The Borders of Dominicanidad: Race, Nation, and Archives of Contradiction

The Borders of Dominicanidad: Race, Nation, and Archives of Contradiction

by Lorgia García-Peña

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In The Borders of Dominicanidad Lorgia García-Peña explores the ways official narratives and histories have been projected onto racialized Dominican bodies as a means of sustaining the nation's borders. García-Peña constructs a genealogy of dominicanidad that highlights how Afro-Dominicans, ethnic Haitians, and Dominicans living abroad have contested these dominant narratives and their violent, silencing, and exclusionary effects. Centering the role of U.S. imperialism in drawing racial borders between Haiti, the Dominican Republic, and the United States, she analyzes musical, visual, artistic, and literary representations of foundational moments in the history of the Dominican Republic: the murder of three girls and their father in 1822; the criminalization of Afro-religious practice during the U.S. occupation between 1916 and 1924; the massacre of more than 20,000 people on the Dominican-Haitian border in 1937; and the 2010 earthquake in Haiti. García-Peña also considers the contemporary emergence of a broader Dominican consciousness among artists and intellectuals that offers alternative perspectives to questions of identity as well as the means to make audible the voices of long-silenced Dominicans.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780822373667
Publisher: Duke University Press
Publication date: 10/13/2016
Sold by: Barnes & Noble
Format: NOOK Book
Pages: 288
File size: 5 MB

About the Author

Lorgia García-Peña is Assistant Professor of Romance Languages and Literatures and of History and Literature at Harvard University.

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The Borders of Dominicanidad

Race, Nation, and Archives of Contradiction

By Lorgia García-Peña

Duke University Press

Copyright © 2016 Duke University Press
All rights reserved.
ISBN: 978-0-8223-7366-7


The Galindo Virgins

Violence and Repetition in the Archive of Dominicanidad

Dominicans should never forget the inherent ferocity of those monsters that penetrated our homes ... and even the innocence of our candid virgins destroyed.

— FÉLIX MARÍA DEL MONTE, "Canción dominicana," 1844

Let us not forget all that we suffered under Haitian oppressing rule. ... Even our tender virgins were raped at the hands of those beasts.

— MANUEL ARTURO PEÑA BATLLE, Discurso sobre la cuestión fronteriza, 1944

All those enemies of our nation ... who forget the incredible sufferings that under the forced occupation of 1822 our nation endured. ... That even the fragile bodies of young virgins were raped and killed.

— VINCHO CASTILLO, "Discurso," 2014

On May 31, 1822, during the first year of the Haitian Unification of Hispaniola (1822–44), widespread panic overcame residents of Santo Domingo after a leaflet that read "Beware of Rapists and Killers" appeared around the main plaza in the city center. The pamphlet described the events that had happened the day before: three men, armed with machetes and rifles, killed three girls and their father in the vicinity of Galindo. The dismembered bodies of the children were found in a well. On June 8, owing to the testimony of a woman identified as Ysabel, the house servant, members of the military government of Spanish Haiti (now the Dominican Republic) apprehended Pedro Cobial, Manuel de la Cruz, and Alejandro Gómez in connection with the crime. The men were "wanted criminals from the Spanish Era who had escaped prison during the political transition from Spanish colonial rule to independence." Cobial, de la Cruz, and Gómez self-identified as Spanish Dominicans from East Santo Domingo.

After a celebration that included drinking, dancing, and cockfighting, Cobial, de la Cruz, and Gómez broke into a stable near Los Minas (see map 1.1) belonging to a man identified as José de los Santos. They stole a horse, a rifle, and couple of machetes. At dawn the bandits left en route to San Pedro, where Cobial was from. About nine kilometers east of old Santo Domingo (today Zona Colonial), they encountered a well-dressed lone rider, Don Andrés Andújar, who was headed to the city center for business. Andújar was a widower. He lived with his three daughters — Águeda, fifteen, Ana Francisca, ten, Marcela, six — and their nanny, Ysabel, in Galindo (see map 1.1), a six-hacienda community located west of La Caleta. Still drunk from the night before, the three men attacked Andújar, who was also armed, with the intention of stealing his horse. Though Andújar resisted, he was outnumbered and eventually killed at the hands of Cobial. The bandits then proceeded to the Andújar Hacienda, where the girls still slept. It was six in the morning.

