occupied the country of the Dominican Republic. During this period, the US created the Policia Nacional so to maintain order in the country.

Rafael Leonidas Trujillo Molina was one of the Dominicans trained through this organization. After being promoted to Commander of the Policia Nacional, Trujillo helped launch the coupe d'etat against Horacio Vásquez. On August 30th of 1930, Trujillo became president after a corrupt election. This day marked the beginning of one of the “cruelest, most violent and controversial dictatorships of the Dominican Republic” [1]. Regardless of the fact that there was only one other dictator other than Trujillo, Ulises Heureaux, Trujillo's regime remains infamous for its violence, censorship and lack of political freedom. Pedro Santana, president of the country in the 19th century, has been considered a dictator by many historians but the matter continues to be controversial. Ultimately, however, Trujillo's regime ended after he ordered the murder of the "Three Butterflies". The murder of the Mirabal sisters brought his demise.

Rafael Leonidas Trujillo

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Trujillo and the United States

The regime was partially controversial because of the support it initially received by the US. Despite the corruption and violence within the Trujillo dictatorship, the United States continued to favor him because of his economic policies and anti-communist sentiments. As Cordell Hull stated, the US secretary of state from 1933-1944, “He may be a son-of-a-bitch, but he is our son-of-a-bitch” [2].

Trujillo was largely known as “El Benefactor” and “El Jefe”. This image was perfectly captured through censorship and excessive propaganda, as is demonstrated in the picture of the Hull-Trujillo Treaty. “The ubiquitous image of Trujillo, loomed large in all of the government pavilions, here smiling, there bending down or signing a document” [3].The treaty ended US control of Dominican customs, and thus demonstrated the trust between Trujillo and the American government. Trujillo, as exemplified in the quote, focused largely on his image. In every Dominican house, there had to be a picture of Trujillo with the phrase, "En esta casa, Trujillo es jefe."

Later, during the end of his regime, Trujillo was pressured into liberalizing the country after the 31 years of his dictatorship. After Trujillo ordered the murder Venezuelan president, Rómulo Betancourt, the Organization of American States established harsh economic sanctions on the country [4].

Hull and Trujillo

Hull and Trujillo, signing the Hull-Trujillo Treaty

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Violence & Brutality

Trujillo was notorious for his violent nature, known for the torturing of many opponents during his regime.

Particularly, Trujillo strived to “whiten” the Dominican race by both bringing Jewish refugees from the Holocaust and by murdering Haitian immigrants [5]. During the month of October of 1937, Trujillo ordered the military to kill all Haitians living in the northwestern frontier. Many of the victims weren't even Haitian. Some were Dominican citizens. As Richard Lee Curtis stated, in his article, A World Destroyed, A Nation Imposed: The 1937 Haitian Massacre in the Dominican Republic, "The extraordinary violence of this baneful episode provides a terrifying image ... of the brutality, ruthlessness, and Caligulesque features of the infamous Trujillo dictatorship"The estimates on how many Haitians were murdered range from a few hundred to twenty-six thousand [6]. Any of these statistics are unreliable is because of the large amount of illegal immigrants that had no documentation when captured by the military. Thus, although it is a certainty that many Haitians were murdered, the exact number will never be accounted for. The Haitian Massacre became known as "El Corte", or "The Cut".

The Haitians that worked in sugar cane plantations were saved from the massacre, since Trujillo viewed them as a necessary workforce for the Dominican economy.

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The Luperion Invasion, in 1949, marked the beginning of opposition to Trujillo’s regime. At this point, the troops of the Movimiento de la Liberacion Dominicana invaded cities in hopes of ending the dictatorship[7].

Following this, many left-wing Dominicans began seeking inspiration from Fidel Castro’s movement against the Batista dictatorship in Cuba. Thus, on June 14, 1959, revolutionaries launched an invasion of the Dominican Republic with help from the Cuban government. The movement became known as the Movimiento del Catorce de Junio. As the Luperion Invasion 10 years earlier, the movement was crushed and the rebels were tortured [8].

