San Francisco de Macorís: 1823. Captain Lázaro Fermín directed insurrection against Haitian authorities


By SHUFFLING HAITIAN DOCUMENTS IN the libraries of Paris for our research on the Dominican Elites before Haitian rule (1822-1844), we "discovered" an unprecedented event unknown to Dominican historians: the Spanish-Dominican captain Lazarus Fermin, after to neutralize with his men the local chief of rural police, in the village of San Francisco de Macoris (2,500 inhabitants), was compelled to face more than four thousand Haitian soldiers sent by the dictator Jean Pierre Boyer.

What happened so that this modest officer named by the Haitian captain of the rural guard of the section Cueva Arriba de San Francisco de Macoris, led, in a desperate gesture, a major insurrection and faced the seventh part of the plentiful Haitian army, just a year after the occupation? In order to reduce the costs of road maintenance and the production of the estates of his senior officers, the dictator generalized the "corvees" system , that is forced labor, inspired by the French noble system. It was a tax on labor.

The expansionist project of mulattoes in Port-au-Prince, whose members were large mill owners, coffee or cotton estates and herds, was characterized by the desire to build fertile lands in the East, to distribute them among their generals, thousands of inhabitants sent from the west to ease tensions over access to land in the West. The political corollary of these measures was the implementation of coercive labor laws, proper to a military dictatorship. Former Dominican slaves integrated into the army (for a salary of two pesos), after tiring days, had to work in cane fields or coffee plantations for the district commanders. It was obligatory. These laws, first imposed on Haiti by the entire population, were extended to the army. Such was the unpopularity raised,"Corvees"through a decree in 1818, and the occasional mobilization of the civilian population. For Hispano-Dominicans, mostly free and proprietors (communal peasants, estancieros and hateros) during the Boba Spain, with the exception of prisoners and slaves, these were reactionary measures, unfit for their traditional forms of life where freedom prevailed. From the earliest months of Haitian presence, protests and pre-insurrectionary events in Santo Domingo and East of Hispaniola (Bayaguana, El Seibo, Higüey) as well as in the Cibao, that is to say throughout the Hispano-Dominican part. Bullying against the Spanish-speaking population began in the first month of Haiti's massive military presence. In Puerto Plata, for example, in 1822 (unpublished event), one month after the invasion, Battalion 27, composed exclusively of Haitians, committed thefts, looting and outrages against the population. To stop these disorders, Boyer, while listening to the complaints of the captain and campesino Alejo de los Santos about the depredations committed by his army in the Conuco de La Vega, sent Balthazar Inginac, second man of the regime, with a brigade of riflemen to the city ​​of the North, in order to repress severely elements of his army.

The reports that came to Boyer during the summer and fall of 1823 were alarming, according to the great Haitian historian Madiou, a close relative of the dictator. In a report (1823) of the commander of Samaná, Charlie Charlot, the feeling of the Dominicans was registered; textually says that "blacks, mulattos and whites expressed their aversion against the annexation of the Spanish-Dominican territory to Haiti and expressed without fear their adhesion to the King of Spain."

In this context of discontent, Lazarus Fermin, after receiving humiliating orders to do forced labor with his men, in punishment to a heated discussion with a colonel, finalized. Thus a major insurrection was unleashed against the authorities. Fearing that a war would be unleashed on the Spanish-Dominican side, Boyer chose the cream of Haitian army officers to direct the repression. Generals Guerrier, Bienvenu, Lacuyere, Souffront, and Colonel Becker, all led by a man of their confidence, General Magny, brought with them from the North elite units. They were given orders to enter Puerto Plata where the atmosphere was warm. It is not idle to underline that Lacuyere and Bienvenu, as well as Boyer,

It should be noted that he did not mobilize the three battalions composed of Dominicans (31, 32 and 33), who would have refused to finalize their brothers, humble soldiers like them. Nor did the two Haitian battalions stationed in Dominican territory today. They could not cope. We estimate that Fermin's men numbered about eighty to one hundred and fifty fighters, or more, basic rural guards (including former slaves) and communal peasants, all armed, unlike the army, with shotguns and perhaps concealed weapons of the period Spanish.

The repression culminated with the capture of 26 insurgents. The movement was so important, that Fermin was seconded by other leaders like Marcos Acevedo, Buenaventura Lantigua, Olivares Lefebre, arrested and punished with the gallows. The Haitian rapporteurs do not say how many Haitians and Hispano-Dominicans died in the fighting. They remained silent about Fermin, who surely perished.

The district commander Placide Lebrun, in a speech (January 1824) addressed to the residents of the towns of Moca, La Vega, Cotuí and San Francisco, which made up the district of La Vega, accused Lazarus Fermin of having wanted to foment a revolution, launching a "criminal" insurrection. The scare was such for the Haitian authorities that in their short 120-page memoirs on Boyer's 26-year period, Inginac can not omit such important action. It is even one of the few facts of the twenty-two years of Haitian domination in the East that merited inclusion. We do not exaggerate if we affirm that Lazaro Fermin was in his way one of the pioneers of the national idea, expressed with the rifle. It is necessary that he be made to pass through the great door to the pantheon of our history, without haggling his seat, and that this fact of armed resistance be integrated into the National History.