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.
Jesús de Galíndez (October 15, 1915 – March 12, 1956). He was a Spaniard born in Amurrio, Spain and to get away from the Francisco Franco dictatorship in that European country he immigrated to the Dominican Republic. Once established in Santo Domingo he became aware of a fact he didn’t know before, the Dominican Republic itself was under another dictatorship by Rafael Leonidas Trujillo. A lack of funds forced him to stay in Santo Domingo for a few years, time during which he became acquainted with the workings of the Trujillo regime. When he had the chance, the immigrated again, this time to New York City in the United States and became an adjunct professor at the Ivy League Columbia University. While there he was also finishing a master degree and part of his thesis was a very extensive work of how the dictatorship operated in the Dominican Republic and he titled the manuscript “Era de Trujillo.” Somehow Rafael Leonidas Trujillo got his hands on a copy in Santo Domingo of Galindez’s manuscript and, naturally, he didn’t liked it. His distaste was so much, that he ordered that Galindez be eliminated. On one night in New York City, Galindez was kidnapped while he was walking home from Columbia University. Presumably he was tortured and killed, his lifeless body taken to Santo Domingo never to be found again. Some say it was thrown into a mass grave and others that it was dismembered and thrown as food to the sharks in the Caribbean Sea. The University of Chile got a hold of a copy of the manuscript and kept it in its files for many years. After Trujillo’s death it was published with the original name “Era de Trujillo.” To this day it remains as the most complete work of the workings of a Latin American dictatorship, used in many universities throughout Latin America to study the phenomenon.
Rafael Leonidas Trujillo (October 24, 1891 – May 30, 1961). A very controversial and divisive figure in modern Dominican society, he was first voted as president in 1930 and ruled until 1961. His regime was dictatorial in nature. Many of the descendants of victims of his dictatorship (many were tortured to death) are still alive and included all types from Spain, Guatemala, Haiti and other countries; but especially from the Dominican Republic itself. His regime spare no type of people ehen it came to eliminating them with plenty of whites, mixed, and blacks counted among the killed. As dark as is his record in what now is known as human rights, his dictatorship did have some positive aspects, namely iinfrastructural and engineering in nature. It’s impossible yo be anywhere in the Dominican Republic and not be near a street, a park, a building; bridge, highway, monument; etc that wasn’t built by him, even when many now have different names and commemorate other aspects of Dominican history. Some Dominicans would like to erase him from Dominican history, but as controversial as he is, he was Dominican (no Dominican is more Dominican than anyone else, even bad Dominicans including other dictators are buried in the Dominican Republic and are mentioned), his rule lasted for many years, and principally he was a reality. That’s why he is here. He was killed by an ambush in Santo Domingo. The exact spot where it took place has a monument commemorating the event and the road has been named the day it took place, 30 de Mayo (May 30).
Antonio de la Maza (May 24, 1912 – June 4, 1961). The native of Moca is best known as the leader of the anti-Trujillo conspiracy which ended with the dictator’s life. In addition to being the leader of the movement taking part in its planning and other things, he fired the last shot on the ambush against Trujillo, efectively ending his life. He is considered the leader of the liberators of the Dominican people from a dictatoship to freedom again.
The Mirabal Sisters (Patria Mirabal: February 27, 1924 – November 25, 1960; Minerva Mirabal: March 12, 1926 – November 25, 1960; María Teresa Mirabal: October 15, 1935 – November 25, 1960). The three women were native of Ojo de Agua, a rural community outside the town of Salcedo in the Cibao Valley. They were killed supposedly by orders of dictator Trujillo, killed through beatimg with a wooden stick and then thrown over a ridge in the car that was transporting them on the La Cumbre Highway between Santiago and Puerto Plata. The purpose of the second one was to make it seem they were killed by the accident. Their killing created one more indignation. This one spilled the cup and basically, started the beginning of the end of the Trujillo dictatorship. The United Nations became aware of this event and every November 25 commemorates as the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women in honor of the day the Mirabal sisters were killed. In essence, the Dominican Republic in general and the Mirabal sisters in particular are a worldwide phenomenon calling for the rights of women. Their home in the Salcedom- Tenares highway is a museum.
José Francisco Peña Gómez (March 6, 1937 – May 10, 1998). Born from humble Haitian parents, afterwards he was adopted by a Dominican family after whom he was given his name (his original name was Oggi Pie). After 1963 he became the leader of the Dominican Revolutionary Party (PRD, its sign in Spanish). His exceptional orating ability and the magnifying aspect of his personality caused a great following among Dominicans of all classes, races, and colors. His political prominence became so great, that he is considered one of the three most outstanding political figures of the Dominican Republic in the XX century. During the period 1982 – 1986 he was mayor of Santo Domingo. He died from pancreatic cancer. Among the many things with his name is Santo Domingo’s main airport (and the third busiest airport in the Caribbean) as his name was added to the official name, thus becoming Las Américas – Dr. José Francisco Peña Gómez Internarional Airport.