It was in the 1950s that Trujillo lost support from the US, the Catholic Church and the Dominican elite. The US feared that the Cuban revolution would spread to the Dominican Republic, and therefore, they supported any conservative groups that wanted to overthrow Trujillo [9]. This position agrees with the Domino Theory, and the US foreign policy of containment.

On May 30, 1961, Rafael Leonidas Trujillo was murdered. Dominicans were restless with the dictator’s use of SIM (Servicio de Inteligencia Militar) and the abuses they caused upon family members. After Trujillo was murdered, Ramfis Trujillo, his son, served as dictator for five months. Later, Ramfis fled the country.

Trujillo's Car

The car Trujillo was riding in when he was shot

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Las Hermanas Mirabal & Jesús de Galíndez

Trujillo's downfall was marked by martyrs that became symbols for any Dominican opposition. Particularly, this was evident with the death of Jesús de Galíndez and Las Hermanas Mirabal. Both murders became symbols for Trujillo's brutal dictatorship and how people struggled against it.

Jesús de Galíndez was a Spanish member of the Delegate for the Basque Government in the Dominican Republic. While in the country, Galíndez researched Trujillo’s regime for his doctoral thesis. He was forced to flee the country in 1949 to New York, where he taught International Law at Columbia University [10].

“I feel that because I’m Basque. And because we are Basque we can hold another citizenship; we can love the country we live in; we can have compassion for the problems of others even though some people think it strange that I should share the problems of Puerto Ricans in New York; that I should attack the Latin American dictators; that I should take part in the International League of Human Rights; that I should be moved when I hear the patriotic hymn of a Mexican charro or the drumbeat of a black Caribbean" [11].

Galíndez had heavily criticized Trujillo. It was this sensibility for other nations that made him a threat in the eyes of Trujillo. On March 12th, 1956, Galíndez disappeared off the streets of Manhattan. There is no clear evidence for what exactly occurred that day, despite the fact that many historians and news sources blame the Dominican government for his unexplainable murder.

Las Hermanas Mirabal became greatly opposed to the regime while they attended the Inmaculada Corazon school. At school, Minerva, one of the sisters, was introduced to what was unspoken in society, as her friends told her about the brutality of the Trujillo regime. Following this, Minerva met with members of the Socialist party and started reading leftist literature [12]. In an infamous scene, Minerva slapped the dictator when he made a pass at her at a party in San Cristobal. The event led to the arresting of her father and the first sign of Minerva’s commitment to end the regime. However, this claim might be a fabrication by Julia Alvarez, author of “In the Time of the Butterflies”. Previous to the publishing of the novel and the production of the movie, Minerva slapping Trujillo had been more of a rumor. Nonetheless, it serves as a symbol for the sisters’ courage and defiance against the regime.

Three of the sisters, Patria, Minerva, and Maria Teresa, married anti-trujillistas. After their involvement in the group “Movimiento 14 de junio”, their husbands were arrested. On a trip to visit their husbands in a prison, the three sisters and their chofer were brutally murdered by the military under the command of Trujillo [13].

The murder of the sisters caused public uproar. Even the Catholic Church began to criticize the Trujillo regime openly. The sisters became martyrs for violence against women. As the Dominican saying goes, “La muerte de las Hermanas Mirabal fue la ultima gota que derrumbó el vaso”. Their murder was said to spur the organization of the murder of Trujillo.


Jesus de Galindez

Jesús de Galíndez Picture from /

Minerva Mirabal

Minerva Mirabal

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Counterrevolution & the Media

The stories of Jesús de Galíndez and Las Hermanas Mirabal have been presented by the media in different forms. Jesús de Galíndez’s story became the inspiration for Manuel Vázquez Montalban’s novel, “El Misterio Galíndez”. Later, this was produced as a movie directed by Gerardo Herrero [14].