No one knows if the criminals woke the children before they killed them. Some said the men raped the girls. The criminals then threw the lifeless bodies of the children in the well, raided the hacienda, lit it on fire, and left. They spared Ysabel, presumably because they believed her to be mute. On June 11, 1822, a tribunal of Spanish Haitian judges convicted Cobial, de la Cruz, and Gómez for their crimes. They sentenced de la Cruz and Gómez to forced labor and five years in prison. Cobial was given the maximum sentence: fifteen years in prison.

Through a narrative of repetition, silencing, and exculpation that resulted in what I call the Archive of Dominicanidad, nineteenth-century Hispanophile writers — who privileged Spanish language, Hispanic culture, the traditions of Spain, and whiteness — memorialized Águeda, Ana Francisca, and Marcela Andújar as white virgins and the first female martyrs of the nation, comparable only to the martyrdom of the revered Mirabal sisters. Cobial, de la Cruz, and Gómez in turn became bloodthirsty black Haitians. The invention of the Galindo Virgins eventually replaced the memory of the violent act and the subjecthood of the victims. This discursive strategy helped to sustain elite desires for European cultural identity while appeasing global anxiety over the potential creation of another free black nation on the island of Hispaniola. Literature and History worked together in the production of Dominicanness in contrast to Haitianness; Galindo became one of the most important motifs for sustaining anti-Haitian ideology as the crime became a metaphor for the Haitian unification.

The nation-building project, as Franklin Franco argued, "aceleró por un lado el definitivo estrangulamiento de la deformada incipiente burguesía colonial esclavista española e impulsó por el otro la formación de una burguesía criolla profundamente integrada racialmente" (accelerated the definitive decline of the incipient, malformed proslavery colonial Spanish bourgeoisie, and sparked the creation of a criollo bourgeoisie that was profoundly racially integrated). However, it also resulted in a contradictory national narrative that sought to produce a sovereign nation while simultaneously appeasing criollo colonial desire to retain whiteness and European cultural dominance. During the second half of the nineteenth century, this contradiction manifested in a literary tradition that romanticized the Spanish colonial past and demonized the Haitian unification as "the darkest period in Santo Domingo history."

The first reference to the Galindo murders appears more than three decades after the incident occurred, in Nicolás Ureña's poem "Mi patria" (1853). Writing from exile in the neighboring Spanish colony of Puerto Rico, Dominican romantic writer and Liberal Party leader Félix María del Monte revisited the story in his epic poem from 1860, Las vírgenes de Galindo o la invasión de los haitianos sobre la parte española de Santo Domingo (The Galindo Virgins or the Haitian Invasion on the Spanish Side of Santo Domingo). Del Monte's poem is the first account to explicitly change the identity of the convicted men from Dominican to Haitian. Inspired by del Monte, criollo Alejandro Bonilla, one of the most successful Caribbean visual artists of the time, painted the scene (1883) as a gruesome crime perpetrated by black Haitian soldiers against visibly white women. The painting gained significant recognition nationally and abroad. At the end of the nineteenth century, costumbrista writer and journalist César Nicolás Penson repeated this version of the crime in his celebrated historical legend (tradición) Las vírgenes de Galindo (1891). Though there is evidence that Penson had access to the Sentencias de los reos de Galindo (1822), the official court transcripts, he based his historical legend on del Monte's poem from 1860, making it the first instance in which the fictionalized version of the event was presented as historical truth. Penson sustained his claims to historical authenticity through the use of journalistic writing techniques and temporal exactitude, and by claiming access to eyewitnesses of the crime. More than a century after the murders, and writing as part of the Trujillo intelligentsia, Max Henríquez Ureña, son of the celebrated poet Salomé Ureña, revisited the episode as imaged by Penson in his novel, La conspiración de los Alcarrizos (1940), linking it to the failed criollo independence plot of 1824.

The contradictions that exist between the historical court transcripts of 1822, on which I base my reconstruction of the violent crimes at the beginning of this chapter, and the subsequent abundant repetitions, illustrate the process by which the dictions of history and the dictions of literature have operated to produce an acceptable version of Dominican cultural and racial identity. This hegemonic dominicanidad is culturally Hispanic, therefore white, ethnically opposed to Haiti, which is rendered black, and ultimately defined on and through the body of the Dominican woman, who is also imagined as white.