Amelia Vega de Horford (November 7, 1984 – living). A native of Santiago de los Caballeros, she is known as the first Dominican woman to win Miss Universe in 2003. In addition, she is a model, singer, and actor. She is a very influential Dominican women appearing in multiple television shows in the Dominican Republic and in other countries. Here she is with her also Dominican husband Al Horford and the three children she has procreated with her beloved husband.
Oscar de la Renta (July 22, 1932 – October 20, 2014). Born in Santo Domingo, he became best known for his exquisite skill as a fashion designer. In fact, he was the first Dominican to become a world famous fashion designer and even designed dresses for many First Lady of the United States as well as queens and princess in various royalty families in Europe. His success reached such heights that he became among the top 10 wealthiest Latin Americans in the United States and effectively, lead the way for Latin American incursions in the world of high couture fashion. A life long pride in being Dominican, he was never shy of letting people know that he was Dominican. His love for the Dominican Republic was so great, that a year didn’t pass without him devoting time to live in his country. As a fruit of this was his home initially in La Romana and later built another home in Punta Cana. He became involved with the development of Punta Cana to the degree that he became an investor in Grupo Punta Cana and one of the owners of the Punta Cana International Airport. During a visit to an orphanage in the Dominican Republic he was captured by the personality of a black child. Eventually, he was adopted and given the last name becoming Moises Renta. The legacy of Oscar de la Renta will be remembered forever in the Dominican Republic.
Leonel Fernández (December 26, 1953 – living). Born in Santo Domingo, he graduated from the Universidad Autónoma de Santo Domingo (UASD) as a Suma Cum Laude Doctorate in Law. While a university student he joind the Dominican Liberation Party (PLD) from the center-left. Later he became a professor of the Social Sciences of Latin America Faculty of the same university. In 1996 he won the first presidential term 2006 – 2000, then again for the 2004 – 2008 and once more 2008 – 2012. His presidencies were characterized by msjor infrastructures, particularly most tunnels and cable-stayd bridges in the Dominican Republic. His presidencies also impulse the expansion of the Universidad Autónoma de Santo Domingo with new regional campuses all over the country. The public health system also had major improvements in infrastructure and service. As part of this was the creation of the Ciudad Sanitaria in Santo Domingo Norte which groups a pediatric hospital, a maternal hospital, traumatological hospital and an important donated blood bank. The construction of large bridges such as the Mauricio Báez Bridge over the Higüamo River occured during his presidencies. The greatest infrastructural legacy from him is the ideation, planning, and construction of the first line of the Santo Domingo Metro, something no one conceived as part of any Dominican city. It was built on record time and the cheapest cost of any metro in the world. An avid reader and a life long studier of social issues, it is fitting that in 2000 he founded the think tank Fundación Global Democracia y Desarrollo (FUNGLODE) dedicated to,promoting democratic values and studying various aspects of Dominican society. The think tank has been involved in inviting to its headquarters in Santo Domingo major international experts to give speeches on various topics ranging from economics and history to other aspects of Dominican society. He has received several distinctions in Italy, Guatemala, Honduras and the Dominican Republic.
Juan de Dios Ventura (March 8, 1940 – July 28, 2021). Native of Santo Domingo, he became mayor of Santo Domingo during the 1998 – 2002 period. His greatest contributions was a merengue singer with the stage name of Johnny Ventura. His popularity reach levels that went beyond the borders of the Dominican Republic. In 1999 he was admitted to the International Latin Music Hall of Fam, in 2004 he won the Latin Grammy as the best merengue/bachata album and in 2006 another Latin Grammy for excellence in music. Akin to the “Dominican Elvis Presley,” the “Caballo Mayor” received an extensive ovation lasting several days and three days of national mourning stated by the Dominican government upon his deathdue to a heart attack. People from all aspects of Dominican society, artists, political figures and more attended his funeral in Santo Domingo.
Guillermo González (November 3, 1900 – November 13, 1970). Born in Santo Domingo, graduated in 1930 with a degree in Architecture from Yale University in New Haven, Connecticut, United States. Six years after receiving his degree he returned to Santo Domingo where he practiced his profession. Among the many projects that he worked for includes the Hotel Jaragua, Hotel Hamaca, Parque Eugenio Marîa de Hostos, Centro de los Héroes, and the main campus of the Universidad Autónoma de Santo Domingo (UASD). He is considered to be the father of modern architecture in the Dominican Republic.
Cándido Bidó (May 30, 1936 – May 7, 2011). A native of Bonao, he was a well known Dominican painter. He was the first Dominican painter to expose his art in France and considered to be one of the most important contemporary Dominican painter. His works are on display in the contemporary musems of Panama, at the Universidad Autónoma de México (UNAM) in Mexico, in Caracas, in London, in Paris and in Venice. In addition, the Modern Art Museum of Santo Domingo has a colection of his art. In 2004 he inaugrated the Museo Cándido Bidó in his native Bonao, Dominican Republic which includes the art of various painters including many by him.