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    Dominicana On Line - El Portal de la República Dominicana

    Biographies of Historical Figures

    Manuel Aurelio Tavares Justo (Manolo) was born in Montecristi on January 2, 1931. Since his youth, his parents shared with him their experiences during the 1916 United States intervention in the country. These accounts, apparently, contributed to the development of his anti-imperialistic attitude. Another decisive factor in his socio-political development was his contact with farmers, while he worked in his father’s estate. He received a secondary school diploma in Philosophy and Letters from Juan Pablo Duarte High School in the capital, and obtained a Jurist Doctorate from the University of Santo Domingo. There, he met a fiery opponent of Rafael Leonidas Trujillo’s tyranny, Minerva Mirabal, whom he married in November 1955. The invasion of June 14, 1959, strengthened the couple’s decision to create a front of resistance to the regime. On July 20, of the same year, they took the first steps to organize the movement that was denominated “14 de Junio” (June 14), with Manolo as the head leader. Apparently, an infiltrator in the movement denounced Manolo to the Servicio de Inteligencia Militar (Military Intelligence Service), who ordered the pursuit of the movement’s members. Manolo was arrested in Montecristi, in January 1960. He was brutally tortured with some of his allies in the prison known as “La 40”, in Santo Domingo, and then transferred to the prison in Puerto Plata. Later, on November 25, 1960, while his wife Minerva and her sisters Patria and Maria Teresa were on their way to visit him, and their respective husbands who were also detained in the same prison, the three sisters and their driver, Rufino de la Cruz, were assassinated by minions of the tyranny.

    Manolo left prison in July 1961, after Trujillo’s execution. He organized and publicized the “Agrupacion Politica 14 de Junio” (June 14 Political Group). He travelled across the country to promote the organization, whose purpose was to change existing political and economic structures. He participated in the fight against the transitory government that, after Trujillo’s death, was headed by Joaquin Balaguer. He maintained a radical opposition to the government of the Consejo de Estado (State Council). In addition, he proclaimed the abstention of his political party in the presidential elections of December 1962, which culminated with the election of Juan Bosch Gabiño as President of the Republic. He criticized Bosch’s presidency, but he also alerted against the conspiratorial plans that were developing. Once the coup against Bosch was completed, a police persecution was set in motion and Manolo went underground.

    On November 28, 1963, as “Comandante Supremo” (Supreme Commander), he led an armed insurrection, in the “Frente Guerrillero de Manaclas” (Guerrilla Front of Manaclas), where he was assassinated in December 1963. The Government declared that he died during a shooting confrontation with anti-insurgency troops, however, other survivors and relatives assure that he was executed after he had surrendered.


    José Francisco Peña Gómez was born on March 6, 1937, on El Flaco hill, Guayacanes Crossing, in Mao. He died on May 10, 1998, in Santo Domingo, leaving a prominent political life history, in which he transcended as leader of the Partido Revolucionario Dominicano (Dominican Revolutionary Party), or PRD.
    Biografia Completa >

    The Mirabal sisters, Patria, Minerva, Maria Teresa and Belgica (Dede), were born in Ojo de Agua, in the Salcedo province, Dominican Republic. Their parents were Enrique Mirabal and Mercedes Reyes de Mirabal. They are recognized in the national history as heroines, after they stood out in the fight against Trujillo’s regime in the years 1930-1961
    Biografía completa>

    Juan Pablo Duarte y Diez was born in Santo Domingo on January 26, 1813, son of Juan Jose Duarte and Manuela Diez. After Toussaint L’Ouverture´s troops took possession of Santo Domingo in 1801, the Duartes moved to Puerto Rico. They returned at the end of the war of Reconquista (re-conquest) in 1809, when the country went back to being a Spanish colony.

    Since childhood, Juan Pablo showed great intelligence and love for books and learning. He studied at the Manuel Aybar School and started receiving bookkeeping classes since he was still a child. During his adolescence, he was tutored by Dr. Juan Vicente Troncoso, with whom he studied Philosophy and Roman law. When he was 15 years old, he moved to Barcelona, Spain. Little is known of his time there. He reappeared in Santo Domingo in 1831, joining an intense social life that connected him to important sectors of the urban petite bourgeoisie, which allowed him to perceive a patriotic sentiment that rejected the Haitian presence.

