The following is a collection of leaders of the Dominican Republic. Some are men, other women; some were presidents and others high ranking military officers or famous civilians, some were from the XIX century and others are still alive, some were dictators while others were noble people. What all have in common is their leadership of a large segment of Dominicans at a particular point in time. Most of them have streets, parks, buildings and more named after them throughout the Dominican Republic.
The lists will consist of several parts with 11 people each. Except for the first three who are presented in levels of importance, and the fourth as a leader of reestablishing the Dominican Republic; the rest are presented in no particular order.
Juan Pablo Duarte (January 26, 1813 – July 15, 1876). Born in the city of Santo Domingo to a Spanish father (from Jerez de la Frontera in Andalusia, Spain) and a Dominican mother (from El Seibo). Juan Pablo became the founder of the secret society of La Trinitaria. Of the three founders of the Dominican Republic, he is considered the principal one for ideating the creation of the country, though Dominicans existed as a nation (or a people) many decades before the country was created. One of his quotes starts with “The whites, the blacks, the amerindians and the mixed”, and ends with “Lets show the world that we are all brothers” concerning white, black, and mixed Dominicans. In the middle of the XIX century he was already talking about the equality of all the races and colors, and even suggesting his approval for continued racial mixture and against the racial exclusion of any group. Truly, one of the greatest Dominican men to ever live! One of the real values with which the Dominican Republic was founded. The equality of all races publicly expressed by this man, the main founder of the country.
Francisco del Rosario Sánchez (March 9, 1817 – July 4, 1861). Another of the great founding fathers of the Dominican Republic, he was among the leaders of La Trinitaria and defender of the Dominican Republic. As brave as was his action during the independence movements, what he is perhaps most known for is what he did during the era of the Dominican Republic becoming a province of Spain again (1861 – 1865). Courageously, he went into neighboring Haiti, congregated a group of exhiled Dominicans, and leadered an invasion on the then province of Spain (ex Dominican Republic) in an attempt to oust the Spanish government and reestablishing the Dominican Republic. He described himself as “when you see me, you see the flag of the Dominican Republic” at a time when the Dominican flag was seen as a symbol of treason. Unfortunately, he was captured near the town of San Juan de la Maguana. There he was swiftly tied to a wooden pole and cowardly shot to death on the basis of treason to the Spanish government. He was among the creators and defendors of the Dominican Republic until the very end of his life and against all risks and odds, despite that he also had in part Spanish origin. The only founding father who had an unnatural death. May in his memory the Dominican Republic exist forever.
Matías Ramón Mella (February 25, 1816 – June 4, 1864). One of the three founders of the Dominican Republic. He is known for being a leader in La Trinitaria and for the “trabucazo.” This was first shotgun firing into the sky that took place in front of the Puerta de la Misericordia in Santo Domingo during the gathering on February 27, 1844. With this action, the Dominican Republic was officially born. He also defended the Dominican Republic from the various invasions of Haiti and during the arrival of the Spanish government in 1861. He died in his bed from old age and lamenting that at that time the Dominican Republic didn’t exist anymore. The country was reestablished the following year. For a reason nobody knows, it has become popular to write his name incorrectly and there are street signs with this error. It often appears as Ramón Matías Mella when the correct way is Matías Ramón Mella.
Gregorio Luperón (September 8, 1839 – May 29, 1897). A native of Puerto Plata, he rose to prominence during the War of Restoration against Spain from 1863 to 1865. This culminated with the reestablishment of the Dominican Republic. He became the leader of the movement to reestablish the Dominican Republic and oust the Spanish government. Afterwards, he was one of the founders of the Blue Party which ruled the Dominican Republic for 20 years through democratic elections. At one point he became the 29th president of the Dominican Republic. His home in Puerto Plata is a museum devoted to this great man. In addition, the malecón of Puerto Plata is named after him and the statue in front of the San Felipe Fortress is of him on a horse. The main monument in Santiago de los Caballeros is named “Monumento de la Restauración de la República” with statues of the men leading the reestablishment of the Dominican Republic including the main statue of him on a horse which is separated from the rest and placed on the main entrance. One of the most modern avenues of Santo Domingo is named after him and countless parks, buildings, etc not just in the Dominican Republic, but also in other countries such as the United States, remember him.
