Juan Pablo Duarte
|Juan Pablo Duarte|
January 26, 1813|
Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic
|Died||July 15, 1876
|Occupation||One of the Founding Fathers of the Dominican Republic|
|Known for||visionary and liberal thinker|
Juan Pablo Duarte Díez (January 26, 1813 – July 15, 1876) is one of the founding fathers of the Dominican Republic. He was a visionary and liberal thinker, who along with Francisco del Rosario Sánchez and Matías Ramón Mella, is widely considered to be the architect of the Dominican Republic and its independence from Haitian rule in 1844. He would help create the political-military organization La Trinitaria to fight against the Haitian occupation, achieve independence, and a create a self-sufficient nation established on the liberal ideals of a democratic government.
Duarte helped supervise and finance the Dominican War of Independence, paying a heavy toll which would eventually ruin him financially. His then radical views would also make him a controversial figure among fellow Dominicans of the time, and he would be exiled at various occasions after the founding of the new nation. His liberal views went against the conservative elites who sought for heavy-handed control of the nation, and wanted to maintain the traditional regionalisms of the past. Duarte had strong disagreements with Pedro Santana in particular, who he saw as a tyrannical figure directly opposed to his ideals of liberty and independence. Ultimately, he would spent his last days away from the nation he helped shape and would die in exile, this made him a political martyr in the eyes of subsequent generations.
The highest mountain in the Caribbean is named Pico Duarte in his honor, as are Juan Pablo Duarte Square in New York City, and many other noteworthy landmarks, suggesting his historical importance for Dominicans. His democratic ideals, although never fully fleshed-out, have served as a guiding principle for most Dominican governments of the present day.
Duarte's father was Juan José Duarte, from Vejer de la Frontera, Cadiz, Spain, and his mother was Manuela Díez Jiménez from El Seybo. In 1802 Duarte and Diez emigrated from Santo Domingo to Mayagüez, Puerto Rico. They were evading the imposition of French rule over Santo Domingo. This transformation of the island's colonial experience became apparent the previous year, when Toussaint Louverture, governor of Saint Domingue (now Haiti), a colony of France located on the western third of Hispaniola, took control of Santo Domingo, located on the island's eastern two-thirds. At the time, France and Saint Domingue were going through exhaustive social movements, namely, the French Revolution and the Haitian Revolution. In occupying the Spanish side of the island the legendary governor was following the indications accorded by the governments of France and Spain in the Peace of Basel signed in 1795, which had given the Spanish area to France.
Upon arrival in Santo Domingo, Louverture immediately restricted slavery, although complete abolition of slavery in Santo Domingo came in 1822, and in addition began converting the old Spanish colonial institutions into French Revolutionary venues of liberal government. Puerto Rico was still a Spanish colony, and Mayagüez, being so close to Hispaniola, just across the Mona Passage, had become a refuge for the likes of the Duartes and those Spanish colonists who did not accept French rule. Most scholars assume that the Duartes' first son, Vicente Celestino, was born here at this time on the eastern side of the Mona Passage. The family returned to Santo Domingo in 1809, however, after the War of Reconquista returned Santo Domingo to Spanish control.
The struggle for independence
In 1821, when Duarte was eight years old, the Creole elite of Santo Domingo proclaimed its independence from Spanish rule, and renamed the former Spanish colony Haití Español. The most prominent leader of the coup against the colonial government was one of its former supporters, José Núñez de Cáceres. The select and privileged group of individuals that he represented were tired of being ignored by the Crown, and some were also concerned with the new liberal turn in Madrid. Their deed was not an isolated event. The 1820s was a time of profound political changes throughout the entire Spanish Atlantic World, which affected directly the lives of petite bourgeoisie like the Duartes. It began with the conflictive period between Spanish royalists and liberals in the Iberian Peninsula, which is known today as the Trienio Liberal.
