The origin of a last name is a very valuable information for the family history of any family. Unfortunately, it isn’t always possible for this information to be conserved and transmited from generstion to generation. This creates a lasting vacuum among those that would like to know how and when their last names came to be and/or arrived at a particular place.
Such is the case of the Polonia last nsme of the Dominican Republic. While certain detsils of its origin are known, many that have this Dominican last name don’t know when their last name appears in the Dominican geography. We don’t pretend to be the final word of this. Our goal is to show one more piece of the puzzle in the investigation of the Polonia’s of the Dominican Republic and its descendants abroad, especially in the United States. Polonia is a last name that is found the most in the Cibao, especially around Santiago and La Vega. Here we focus exclusively on the Polonia’s of La Vega.
Concepción de La Vega
Concepción de La Vega is one of the most ancient towns on Hispaniola and one of the first towns founded by the Spanish in the Americas. Its foundation goes back to 1495 by none other than Cristopher Columbus. The town’s coat of arms was granted in 1508 by the Catholic Monarchy of Spain and still today that’s the coat of arms of the city, one of the first in the Americas. The town was destroyed by an earthquake in 1562 and the ruins are still visible in the area next to the Santo Cerro known as “Pueblo Viejo.” It was refounded this time on the edge of the Camú River, to the southeast of the Santo Cerro. The town has been in this place until our days. The second destruction of Concepción de La Vega took place at the end of February of 1805 by the Haitians.
The Fire of 1805 and the Effects on the Polonia’s
The “Libro XIV de Bautismo de Concepción de La Vega de 1805” has one of the evidences of the destruction of La Vega of February of 1805. For that reasons the 1805 baptisms records end abruptly in the second month of that year. The few that was recorded in that short lapse of timd didn’t include one Polonia. Once the book was rediscovered by the ecclesiatical authorities, the baptisms book is used once again to record the baptisms that take place at La Vega. Due to the fact that no one knew the book survived the fire of 1805, its rediscovery and usage for registering the new baptisms mean that the book jumps from the end of February of 1805 to the end of October of 1811.
The lack of any records of baptisms of any Polonia in La Vegs prior to 1805 doesn’t mean that the Polonia’s didn’t exist in the town of La Vega and its countryside. Rather those records were lost in the fire of 1805.
The First Time Polonia Appears in the “Libro XIV de Bautismo de La Vega de 1805“
This is the first time that the Polonia last name appears in the “Libro XIX de Bautiismo de La Vega de 1805.” It corresponds to baptism number 126 of Barbara Polonia. It took place on March 7, 1812 and was recorded on March 8, 1812 by Jose Tabares. She was born on December 4, 1811 which means at the time of her baptism she was 3 months and 3 days old. She was the biological daughter of Francisca Polonia. Notice that the nsme of the biological father doesn’t appears, which leaves us to assume he didn’t claimed her as his daughter either to an untimely death, irresponsibility from his part or some other reason. The newborn’s last name was that of her mother’s or in reality her maiden name.
We reiterate that this doesn’t mean that the first time the Polonia last name appears in La Vega is in the year 1812, but that in that year it first appears as a baptismsl record in La Vega. It also doesn’t mean that there were no baptismal records in the years prior to the destruction of the archives of La Vega. Simply that information was lost forever.
The Polonia’s of La Vega are Descendants of the Polish Soldiers Sent to Haiti?
A very interesting question would be in relation to the origin of the Polonia last name in Dominican territory or at least in La Vega. Any person can notice than the last name is exactly the name of Poland in Spanish. As such, it isn’t farfetched to assume there must be a connection between the Polonia last nsme and the country in Europe. To anwer if such connection exist, we must first go over the following information.