Las Hermanas Mirabal have received a significant amount of fame after Julia Alvarez’s novel, “In the Time of the Butterflies”. The novel, which takes certain liberties in regards to the actual historical development of the sisters, presents the story of “las mariposas” throughout their fight against Trujillo. The movie, with Marc Anthony and Salma Hayek, came out in 2001.

Similarly, “La Fiesta del Chivo” by Mario Vargas Llosa presented the story of Trujillo and his ultimate demise. Again, this novel became a movie starring Isabella Rossellini.

In The Times of the Butterflies

In The Time of the Butterflies DVD cover

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In this video, Eduardo Estrella discusses how Trujillo's men tortured his father and how this was present in Mario Vargas Llosa's novel. 


After Trujillo & Reform

After Trujillo's regime, Joaquin Balaguer became president. Balaguer had been Trujillo's vice president and followed his ideals.

Balaguer was followed by Juan Bosch, a member of the Partido Revolucionista Dominicano (PRD). Bosch attempted to implement certain social reforms until President Lyndon B. Johnson ordered an occupation of the Dominican Republic in 1965 after an uprising.

With the help of the US, Joaquin Balaguer was reelected. Again, Trujillo's influence was present as Balaguer maintain a strict military order with violence against any opposition [15]. Balaguer maintain a great amount of political power until his death in 2000.

Currently, the Dominican president is Leonel Fernandez. Fernandez, who is serving his second term, continues to emphasize the importance of democracy. However, the public feels that Fernandez focuses mainly on technological advances and neglects basic needs such as food and education. Although this may disregard that Fernandez views these advances as necessary, his focus on the construction of the subway in Santo Domingo has been heavily criticized [16].

Politically, women seem to have equal opportunities as men. Although there has not been a female president, Milagros Ortiz Bosch was the vice-president during Hipolito Mejia's presidential term.

Metro en Villamella

This picture, which was sent as fowarded e-mails and published in local papers, represents the opposition of the construction of the subway. The image shows the contradiction between possible modernization with the ongoing poverty that currently exists.

[1] Garcia, Enrique. Rafael Leonidas Trujillo. 28 Oct. 2006. <>.

[2]Rafael Trujillo: Biograpy. 28 Oct. 2006. <>.

[3] Derby, Lauren. The Dictator's Seduction. 26 Oct. 2006. <>.

[4] Rafael Leonidas Trujillo. 26 Oct. 2006. Wikipedia. <>.

[5] Wucker, Michele. River Massacre. 28 Oct. 2006. <>

[6] Sagas, Ernesto. Haiti: Conceptions of Haiti in D.R. 1994. 28. Oct. 2006. <>.

[7] Forrest, Dave. Rafael Trujillo: The Dominican Dictator. 28. Oct. 2006. <>.

[8] Forrest, Dave. Rafael Trujillo: The Dominican Dictator. 28. Oct. 2006. <>.

[9]Forrest, Dave. Rafael Trujillo: The Dominican Dictator. 28. Oct. 2006. <>.

[10] Legarreta, Josu. "Jesus de Galindez: Martyr for Freedom." Gaurko Gaiak. 28 Oct. 2006 <>.

[11]Legarreta, Josu. "Jesus de Galindez: Martyr for Freedom." Gaurko Gaiak. 28 Oct. 2006 <>.

[12] Las Hermanas Mirabal. 28 Oct. 2006. <>.

[13] Las Hermanas Mirabal. 28 Oct. 2006. <>.

[14] "NY Pays Tribute to Jesus de Galindez". eibt 24. 10 Oct. 2006. 28 Oct. 2006. <>.

[15] "Joaquin Balaguer". Joaquin Balaguer. 28 Oct. 2006. <>.

[16] "Leonel Fernandez". Wikipedia. 28 Oct. 2006. <ández>.