    On July 16, 1838, he founded a secret society named “La Trinitaria”, which would lead the independent movement.  The circumstances forced him to leave the country, reason why his allies carried out the final arrangements for the movement. After February 27, 1844, when independence was proclaimed, he returned to the country and joined the Junta Central Gubernativa (Central Governmental Board), dominated by the most conservative sectors which had no faith in the viability of the Republic. Internal struggles began and culminated with his expulsion of the rising Republic. He died in Caracas, Venezuela, on July 15, 1876, at the age of 63.


    Francisco del Rosario Sánchez was born in Santo Domingo on March 9, 1817, son or Narciso Sánchez and Olaya del Rosario. Apparently, he didn’t know Juan Pablo Duarte when the secret society “La Trinitaria” was founded, thus he does not appear as a founding member. However, he joined later, winning Duarte’s trust and becoming second in command.

    During Duarte’s exile, he assumed leadership of the movement, with the help of Matias Ramon Mella. In January of 1844, he wrote the “Manifiesto de Independencia” (Manifesto of Independence). The pro-independence group chose him as “Comandante de Armas” (Commander of Arms). He chaired the “Junta de Gobierno” (Government Board) that would lead the country. On February 27, at the gate of “El Conde”, he led the proclamation of independence. When the “Junta Central Gubernativa (Central Governmental Board) was established, representatives of the most influential social sector imposed their will and only Sanchez and Mella represented the pro-independence people.  Tomás Bobadilla replaced Sánchez in the Presidency.

    Upon Duarte’s return, disagreements with the commander in chief of the army, Pedro Santana, began and the balance in the governmental Board was broken. The Board composed of patriots was dismissed by Santana and the members were declared traitors and then expelled from national territory. Sanchez returned in 1848, when President Manuel Jimenez decreed an amnesty. He was appointed “Comandante de Armas” (Commander of Arms) and held important positions in the governments of Jimenez, Santana and Buenaventura Baez. When Santana pursued annexation to Spain, Sanchez was against it and, as a result, he was imprisoned and then exiled. In Curacao, he created the “Junta Revolucionaria”, which was the organizer of the “Revolucion de la Regeneracion Dominicana” (Dominican Regeneration Revolution).

    Once the annexation was completed, Sanchez initiated his invasion of the territory. However, he was betrayed, ambushed, and captured in “El Cercado” with twenty of his supporters. He received a death sentence by an unconstitutional tribunal and he was executed at 4:00 PM, on July 4, 1861, in the cemetery San Juan de la Maguana.


    Matías Ramon Mella was born in Santo Domingo, on February 25, 1816, son of Antonio Mella and Francisca Castillo. In his youth, he was known as a brave man, who had the reputation of being skilled in the use of the sword and the saber. In 1835, when he was 19 years old, he was put in charged or the San Cristobal commune. There, he delved into the business of wood cutting. He married Maria Josefa Brea when he was 20 years old. He joined the secret society “La Trinitaria” and Duarte put him in charge of the mission of contacting and seeking support from a group headed by Charles Herard, who was against Boyer, the Haitian President. 

    When Boyer was dethroned, Mella went to “Cibao Central” to propagate the republican ideal. When Herard, then President of the Republic, visited the eastern region, he sent Mella to prison in Port-au-Prince, where he stayed for two months. Events were accelerated and, in Duarte’s absence, the arrangements for the revolution were set in motion. Mella was one of first to arrive at the “Puerta de la Misericordia” (Gate of Mercy) the evening of February 27, 1844. There, he fired a blunderbuss shot and then with the group of allies he went to the “Puerta del Conde”, where they proclaimed the Republic.

    Mella joined the “Junta Central Guvernativa” (Central Governmental Board) and assumed the rank of “Coronel del Ejercito Nacional” (Colonel of the National Army). He proclaimed Duarte as President of the Republic, which interfered with the balance of the commanding forces.  Headed by Pedro Santana and Tomas Bobadilla, the most conservative social sector prevailed, and the heroes were declared traitors and later were expelled from the territory. Mella returned in 1848, when the then President, Manuel Jimenez, decreed an amnesty. When Faustino Soulouque invated the country, Mella joined the army and ended up serving as Pedro Santana’s secretary. 

