Recommended Dominican History Book/Documentary

melphis

Living my Dream
Apr 18, 2013
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Best book I read about the history of the DR is Why the Cocks Fight by Michelle Wucker
First and last chapter are very boring but the rest if the book is a good read.
My Dominican friends that have read it have commented that is the most accurate book they have read covering the topics in it.
Happy reading to you
 

JD Jones

Moderator:North Coast,Santo Domingo,SW Coast,Covid
Jan 7, 2016
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Best book I read about the history of the DR is Why the Cocks Fight by Michelle Wucker
First and last chapter are very boring but the rest if the book is a good read.
My Dominican friends that have read it have commented that is the most accurate book they have read covering the topics in it.
Happy reading to you.

OMG! I missed that one on my list! One of the few books I've read twice. Excellent book.

That's where you should start, Alltimegreat.
 
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Alltimegreat

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Nov 16, 2012
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Thanks to everyone for all the suggestions. I decided on The Dominican Republic: A National History by Frank Moya Pons. It's the 1995 version, which is available at archive.org. It's about 450 pages of text (before the bibliography and maps) and an extremely interesting read. This is exactly what I was looking for, something comprehensive (pre-Columbian to 1995) and detailed and written from a factual and not a political/ideological perspective.

I think I'll create a thread with my observations once I'm finished. I'm up to the year 1870, and I'm really amazed how little the Trinitarians, especially Duarte, were involved in shaping the government after the liberation from Haitian rule. They were all sent into exile pretty quickly and the political landscape was dominated by Pedro Santana and Buenaventura Báez for decades following the 1844 independence.

The constantly shifting alliances among the numerous factions on the island, including the whites, blacks, mestizos, mulattos, etc. and the foreign powers like Spain, France, England, the Netherlands, and the United States, alongside the constant coup attempts and government overthrows on the Dominican and Haitian sides make for a chaotic yet fascinating story.

On a number of occasions, the Dominican government attempted to annex parts of or even the whole territory to foreign powers like Spain, Gran Colombia, and the United States in return for money (so the head of government could buy weapons to fight his political opponents) or as protection against renewed Haitian invasions.

In the case where Báez attempted to first sell Semaná and then annex the entire Dominican Republic to the United States, it was interesting to read that the plan was rejected by the US senate after it was discovered that Ulysses S. Grant had paid off a commission (that was tasked with investigating whether the Dominican people actually wanted the annexation) to conclude that the Dominican people did in fact want this.
 
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NALs

Economist by Profession
Jan 20, 2003
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Best book I read about the history of the DR is Why the Cocks Fight by Michelle Wucker
First and last chapter are very boring but the rest if the book is a good read.
My Dominican friends that have read it have commented that is the most accurate book they have read covering the topics in it.
Happy reading to you
The biggest issue with that book is that the author (who isn’t Dominican or Haitian, so in a way this is from the outside looking in) goes to great length to project various types of reasons and ignore to very simple but crucial facts.

1. The DR became independent from one of its immediate neighbors while most countries in the Western Hemisphere became independent of countries in the other side of the world.

2, Dominican independence was achieved by one of its neighbors attempt to control and suppress Dominicans. Almost all countries in the region never went through that.

3. The DR actually has one of the longest war of independence, but the DR never initiated a single one of the battles (plus all fought in Dominican soil vs Dominicans taking the fighting to Haiti itself, main reason foe that is that Dominicans go to war with another country only to defend itself but never to attack it.) The gist if it, 99% of Dominican wars were against Haiti due to invasion attempts from their part. Had those invasions attempt never happened, the only wars the DR would have in its historical record are the civil wars.

Even then, prior to the 1920’s internal strife in the DR often had the backing of the Haitian government. To give two examples of that:

1) Most internal strifes in the DR were fought with what was known “Belgian guns” (I don’t kmow if that was simply how they were called or if they actually were Belgian.) Every single Belgian gun imported into Hispaniola was done by Haiti, each and every single one.

2) The Haitian government gave backing to every single Dominican dissident. This included offering Haitian military soldiers to join, it actively published a newspaper in Spanish in Port-au-Prince that was distributed exclusively in the DR abd it said on the front page it was printed in San Juan de la Maguana when it wasn’t. All the stories there were of imaginary and the rebels were always the victorious. The whole purpose was to demoralize Dominicans by attempting to make it seem hopeless the pro-Dominican stance.

