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The Wreck of the USS Memphis in the Dominican Republic  

Eric Paul Roorda

On August 29, 1916, the USS Memphis wrecked on the coast of Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic. A series of enormous waves drove the heavy armored cruiser ashore, killing forty-five sailors. The fact that the death toll was not much higher is owed to the heroic efforts of Dominicans to rescue the survivors of the shipwreck. This was despite the fact that the US Marine Corps had invaded their country three months before, initiating an occupation with unwonted violence. The US Marine occupation of the Dominican Republic would last for eight years, compiling a record of brutality inflicted on the civilian population that Senate hearings documented in excruciating detail. In the aftermath of the traumatic occupation, the shipwreck of the USS Memphis itself, rusting away in plain sight along the seaside boulevard in the Dominican capital city, became symbolic of US imperialism. The dictator Rafael Trujillo, a Marine protégé who seized power in 1930, pointed to the wreck as a relic of the days before US domination, contrasting it with the happy days after national sovereignty had been attained under his own strong rule. In order to implement the Good Neighbor Policy, an effort to expunge the negative legacy of the era of intervention and occupation known as “Gunboat Diplomacy,” President Franklin D. Roosevelt ordered the removal of the wreck of the Memphis after taking office in 1933. The wreck’s removal finally took place in 1937.

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The Murder of the Mirabal Sisters in the Dominican Republic  

Eric Paul Roorda

At the highest point on the winding highway over the Dominican Republic’s northern mountains, there is a place that is called what it is: La Cumbre, The Summit. In the daytime, in the sunshine, or under a soft tropical rain, it is a beautiful spot, with the impossibly green mountainsides falling away on both sides of the crest. But on the night of November 25, 1960, it was the scene of unutterable horror, witness to an automobile rolling and tumbling down the cliff, with the violated and mutilated corpses of three women inside. They were three of the four sisters of the Mirabal Reyes family, who were murdered for their political involvement: Patria Mercedes (born on February 27, Dominican Independence Day, in 1924, and accordingly named “homeland”), María Argentina Minerva (born March 12, 1926), and Antonia María Teresa (born October 15, 1935). Their driver, Rufino de la Cruz (born November 16, 1923), was murdered with them. The fourth Mirabal sister, Bélgica Adela “Dedé” (March 1, 1925–February 1, 2014) who was not directly involved in her sisters’ opposition activities, survived to be their witness. The brutal murder of the charismatic Hermanas Mirabal was the most notorious, and the most widely reviled, of the countless crimes committed by the regime of Rafael Trujillo, dictator of the Dominican Republic from 1930 until 1961. The Mirabal Sisters’ demise mobilized international censure of the Trujillo regime and contributed to its downfall, because they were the most charismatic of his victims, and because their kidnapping and murder constituted the most outrageous of the crimes committed during his lengthy dictatorship. In 1999, the United Nations designated November 25, the date of the Mirabal Sisters’ murder, to be memorialized as International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women, which it has been ever since.

Article

Runaway Slave Colonies in the Atlantic World  

Tim Lockley

Communities of runaway slaves, more commonly known as “Maroon communities,” were created throughout the Americas. Enslaved people ran away from their owners all the time, often just for a few days, but some decided never to return to slavery and instead found permanent (or semi-permanent) refuge from the harsh life on the plantations in swamps, jungles, forests, and mountains. Sometimes in very small groups of less than ten people, but more usually in much larger numbers, maroon communities attempted to live independently, free from white interference. White responses to maroon communities varied over time and included military assaults and peace treaties.