Intellectuals and Dictators in the Dominican Republic

Topics: Dominican Republic, Haiti, Santo Domingo Pages: 7 (2519 words) Published: June 13, 2013
European Review of Latin American and Caribbean Studies 84, April 2008 | 101-105

Intellectuals and Dictators in the Dominican Republic
Michiel Baud

– Nation and Citizen in the Dominican Republic, 1880-1916, by Teresita MartínezVergne. Chapel Hill, NC, University of North Carolina Press, 2005. – Los desvaríos de Ti Noel. Ensayos sobre la producción del saber en el Caribe, by Pedro San Miguel. San Juan, PR, Vertigo, 2004. – The Imagined Island. History, Identity, and Utopia in Hispaniola, by Pedro San Miguel. Translated by Jane Ramírez. Chapel Hill, NC, University of North Carolina Press 2005. – Foundations of Despotism. Peasants, the Trujillo Regime, and Modernity in Dominican History, by Richard Lee Turits. Stanford, CA, Stanford University Press, 2003. The Dominican Republic had two intellectuals as president during the twentieth century: Juan Bosch and Joaquín Balaguer. Both these men, although ideologically completely different, produced an extensive oeuvre of literary and historical texts and at the same time pursued long political careers. This occurred in the context of the long dictatorship of Rafael Leonidas Trujillo, who controlled the country with an iron hand from 1930 to 1961. The prominence of two politically ambitious intellectuals in a small underdeveloped country with a long authoritarian tradition poses interesting questions as to the relationship between intellectuals and politics. San Miguel’s The Imagined Island concerns itself both with the history and the interpretation of history in the Dominican Republic and, to a lesser extent, in Haiti. With great erudition, the author looks into the struggle for identity and political power on the island of Hispaniola shared by Haiti and Santo Domingo. In four lucid essays, San Miguel unravels the historical imagination of this fascinating island. He starts out with two more general essays in which he analyses the historical imagination concerning the Spanish colonial domination of the island and the racial contents of the Dominican identity in the independent Dominican Republic. If anything, these essays confirm how the two parts of the island are linked to each other like Siamese twins; and, on the other hand, how desperately the Dominican elites have tried to affirm the separate identity of their country. The intensity of this double binding is hard to exaggerate and almost impossible to fully understand for outsiders. In the last two essays San Miguel uses Haitian intellectual Jean PriceMars and Dominican writer-politician Juan Bosch to dig into the complexities of nation building and identity formation in Haiti and the Dominican Republic. He presents Price-Mars as the intellectual voice of Haiti and understands his work as a construction of a Haitian (and one could say ‘Black’) perspective on the island’s identity. In his last essay San Miguel analyses the fictional and historical work by Juan Bosch as an indication of an evolving national modernizing project. This project was evidently coloured by Bosch’s experiences in Cuba, that modern and culPublished by CEDLA – Centre for Latin American Research and Documentation | Centro de Estudios y Documentación Latinoamericanos, Amsterdam; ISSN 0924-0608; www.cedla.uva.nl

102 | Revista Europea de Estudios Latinoamericanos y del Caribe 84, abril de 2008

tured island of the Caribbean. For Bosch, the backwardness of Dominican society, which had led to cultural (or even racial) pessimism among many of the Dominican letrados, was the direct result of the absence of a real capitalist development in the country prior to the late twentieth century. This had also led to a weak bourgeoisie that had not been able to hold its own in the face of imperialism and authoritarianism. Later this analysis would become the basis of Bosch’s political programme that intended to apply Marxist analysis to the specific circumstances of the country. It has been the tragedy of Juan Bosch’s life that after his short, violently...
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