    After Jimenez resigned, Buenaventura Baez was elected President and Mella was appointed Secretary of State for Public Finances and Commerce. Between 1849 and 1861, when he rejected in front of Santana, the annexation project, he held the positions of “Comandante de Armas” (Arms Commander), “Ministro de la Guerra” (Minister of War), “Gobernador” (Governor), “Ministro Prenipotenciario” (Plenipotentiary Minister) and Extraordinary Envoy in Special Mission to the Spanish Government, to manage the recognition of the Republic, or of the Protectorate. He joined the restoration movement in 1863.

    While he was fighting for the cause, he acquired dysentery. He died on June 4, 1864, in Santiago de los Caballeros.


    Juana Trinidad (Juana Saltitopa) was born in Jamo, La Vega. The date of her birth is unknown. She was a fighter for the Dominican independence and had an outstanding participation in the “Batalla del 30 de Marzo de 1844” (Battle of March 30, 1844). Juana Trinidad, unlike her sister Mercedes, was a vivacious woman, full of energy, who enjoyed climbing trees and jumping from one branch to the next. This won her the nickname “Saltitopa” (from the Spanish verb “saltar” or to jump). She was known for her rough gestures and actions.

    Her liberal and independent personality drove her to participate in the pro-independence confrontations. She got involved in the Battle of March 30, 1844, in Santiago de los Caballeros from the beginning. She put her life at risk several times going to the river to get water for the troops and to refresh the cannons. In addition, she took care of the wounded and encouraged those who became frightened, pushing them to fight. Because of her bravery and for taking such risks, Juana won another nickname: “La Coronela” (The Woman Colonel).

    According to Esteban Aybar y Aybar, soldier of the Dominican independence and restoration, Juana was seen in Santo Domingo, towards 1852, earning a colonel salary and working for the government, although later, President Pedro Santana dismissed her and sent her back to El Cibao.  Towards 1860, Juana was assassinated during combat on the way to Santiago.


    Máximo Gómez was born in 1836, in Bani, son of Andres Gomez and Clemencia Baez. He was home schooled by his parents and later by priest Andres Roson, his godfather, who tried to lead him towards priesthood. At the age of 20, he joined the army to fight against the Haitians. In 1858, he was made captain, and in 1864, he was promoted to commander, when Santo Domingo was again under Spain’s authority. When the Restoration was proclaimed, in 1865, he went to Cuba with the Spanish army.

    In Cuba, he witnessed acts that made him change his way of thinking, such as the appalling way slaves were treated and the fight for independence. As a result of these new experiences, in 1868, when the Cuban people started their fight for independence from Spain, Gomez gained a new appreciation and understanding of the value of people’s independence. Therefore, he renounced the Spanish army and joined the pro-independent movement in Cuba.

    Gomez joined the war for Cuban independence as a sergeant, and soon was promoted to General of the revolutionary army. He fought with such courage and dedication, for what he considered a just cause, that Cubans saw him not only as one of them but as a leader among combatants. At the end of the war, in 1898, he retired to a villa outside of La Habana. Because he felt he didn´t have the right to run for president, for not having been born in Cuba, he refused to run for the presidency in the elections of 1901. He died in his villa in 1905.


    Santiago Rodríguez was born in 1809, son of Vicente Rodriguez and Josefina Massago. Although he was born on the northeast, he grew up in Santiago. He was a man of nationalist ideals, pro-independence and pro-restoration. He was initiated in the use of arms during the war for independence, in which he reached the rank of colonel. When the Annexation of the Republic took place, he was serving as the Constitutional Mayor of Sabaneta, position that he continued to hold while never accepting the new state of affairs.

    He organized an insurrectionary movement that included the entire north region of the country. The rebellious plans were precipitated and General Epifanio de Peña was forced to raise arms in Plaza de Guayubin on February 21, 1863. He was second by Santiago Rodriguez, who followed in Plaza de Sabaneta.

    The revolution was contained by the Spanish troops under the command of General Jose Hungria. Having refused to accept the guarantees that the Spanish authorities made to him and his allies, Santiago Rodriguez found shelter in Juana Mendez, Haiti, from where he continued to fight for restoration. He returned to the country, and on August 16, 1863, he was at the Capotillo hill with Jose Cabrera, Benito Moncion and other pro-restoration supporters. On that day, he occupied Sabaneta with Cabrera. Due to his health, Rodriguez could not continue the struggle and left it in the hands of Moncion, Pimentel and Polanco. He served on various political positions and died in 1879.


