Epic and dictatorship in the Dominican Republic : the struggles of Trujillo's intellectuals

Cruz, Medardo de la, 1964-
Journal Title
Journal ISSN
Volume Title

This dissertation studies the use of the epic genre to legitimize totalitarian power. It focuses on the writings of a group of Dominican authors who worked at the service of the dictator Rafael Leonidas Trujillo. Most specialists of the period agree that the wealth of texts produced by these men of letters articulated an ideological system that allowed General Trujillo's brutal regime to remain in power for three decades (1930-1961). Their governmental positions, as well as their prestige as writers and orators, granted them unrestricted access to the public school system and to the means of mass communication. They used this access to promote their notions of national identity, while naturalizing Trujillo's totalitarian power by building consensus in favor of what came to be known as "The New Fatherland." Their work in this respect was so effective that almost fifty years after the fall of the dictatorship their ideas about what it meant to be Dominican still plays a significant role in the anti-Haitian sentiment that fills the editorial pages of Dominican newspapers. These Trujillista authors and public servants, however, did not constitute a homogeneous front. An underlying current of texts produced by some them effectively departed from the main tenets of the official ideology, questioning the basic assumptions upon which lay its definition of dominicanidad. However, far from generating a unified discourse, they expressed divergent views on the Dominican racial and national identity. This fissure in the inner circle of power took the shape of a struggle between two generic forms in the field of cultural production. Whereas the dominant discourse followed the linear structure of the "epic of the victors," identifying the Dominican identity with Spanish culture and the Catholic faith, the oppositional texts incorporated the digressive form of an "epic of the vanquished," highlighting the contributions of the African diaspora to the emergence of a Caribbean consciousness.