3) For many years the Haitian government had an anti-Dominican campaign that was spread via its diplomacy in other countries. This was exacerbated by the hermitic nature of the DR (until relatively recently there was not much effort to make the country known in most places beyond its borders.) The Haitian government would also make a diplomatic protest whenever a foreign power sided with the Dominicans regarding anything.

Haiti was one of the last countries to recognize the Dominican Republic as a legitimate government and country.

There really isn’t much else to it. Much of the previous stance and involvements Haiti had in the DR subsided in part because of the US invasion first of Haiti in 1915 and then the DR in 1916. The problems affecting the Haitian government since the end of Baby Doc’s regime has further removed (more like pause) its traditional anti-Dominican stance given it has more serious internal problems. Ever since Haiti’s intervention in Dominican affair, direct and indirect, began to be removed; the DR has seen its condition go from what was known as “the republic of revolutions” (due to political instability which plagued it up to the early 20th century) to seeing higher rates of economic growth and development. Sonething tells me if Haiti’s intervention in Dominican affairs would not had extended beyond the first few years of Dominican independence, things in the DR would had been more stable for a longer time allowing economic growth and development to accelerate well into the second half of the 19th century.

That along with the history of invasions and border disputes (claiming the Guava Valley -Hincha, San Rafael, San Miguel, Las Caobas, etc- was Haitian when in fact it was an integral part of the DR since the DR inherited the entire territory of Santo Domingo prior to the invasion of Boyer in 1822) is basically all there is to it. Until the early 20th century the DR and Haiti had an official enemy stance between each other. The boats with the flag of one fountry was not allowed to dock in the ports of the other country, to give one example. All of that started badically because of the Haitians since they initiated every conflict between both nationalities. The DR simply wanted was to be left alone.
 

Alltimegreat

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Nov 16, 2012
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The biggest issue with that book is that the author (who isn’t Dominican or Haitian, so in a way this is from the outside looking in) goes to great length to project various types of reasons and ignore to very simple but crucial facts.
Thanks for that informative overview. Regarding your points, I disagree that the author ignores these facts. I would say he presents them in great detail and with unmistakable clarity. It is true that he often adds reasons, and I'm not in a position to determine whether his views align with the prevailing ones, but the book in my view focuses primarily on conveying factual information in a captivating manner. Any history book will provide reasons for the events that happened, but I suspect most western academics and governments these days would consider the book to contain a strong anti-Haitian bias.
 

NALs

Economist by Profession
Jan 20, 2003
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Thanks for that informative overview. Regarding your points, I disagree that the author ignores these facts. I would say he presents them in great detail and with unmistakable clarity. It is true that he often adds reasons, and I'm not in a position to determine whether his views align with the prevailing ones, but the book in my view focuses primarily on conveying factual information in a captivating manner. Any history book will provide reasons for the events that happened, but I suspect most western academics and governments these days would consider the book to contain a strong anti-Haitian bias.
The ideal history book on this topic wouldn’t be pro- or anti-Haitian, simply stating the facts and letting the reader come to his conclusions. As with many other books on that subject, that one isn’t fully impartial in what essentially is a controversial issue.

With that said, the history of Dominican-Haitian relations is what it is and more often the Haitians were the aggressors. There is no way around that.
 

Alltimegreat

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The ideal history book on this topic wouldn’t be pro- or anti-Haitian, simply stating the facts and letting the reader come to his conclusions. As with many other books on that subject, that one isn’t fully impartial in what essentially is a controversial issue.

With that said, the history of Dominican-Haitian relations is what it is and more often the Haitians were the aggressors. There is no way around that.
Fair enough. I also believe that the Dominican side of the longstanding conflict has been suppressed in order to promote the narrative of Haitian victimhood. However, history is not an exact science and any telling of a story will inherently reflect the author's personal beliefs and biases, even if he makes a genuine attempt to be as balanced as possible.

And even if an author were to simply stick to providing facts that are true beyond any dispute, the facts that he chooses to focus on and those he chooses to leave out will significantly affect the narrative. In light of this, there is no such thing as a completely objective historical account, as any historian must decide which facts to include and which to omit. With that said, I stand by my assessment that this book is a highly informative and fascinating account of Dominican history.
 

Alltimegreat

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Nov 16, 2012
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The biggest issue with that book is that the author (who isn’t Dominican or Haitian, so in a way this is from the outside looking in)...
Sorry I just noticed that your initial post today was not in response to my comments on the Frank Moya Pons book but instead to an earlier post by someone else about a book by Michelle Wucker. I overlooked this since you posted so shortly after I did. Sorry for the confusion!