    María Trinidad Sánchez was born in 1794. She was the sister of the father of Francisco del Rosario Sanchez, thus his paternal aunt. She was pro-independence and was the one who made the first Dominican flag. After the independence, she participated in an unsuccessful conspiracy to overthrow Santana.

    Maria Trinidad was one of the first to be arrested and received a death sentence after refusing to provide the names of her comrades. She was executed with her nephew, Andres Sanchez, on February 27, 1845, the day of first anniversary of the independence.


    Salomé Ureña de Henríquez, poetess and teacher, was born in Santo Domingo in 1850. She is still considered the central figure of the mid nineteenth century Dominican lyrical poetry, and the innovator of women’s education in the Dominican Republic. She was the daughter of writer and teacher, Nicolas Ureña de Mendoza. She received her first schooling from her mother Gregoria Diaz. Later, her father introduced her to the readings of the Spanish and French classics. As a result, she obtained an education and intellectual preparation that would introduce her to the literary world.
    When she was 20 years old, she married Francisco Heriquez Carvajal, a writer, physician and lawyer, with whom she had four children: Francisco, Pedro, Max and Camila Henriquez Ureña. Her third son, Max, would be become one of the most prominent humanists of Hispanic America in the twentieth century.

    Encouraged by her husband, in 1881, she founded the first higher education institution for women on the island, the “Instituto de Señoritas”. After five years of operation, the institute graduated the first six women, who received teaching diplomas.

    She published her first poems when she was 17 years old. Her clear and spontaneous style is often full of tenderness, sometimes tragic, and other times vigorous and patriotic. As a poetess, she sang to her homeland and its beautiful panoramas, her children, her husband, flowers and the island. She died of tuberculosis relatively young, at 47.    


    José Núñez de Cáceres was born in Santo Domingo, on March 14, 1772, son of Francisco Núñez and Maria Albor. Since childhood, he developed a deep love for books and learning. However, growing up in poverty, his father, a country man, watched his son’s dedication with disdain. At 23, he completed a Civil Law degree and built a distinguished clientele and later became a professor at the Santo Tomas de Aquino University. He married Juana de Mata Madrigal Cordero with whom he had six children.

    In 1780, he was appointed Relator (Court Reporter) of the Real Audiencia (Royal Hearing or Appeals Court) in Puerto Principe (present, Camaguey, Cuba). He returned after the “Reconquista” (re-conquest) and was appointed Teniente Gobernador (Lieutenant Governor), Asesor General de Gobierno de Intendencia (Government General Advisor) and Auditor de Guerra (War Auditor) for the province of Santo Domingo. When the old University of Santo Domingo was reestablished, in 1815, he was elected as the first Dean. For years, he requested the position of Oidor (Hearer) of the Real Audiencia of Quito, however, he encountered great opposition from the Court and he never obtained the post. Apparently, this disappointment pushed him to work for a revolution to put the colony under the protectorate of Colombia. On November 30, 1821, he led the separatist movement and headed the board of the provisional government. Lacking the support from Colombia, Jean Pierre Boyer, President of Haiti, invaded the Spanish side, and in February 1822, Núñez de Caceres gave Boyer the keys of Santo Domingo.

    Nuñez de Cáceres was expelled from the island and left to Venezuela, where he dedicated his life to journalism at the “El Cometa” newspaper. His articles strongly attacked Simon Bolivar. He worked as the private secretary for President Jose Antonio Paez. Nuñez de Cáceres encouraged the President to break ties between Colombia and Venezuela and to declare it an independent state. Later, Paez turned his back on him, and Bolivar made him leave the country. He moved to Mexico, where he practiced law, and in 1830, he was appointed prosecutor of the Supreme Court of Justice. In addition, he was Senator of the State of Tamaulipas, Member of Congress of the Mexican Confederation, and Treasurer of Public Property, and received a designation of Meritorious Citizen of Tamaulipas. In 1844, he became seriously ill and passed away in 1846, in Ciudad Victoria, Tamaulipas.


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