We don’t know if Barbara Polonia was the first biological daughter of Francisca Polonia or a younger sister to other offsprings she could had before. Assuming that Barbara was the first child, it would mean that Francisca was in her second half of her teens or in her 20’s. What we know for certain is that Francisca Polonia was native to La Vega as it says it in the baptismal record of Barbara Polonia. If we assume Francisca Polonia was 25 years old when she gsve birth to Barbara, she had to be born in 1791. On the other hand, if she was 15 years old at the time of Barbara’s birth, then Francisca had to be born in 1796. The birth of Francisca Polonia in La Vega had to occur during the 1790’s.
This is a very important information to affirm that the Polonia’s of La Vega have nothing to do with the Polish soldiers sent to Haiti. Napoleon Bonaparte, alarmed that in 1801 Toussaint Loverture invaded the Spanish part of Santo Domingo alleging in the France but without permission from Paris, sent French troops to Hispaniola. The purpose was to arrest and send Toussaint Loverture in chains to France and to secure the political power over Hispaniola in hands that were legitimately French. The French troops arrived to Hispaniola in 1802 and quickly al, the Spanish towns (Dominican) surrendered themselves to the French without a single battle or spilling of blood. With this the Spanish towns (Concepción de La Vega being one of them) reject following orders from the Haitians and accept following orders from the French. In the same year of 1802, Napoleon Bonaparte sends to Hispaniola a reenforcement to the French troopa condisting of thousands of Polish troops. They arrived in Cap Français (today Cap Haitien) and spread in the French part of the island (today Haiti). The capture of Toussaint Loverture initiated a resurgence of a war of Haitians against the French headed by Jean Jacques Dessalines. This war would become the Haitian Revolution and ends with the independence of Haiti on January 1, 1804. In that same year, Dessalines orders the massacre of all white men in Haiti and a few months later orders the massacre of all white women and children. Some of the whites were saved from the massacre by orders of Dessalines and among these were all the Polish soldiers for being ingnorant of anything about Haiti.
The controversy arises here concerning if the Polonia’s of La Vega are descendanrs of the Polish soldiers that in some shape or form would enter the Spanish part of Hispaniola and settle in La Vega. If this is true, then there should be not one Polonia in Dominican territory prior to 1802. Francisca Polonia had to be born in the 1790’s in La Vega, before the arrival of the Polish troops to Hispaniola. Plus, this is based on the historic documents that we have, because it’s much more likely that before the birth of Francisca Polonia there should had been Polonia’s already in Dominican territory, regardless if they were native of La Vega or immigrants of Spaniards from the Canary Islands. They arrived in what could be considered mass immigration to the Spanish part of Hispaniola (modern Dominican Republic) in the XVII snd XVIII centuries for the most part. While it’s true that La Vega was not founded by Spaniards fromnthe Canary Islands, it did receive an increase in population as several Spanish families from the Canary Islands were assigned to establish themselves in La Vega and its countryside. Peior to this assignment they were in Santo Domingo, the first town on Hispaniola that all Spanisrds from the Canary Islands arrived to.
The Polonia, A Truly Dominican Last Name
The Polonia’s of La Vega not only existed in La Vega before the arrival of the Polish troops in Haiti, but were present during all the convulsions suffered by the Dominican people. This include ]s the bloody Haitian invasion of 1805 headed by Dessalines, the War of Reconquest that ended in 1809, the ephimeral independence of 1821; the Haitian Domination from 1822 to 1844, the Dominican independence in 1844, the multiple additional Haitian invasions from 1844 to 1856; the Annexation of Spain in 1861, the Restoration War that ended in 1865, etc. These events were not simple stories to be read in the history books by the Polonia’s, because this family was present when it all happened. The threats to submit all Dominicans to a general massacre in 1805 by Dessalines, Herard in 1844, and Soulouque in 1849, 1853, and 1856; the Polonia’s would had been entirely destroyed. None of the current descendants would had been born if in just one battle the victors would not had been the Dominicans but instead the Haitians. The very existence of the Polonia’s is due to the Dominican people, and the creation and defense of the Dominican Republic.