THE REAL REPUBLICA UPDATE: AN UNTOLD HISTORY
Yesterday, May 30th, 2011 marked the 50th anniversary of the assassination of Rafael Trujillo, the infamous dictator that ruled the Dominican Republic with a clenched fist. While speaking to some of the locals I realized that there were varied opinions about the ruler's effects on the country. Some argue that under his rule, things were in order, wealth was abundant, delinquency was non-existent and the people were comfortable. However, that's only half of the story–one-tenth really. The more disturbing accounts retell how the dictator had pregnant women, soldiers, Haitians and other insubordinates murdered in cold blood. Make no mistake about it, Trujillo was a villain no matter how "orderly" the country appeared to be. Nothing made this more evident than when I spoke with forgotten artist, writer, soldier and intellectual, Orlando Diaz.
Mr. Diaz, old enough to be my great grandfather, spoke to me about the 30+ times that he was incarcerated during Trujillo's regime. It's a miracle that he wasn't killed! He, like many other free thinkers and artists were persecuted for their works and opinions during the time, which makes me wonder about how many other Orlando Diaz's exist on the island–the ones lucky enough to still be alive to tell the tale. Orlando revealed some of his artwork to me, along with some literature where he is in conversation with William Shakespeare about his renown works. I was taken aback by the amount of sheer history and information that this man was confiding to me. And to think that most of these stories still remain untold! You see, even after Trujillo, the Dominican Republic still remains an oppressed country where the psychological prison of "Neo-Trujillismo" still exists. It's a place where the mainstream media will never delve deeper than shallow politics and celebrities never speak openly about anything that contradicts the church–not art, not literature or music. My point being, that no matter how benevolent, a regime that stifles anyone to validate its existence is never a government for the people. On the contrary, it is a government that compromises its people! Orlando Diaz is living proof. We only hope that more stories and works like his make it into the light before they disappear completely. Its no coincidence, after all, that his last name is the same as Pulitzer Prize winner, Junot Diaz, another Dominican writer whose modern twist on the Dominican "curse" of Trujillo-ism and colonialism seem to the hold the key to finding its well overdue antidote.