José Bautista Cambiaso (September 12, 1820 – June 26, 1886). Born in Genova, Italy. He immigrated to Santo Domingo when he was a teenager and had an important role via de sea during the creation and defense of the Dominican Republic. He is the founder of the Dominican navy, possibly the only navy in the Americas founded by an Italian. His memory is honored every year in commemoration of his birth anniversary with events in the Dominican navy. One of the official main sailboats of the Dominican navy is named “Cambiaso” in his memory.
Ulises Heureaux (October 21, 1845 – July 26, 1899). Born in Puerto Plata to an established merchant from Haiti and a mother from Saint Thomas (then the Danish Virgin Islands, today the US Virgin Islands), he was president of the Dominican Republic on seceral ocassions spanning: 1882 – 1884 and 1887 – 1899. His second term had several positive aspects that still influences the Dominican Republic and a few negative ones. One of the positives was that his regime implanted the first modernization of the Dominican government and certain economic sectors of the Dominican Republic. One of the negatives is that during the second time he became president it became more dictatorial in nature. As a result, his regime greatly affected the economy of the Cibao, particularly the triangle between Santiago-Moca-La Vega, regarding the tobacco industry, which was one of the backbones of the Dominican economy. After assisting an event in Moca he was shot to death as he was leaving the building. Several aspects of him influenced Dominican presidents in the XX century, such as Rafael Leonidas Trujillo who was greatly influenced by his style of dressing for official government events, including Heureaux’s hats. As can be seen in the photo, being black with kinky hair and big African lips wasn’t an impediment for the Dominican people to vote him as president, despite that technically he didn’t look like the typical Dominican. His approval was unanimous across all social, racial and colors of the Dominican people. At this time time, other countries, such as the United States, had serious racial issues that would had made this impossible. In fact, to this very day not a single US president can be said that had big African lips or kinky hair or even very dark skin to the degree of Ulises Heureaux.
María Trinidad Sánchez (June 16, 1794 – February 27, 1845). Born in Santo Domingo and the aunt of the founding father Francisco del Rosario Sánchez. She played an important role during the independence movement of the Dominican Republic. She is better known as one of two confectors of the original flag of the Dominican Republic. In addition to parks, streets and many buildings named after her, one of the provinces of the country has her name too. Something that should be obvious is that this hero of the very creation of the country was a woman. Her sex has never been an impediment for recognizing her contributions. Another fact of the Dominican Republic given that not all countries recognized leading women from the start for the simple fact of being a woman. Even in Dominican paper money women are depicted, something not seen on paper notes of the US dollar, to give one example.
Gaspar Polanco (Unknown, 1816 – November 28, 1867). This native from Montecristi came to prominence during the movement of independence and again during the restoration of the country in 1865. In both cases he distinguished himself as an outstanding general in the Dominican army. He also became the 10th president of the Dominican Republic.