Between 1822, when the violent episode occurred, and 1860, when Félix María del Monte wrote his poem, there are only minor cursory mentions of the Galindo murders. Similar temporal gaps exist between del Monte's poem and the publication of Penson's version in 1891, and between the latter and Henríquez Ureña's novel of 1940. These significant temporal gaps also suggest a conscious political attempt to recuperate the trope of the Haitian unification — displaced by the Galindo Virgins — as a collective traumatic experience at critical moments in the definition of the Haitian-Dominican border. Del Monte's epic poem, for instance, was written during the Spanish reannexation campaign (1860–61) and circulated shortly after the passage of President Gregorio Luperón's Treaty of Peace, Friendship, and Commerce with the Haitian state (1867), which resulted in a new diplomatic crisis with the neighboring nation over frontier demarcations in the Northwest. Similarly, Henríquez Ureña's version from 1940 follows the Haitian-Dominican international crisis that emerged as a result of the massacre in 1937 of an interethnic borderland community, which I study in chapter 3. The re appearance of the Galindo allegory reminded people of their national loyalty to Hispanism so that, as del Monte better explained in the prologue to the 1885 edition of his Las vírgenes de Galindo, "Dominicans would never forget Galindo as a symbol of the inherent ferocity of those monsters that occupied us ... and avoid at all costs, a new intervention." As if following del Monte's mandate, Dominican elite writers reiterated the Galindo case at various moments in the history of the nation. Violence served as a historical reminder of the threat Haiti represented against the sovereignty of the Dominican nation.

Though studies about anti-Haitian ideology dominate the bulk of intellectual and historical inquiries about the Dominican Republic in the US academy, the case of the Galindo murders is rarely mentioned. The few cursory allusions to the violent event that do appear in contemporary historiography and literary criticism rarely consider the contradictions and repetitions of the crime, acknowledging only its allegorical nature. This chapter calls attention to the multiple ways in which Dominican elite criollo writers fictionalized and produced the Galindo crimes to sustain hegemonic dominicanidad through a multilateral writing process that: (a) invented Dominican whiteness as a cultural category linked to Hispanism; (b) displaced black bodies and black experiences from the nation-narration through a manipulation of popular multicolor identification into mestizaje (Indian and European racial and cultural mixture); (c) co-opted, silenced, and whitened Dominican women's bodies as sites for contesting ideologies of race and nation; and (d) erased Dominican criollo culpability for ethnic, sexual, and physical violence. By studying the multiple repetitions of the Galindo murders within the historical context in which they were produced, we better understand the significance of History and Literature in the violent process of bordering and producing the modern nation-state.

Foundations of Contra diction

Étienne Balibar argues that in the modern nation there can only be one founding revolutionary event. For the Dominican Republic this foundational event is the Trabucazo (the blunderbuss shot) that on February 27, 1844, ended twenty-two years of island unification under the Haitian flag.But arriving at this Dominican Republic birth date has been a rather complicated question. The Spanish-speaking portion of Hispaniola declared its independence three times: twice from Spain (1821 and 1865) and once from Haiti (1844). The establishment of 1844 as the nation's foundational moment represents a trifold process of ideological contradictions. First, the two dominant ideologies guiding the process of national independence were in opposition, one demanding racial erasure and the other proposing racial unity. Second, ensuring sovereignty depended on the global conviction that Dominicans were indeed (racial) antagonists to Haitians. Finally, nineteenth-century Hispanophile writers were caught between their own ideological desire to preserve an "essence" of dominicanidad and maintain Spanish cultural identities. These contradictions materialized in political turmoil, despotism, and the inability to unify and integrate the majority of the population into a national project until the twentieth century. Further, they led to multiple independences that make establishing the birth of the Dominican nation a project of historical and rhetorical contradiction.

The Spanish Colony of Santo Domingo obtained its first independence from Spain on December 1, 1821. During the period known as España Boba (1809–21), Spain neglected its American colonies as it faced Napoleon's invasion (1807) and the aftermath of the Peninsular War (1807–14). Taking advantage of the widespread discontent that overcame Santo Domingo's criollos amidst the growing economic decline of the colony and Spain's neglect, writer and politician José Núñez de Cáceres rallied them to seek separation from the European nation. Known as the Ephemeral Independence for its short duration (December 1, 1821, to February 9, 1822), the first República del Haití Español did not abolish slavery, and thus had scant popular support. Dominican mulato hateros (cattle ranchers) and farmers reacted by rallying behind Haitian president Jean-Pierre Boyer to unify the island and abolish slavery. Boyer's hatero supporters eventually formed the Radical Party, while Ephemeral Independence leaders organized under the Liberal Party. The two political factions dominated the bulk of nineteenth-century Dominican politics.

