Mujeres de Abril artwork created while in residence at El Museo Del Barrio, NYC.
"Vi mujeres maravillosas, bellas de una aparente delicadeza, las vi dejando sus hogares, sus familias, sus hijos, todo por defender una causa que consideraban justa, por defender una patria que llevamos tallada en el corazón"
The Dominican Republic’s war of April 1965, is the invasion that Americans don’t remember and that Dominicans will never forget. These images document the universal patterns that led to this historic event and they examine the legacy of resistance and trauma caused by political oppression during the post-Trujillo era. The normative consequences of these patterns of dictatorship, oppression and dissent permanently transformed the Dominican Republic and the aftershock of the Revolution remains with us today. One noticeable impact is the creation of the Dominican diaspora which is currently the largest immigrant community in New York City. The same year that the US invaded Dominican Republic, the US government also enacted immigration reform and repealed the national origin quotas by passing the Hart-Cellar Act which no longer favored European immigrants. The Revolution was the push factor that pollinated New York with a community that would go on to nourish both this city and the homeland as a synergy between Santo Domingo and Nueva York was born.
Trujillo’s 32 years as President ended in his CIA-backed assassination by a faction of the Dominican military. Trujillo’s murder was followed by an 18 month period of intense political turmoil that culminated in the first free elections in over 33 years on December 1962 . The Presidential election was won by the writer and scholar Juan Bosch, a social-democrat. His pro-labor reforms were modest and yet angered the ruling class, the US government which had long protected American corporate investments in DR, and the Catholic Church who had signed a Vatican concordat with Trujillo. A concordat is an archaic and binding legal treaty between a sovereign nation and the Vatican City giving the RCC special rights and privileges in that nation. After only seven months in office, another US engineered military coup removed President Bosch from office and he was exiled to Puerto Rico. He was replaced by a military triumvirate installed by President Lyndon B. Johnson. Less than two years later, the triumvirate was challenged in a coup attempt led by Colonel Francisco Caamaño and the Constitucionalistas who demanded Bosch’s return to power. During the same year that the Voting Rights Act was signed into law, President Lyndon B. Johnson ordered 42,000 troops into Santo Domingo on April 28, 1965 . LBJ claimed that the revolution in DR would result in "another Cuba" and that Americans living in DR were in danger. The Constitucionalistas advocated for the reforms proposed by President Juan Bosch in his Constitution #63. Their rebel stronghold positioned itself in Ciudad Nueva, the colonial part of Santo Domingo where the initial invasion of the Americas by Columbus occurred almost 500 years prior. My parents and siblings lived in Ciudad Nueva, in a house with a sunny courtyard and a parrot named Cuca.
This project began with a profound curiosity about my parents’ experience while living under Trujillo’s dictatorship and a desire to understand how Trujillo’s assassination, and the revolution that followed, became catalysts for our migration to NYC. These images are a way of reclaiming this history and I consider this collection of images a “family” album that both embraces and documents the historical events that led to April 1965. The larger full size images give voice to the rebels who fought for freedom, particularly Las Mujeres de Abril, the Women of April, who took up arms and became a significant part of the resistance during the Revolution, fighting and dying alongside the men. The list of women that fought is endless and they include Yolanda Guzman, Tina “La Bazookera”, Emma Tavares Justo, Gladys Borrel “La Coronela”, Carmen Josefina, Nati Andujar “La China”, Mercedes Ramirez “La Rubia”, Carmen Lora La Juana Saltitopa, Hilda Gautreaux, Angela Herrera and thousands more. When the revolution was over and the Dominican resistance defeated, 6,000 Dominicans, mostly civilians, and 44 US troops were dead. I believe the past is still present and the stories in these images contain a cautionary tale that help us recognize and understand the patterns that can threaten a healthy democracy. Lastly, once completed this new work will form a part of the legacy of the April 1965 Revolution.