American patriots in arms, like Simón Bolivar in South America, immediately reaped the fruits of the metropolis' destabilization, and began pushing back colonial troops, like what happened in the Battle of Carabobo, and then in the consequential Battle of Ayacucho. Even conservative elites in New Spain (like Agustín de Iturbide in Mexico), who had no intention of being ruled by Spanish anticlericals, moved to break ties with the crown in Spain. However, the 1821 emancipatory events in Santo Domingo were to be different from those in the continent because they will not last. Historians today call this elite's brief courtship with sovereignty the Ephemeral Independence. Although he was not much aware of what was going on at this time because of his young age, Juan Pablo Duarte was to look back at this affair with nostalgia, wishing that it had lasted.
The Cáceres provisional government requested support from Simón Bolivar's new republican government, but it was ignored. Neighboring Haiti, a former French colony that was already independent, decided to invade the Hispanic side of the island. This tactic was not new. It was meant to keep the island out of the hands of European imperial powers and thus a way to safeguard the Haitian Revolution. Haiti's president Jean-Pierre Boyer sent an invasion army that took over the eastern portion of Hispaniola. Haiti then abolished slavery there once and for all, and occupied and absorbed Santo Domingo into the Republic of Haiti. Struggles between Boyer and the old colonial elite helped produce a mass migration of planters and resources. It also led to the closing of the university, and eventually, to the elimination of the colonial elite and the establishment of a new bourgeoisie dominant class in alignment with the Haitian government. Following the bourgeoisie custom of sending promising sons abroad for education, the Duartes sent Juan Pablo to the United States and Europe in 1828.
On July 16, 1838, Duarte and others established a secret patriotic society called La Trinitaria, which helped undermine Haitian occupation. Some of its first members included Juan Isidro Pérez, Pedro Alejandro Pina, Jacinto de la Concha, Félix María Ruiz, José María Serra, Benito González, Felipe Alfau, and Juan Nepomuceno Ravelo. Later, Duarte and others founded a society called La Filantrópica, which had a more public presence, seeking to spread veiled ideas of liberation through theatrical stages. All of this, along with the help of many who wanted to be rid of the Haitians who ruled over Dominicans led to the proclamation of independence on February 27, 1844 (Dominican War of Independence). However, Duarte had already been exiled to Caracas, Venezuela the previous year for his insurgent conduct. He continued to correspond with members of his family and members of the independence movement. Independence could not be denied and after many struggles, the Dominican Republic was born. A republican form of government was established where a free people would hold ultimate power and, through the voting process, would give rise to a democracy where every citizen would, in theory, be equal and free.
Duarte was supported by many as a candidate for the presidency of the new-born Republic. Mella wanted Duarte to simply declare himself president. Duarte never giving up on the principles of democracy and fairness by which he lived, would only accept if voted in by a majority of the Dominican people. However, the forces of those favoring Spanish sovereignty as protection from continued Haitian threats and invasions, led by general Pedro Santana, a large landowner from the eastern lowlands, took over and exiled Duarte. In 1845, Santana exiled the entire Duarte family. After more but unsuccessful Haitian invasions, internal disorder, and his and others' misrule, Santana turned the country back into a colony of Spain in 1861, was awarded the hereditary title of Marquess of Las Carreras by the Spanish Queen Isabella II, and died in 1864.
Duarte, then living in Venezuela, was made the Dominican Consul and provided with a pension to honor him for his sacrifice. But even this after some time was not honored and he lost commission and pension. He, Juan Pablo Duarte, the poet, philosopher, writer, actor, soldier, general, dreamer and hero died nobly in Caracas at the age of 63. His remains were transferred to Dominican soil in 1884—ironically, by president and dictator Ulises Heureaux, a man of Haitian descent—and given a proper burial with full honors. He is entombed in a beautiful mausoleum, the Altar de la Patria, at the Count's Gate (La Puerta del Conde), alongside Sanchez and Mella, who at that spot fired the rifle shot that propelled them into legend. His birth is commemorated by Dominicans every January 26.
- "Haiti and Santo Domingo". Dominican Republic: A country study (Haggerty, Richard A., ed.). Library of Congress Federal Research Division (1989).