Three years after the unification of 1822, following increasing international pressures, Boyer signed the Reparations Act of 1825 in which he promised to pay France 150 million gold francs in compensation for the European nation's "lost colonial investment" and in exchange for recognition of Haiti's independence. Haiti had won the war against France in 1804, but Europe and the United States refused to acknowledge the black nation's sovereignty, a fact that affected President Boyer's ability to participate in international trade. After the passing of the Reparations Act of 1825, Spain, the United States, and England also recognized Haiti's sovereignty, lifting a twenty-one year economic embargo. To meet French demands, however, Boyer was forced to increase taxation among landowners of East Hispaniola. Widespread discontent over crippling taxes soon resulted in a unified Liberal and Radical revolutionary front that, under the leadership of French-educated criollo Juan Pablo Duarte, eventually founded the independent Dominican Republic in 1844.

In 1861, fearing another unification under the Haitian flag, Pedro Santana (1801–64), a criollo, sought the support of Liberal elites to request that the Spanish queen, Isabel II, reannex Santo Domingo to Spain. Santana rationalized his treason by insisting on the patriotic need to protect the prosperity of Dominican "Hispanic essence." During the Haitian unification of 1822, Spanish-language books and newspapers were censored and universities closed. Early republic intellectuals and politicians used the Spanish language, Hispanic traditions (music, dances, literature), and cultural attributes (holidays, religion, foods) to rebel against political opposition to Haitian censorship. Haitianness became equated with anti-intellectualism while Hispanism became a political strategy for creating a sense of national identification and culture.

Santana's reannexation was possible precisely because he utilized the same language of nationalism that had engendered the Dominican Nation in 1844. In the face of what appeared to be impending foreign invasions of French-speaking Haitians or English-speaking North Americans, Hispanic colonialism was equated with national belonging. Haiti and the United States defined the political, cultural, and ideological borders of the nation from its conception. After the violent two-year Restoration War (1863–65) led by mulato general Gregorio Luperón with support from Haitian allies, the Dominican Republic obtained its third and final independence on August 16, 1865. Over the next decade, Luperón worked with Haitian politicians to draft clear geographic frontiers between the two nations and to create international commerce and political treaties aimed at protecting the young republic from further invasions.

The question of how Dominicans came to settle on the independence of 1844 as the nation's foundational event is puzzling to many historians. Some believe the decision responds to Dominican "colonial yearning" and to the inherently "anti-Haitian nature of the Dominican independence project." But such arguments rely on the same decontextualized and extemporal view of Hispaniola that has sustained the two dominant and pervasive views of dominicanidad in the US academy: that anti-Haitianism was the driving force of Dominican independence from Haiti in 1844, and that white elite Dominican criollos decided the destiny of the nation. This myopic vision of the 1844 foundation effectively erases Dominican blacks and mulatos as political actors.


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Table of Contents

Note on Terminology  ix

Acknowledgments  xi

Introduction. Dominicanidad in Contradiction  2

Part I. Founding the Archive

1. The Galindo Virgins: Violence, Repetition, and the Founding of Dominicanidad  23

2. Of Bandits and Wenches: The US Occupation (1916–1924) and the Criminalization of Dominican Blackness  58

3. Speaking in Silences: Literary Interruptions and the Massacre of 1937  93

Part II. Diaspora Contradicts

4. Rayano Consciousness: Remapping the Haiti-DR Border after the Earthquake of 2010  129

5. Writing from El Nié: Exile and the Poetics of Dominicanidad Ausente  170

Postscript. Anti-Haitianism and the Global War on Blackness  203

Notes  213

Bibliography  247

Index  261

What People are Saying About This

Junot Díaz

"A magnificent far-ranging volume that examines the history, politics, and meaning of Afro-dominicanidad in all its glorious thorny complexity. Lorgia García-Peña pursues her claim with a wide-ranging intersectional rigor . . . For those who seek to pierce the murky racial legacies that continue to envelop the Dominican Republic—and by extension the rest of our world—The Borders of Dominicanidad is a beacon."

Unspeakable Violence: Remapping U.S. and Mexican National Imaginaries - Nicole M. Guidotti-Hernandez

"In this groundbreaking and unique book Lorgia García-Peña brings the oft-forgotten Caribbean to the center of analysis of both U.S. empire and subject formation. Instead of capitulating to the argument that Haiti bears the burden of signifying blackness in the Hispanic Caribbean, she presents case studies in violence as national history that move us away from the gravity point of the Trujillo regime as the most important period in the definition of dominicanidad. The Borders of Dominicanidad will be the pivotal and necessary bridge between Dominican and Haitian studies."

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