Dr. Joaquín Balaguer (September 1, 1906 – July 14, 2002). Born in Navarrete (or Villa Bisonó), a town near Santiago, to a Puerto Rican father and a Dominican mother. He also lived for a time in Santiago (house is still standing, but it’s a private poperty) and, of course, in Santo Domingo. He was a lawyer by profession. A graduate of the University of Santo Domingo (now Universidad Autónoma de Santo Domingo) and got a masters degree from the internationally prestigious Université de Paris in Paris, France. He was known as an exceptional writer, essayist, author of many books, poet, diplomat, vice president and president. From 1957 to 1960 he was vice president of the country. Then, democratically elected as president on several ocassions that collectively went from 1960 – 1962, 1966 – 1978 and 1986 – 1996. He became known as Latin America’s last “caudillo” (strong man). During the 1966 – 1978 period, known as “The Twelve Years,” among some he became a controversial figure with subaltern military officers commiting killings of specific communist and very vocal leftists. The leftists and communists of the country put the blame on Balaguer, despite he himself became aware of them after they were commited. During that time he also presided during the fortalization of Dominican democracy post the Trujillo dictatorship (currently one of the strongest and longest in Latin America.) During that same period economists called a particular phenomenon as “The Dominican Miracle.” For the first time in the history of the country, Dominican society saw the exponential growth of a market based middle class and put an end to the dichotomy of Dominicans being rich or poor. Initially, this increasing middle class was limited to Santo Domingo, but now it’s present in all the major and medium size cities and there is a sizable presence in some rural areas near these towns and cities. “The Dominican Miracle” was based on the Balaguer impulsed development of Dominican agriculture, manufacturing and services. Via laws specifying government incentives that encouraged private investments, such as the famous “Ley 4” which created the legal base of the industrial development, these sectors flourished with new businesses created mostly by Dominican entrepeneurs. Along with their creation and growth came the creation of new managerial, professional, clerical, etc positions, giving rise to the Dominican middle class. Until then, Dominican agricultural and industrial products were extremely limited in numbers and variety. Balaguer also encouraged the development of Dominican culture with the creation of several venues mostly in the Greater Santo Domingo area. Some of these places were the Eduardo Brito Nqtional Theater (which at that time it was inaugurated with the largest stage in the world), the Modern Art Gallery (now Modern Art Museum), the Museum of the Dominican Man, the Natural History Museum, the History and Geography Museum and the Pedro Henríquez Ureña National Library (currently expanded with two new wings.) This was built in “Plaza de la Cultura” (Culture Plaza), though originally this entire area was property of Rafael Leonidas Trujillo and became property of the Dominican government as it confiscated all properties belonging to the Trujillo family. In fact, Trujillo’s home used to be exactly where the Pedro Henríquez Ureña National Library is now and while the house was destroyed, the frontal fence near the sidewalk is the original from Trujillo’s house. Where the Eduardo Brito National Theater is located is where the house of Trujillo’s daughter Angelita used to be. Balaguer also created the current headquarters of the Central Bank of the Dominican Republic, the section of Mexico Ave from the intersection with Dr Delgado Street and the Ozama River, the large bridges of Matías Ramón Mella and Francisco del Rosario Sánchez over the Ozama River, the Rafael María Moscoso National Botanical Gardens (the largest botanical gardens in Latin America and has the largest and most exquisite Japanese Garden in the region in addition to one of the most complete collections of orchids and of butterflies), Arq. Manuel Valverde Podestá National Zoo (featuring exotic animals in spacious padocs mimicking their natural habitats), the National Aquarium (one of three in the Caribbean and none in Central America), the Parque Mirador del Sur (then Parque Paseo de los Indios, the “Central Park of Santo Domingo”), Parque Mirador del Este (including the monumental Faro a Colón), the largest urban park in the Caribbean Parque Mirador del Norte and much more. He also created many public housing projects (known as “multifamiliares”) on a nationwide scale in an attempt to combat the housing shortage affecting the poor. His home on Máximo Gómez Avenue in Santo Domingo is a museum of him and how his house looked on the last day of his life. In the back, facing Mahatma Gandhi Street, is the headquarters of the Joaquín Balaguer Foundation, a not-for-profit organization with the mission of remembering the positive qualities of Balaguer. In addition to many streets, buildings, etc having his name throughout the Dominican Republic, a station of the first line of the Santo Domingo Metro is named after him.
Mauricio Báez (September 23, 1910 – December 10, 1950). This native of San Pedro de Macorís became known as the leader of a sindicate for laborers demanding higher wages and better working conditions, particularly in the sugar industry. His activism in favor of the ideals of a better life for workers eventually irritated the regime of Rafael Leonidas Trujillo. Due to political persecution which threaten his life, he went into hiding and eventuslly escaped by leaving for Havana, Cuba. Unfortunately, after a while in Havana he was spotted by members of the Trujillo government and shot to death. Today, many parks, streets, etc honor his name throughout the Dominican Republic. Most importantly is that the largest car traffic cable stayed bridge in the Caribbean (crossing the Higuamo River slightly north of his native city of San Pedro de Macorís) has his name too. It could possibly be the largest bridge named after a black man in all of Latin America and, perhaps, in the entire Western Hemisphere (depends on the size of the largest bridge named after a black person in the United States.)