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    Dominicana On Line - El Portal de la República Dominicana

    First U.S. invasion

    The events that gave the final push to the 1916 U.S. intervention were:

    • The impasse between the Juan Isidro Jimenes government and the United States, as it did not accept some of the measures that the United States wanted to impose (among them, express approval of the U.S. administrator).
    • Uprising of the Horacista generals in the north.
    • U.S. military occupation of Haiti in 1915.
    • Increase in the Desiderio Arias's power, who, as secretary of War and Navy, rebelled against Jimenes in April 1916.

    In May 1916, the U.S. Marine disembarkment began. On May 16, they took Santo Domingo, and by the end of July, the principal military posts in the country were in their hands. On November 29, 1916, Captain H.S. Knapp published the official proclamation of the occupation.

    U.S. military government measures in the Dominican Republic

    Military and police control

    In order to replace the old armed forces in the Navy and the Republican Guard of the period of Ramón Cáceres, in 1917, the invaders created the National Guard, an organization of repression whose end was to efficiently combat any intent at sedition. The Dominicans that joined its ranks were almost all from a lower socio-economic status or unemployed and were trained according to the regulations of the Marine Infantry of the United States, making them into a sort of extension of the force. It is from this "body of order", later named the National Police and even later converted into the National Army, that the dictator Rafael Leonidas Trujillo emerges.

    Internal income, accounting and land registration.

    In 1918, the Directorate General of Internal Income was created with the purpose of regulating the application and payment of taxes on national manufacturing. A modern system of public accounting was also incorporated, as well as a new land registration system.

    Public Works

    The need for greater military control over the country motivated the invading authorities develop a plan for highway construction that reached the various regions and that facilitated a real political unification of the country. In 1922, the Duarte highway was inaugurated between the cities of Santo Domingo and Santiago. The highway to the east traveled from Santo Domingo to San Pedro de Macorís, while the highway to the south stretched from the capital to Azua. This network was completed a short time after the occupation was finalized, after being planned and initiated during the Ramón Cáceres presidency.
    Other works consisted of the air-conditioning of the docks and customs buildings, the establishment of a telecommunications system and educational and sanitary buildings.


    It is estimated that in 1916, more than 90% of the Dominican population was illiterate.
    One of the first initiatives of the occupation government was the promotion of a law that established primary education as obligatory and free of charge for children from 7 to 14 years old and the creation of the National Council on Education, charged with the general supervision of public instruction. Numerous primary school establishments were built in the rural areas.
    On the other hand, little attention was paid to secondary education, the Universidad de Santiago was closed and the Universidad de Santo Domingo was given the category of institution.

    Public health and sanitation

    • Cleanliness of cities and towns, markets and slaughterhouses, installation of latrines.
    • Creation of the Secretariat of State of Health and Wellness.
    • Creation of a National Laboratory.
    • Regulation of the medical and pharmaceutical practice and related fields.
    • Execution of vaccination programs.
    • Control of the preparation and sale of foodstuffs.
    • Prohibition of prostitution
    • Arrival of health professionals from the United States and Puerto Rico. According to the occupation authorities, in 1917, less than 95 doctors and licensed medical care personnel worked in the Dominican Republic, many of which were poorly educated.
    • Construction of three hospitals.

    "Dance of the Millions". The World War I caused an increase in the demand for Dominican sugar, tobacco, coffee and cocoa, raising the price of these products on the international market. The resulting greater buying capacity of Dominicans produced a rise in the demand for imported manufactured articles and contributed to the incipient urbanization and modernization process in towns such as Santiago, La Vega, San Pedro de Macorís and Puerto Plata, along with Santo Domingo. This economic effervescence was especially present between 1918 and 1921, when it was known as the "Dance of the Millions".

    It ended in 1921 with the sharp plunge of the Dominican product prices on the international market, pushing the country into a new crisis.

    New loans. It is important to note that the investments made by the occupation government were sustained, in part, by customs funding that belonged to the Dominican government and had been retained by the U.S. authorities as a pressure mechanism since the impasse with President Jimenes. The measures were also supported by loans authorized by the State Department under the Convention of 1907. Thanks to the new loans, the debt of the Dominican Republic climbed to almost 15,000,000 dollars.

    Dominican political leaders and businessmen manifested their disagreement, alleging that the foreign government did not have the right to place the country in debt.



    In spite of censorship and disarmament, a group of rebels continued to struggle against the foreign authority. The "gavilleros" operated in the eastern part of the country and were, for the most part, composed of peasants dispossessed of their land during the apogee of the foreign investment sugar industry, beginning in the late 19th century and growing in the first 15 years of the 20th. They hid in the mountainous zones and attacked using guerilla war tactics, relying on the collaboration of the population and even the administrators of the sugar refineries that, in order to avoid the burning or assault of their fields and storage facilities, gave them food and money.

    They could only be pushed back when operations against them received the help of the Dominican National Guard soldiers. In 1922, they accepted a general amnesty offered by the occupation government with the understanding that a Dominican provisional government would be installed that year under the Hughes-Peynado Plan.

    The Gavilleros' most important leaders were Vicente Evangelista, Ramón Natera, Martín Peguero, José Piña, Luciano Reyes, Pedro Tolete, Marcial Guerrero and Félix Laureano.

    Civic Resistance

    The civic resistance was based in urban areas and was structured on the various initiatives of the Dominican intellectual class that expressed a preference for a free country with revolutions rather than an occupied country with an imposed peace.

    • Campaign carried out by ex-president Francisco Henríquez y Carvajal. He traveled to various countries in Latin America denouncing the occupation, the lack of freedoms, the censorship, the military courts of justice and the torture that Dominicans suffered. In 1919, he founded the Comisión Nacionalista Dominicana, a nationalist organization that operated in Washington and attempted to push the U.S. State Department to modify its policies in the country and name a Consultant Junta that would prepare the laws to ensure the transition to a new Dominican civil government.
    • Campaign of the Dominican worker leaders of the Federación Americana del Trabajo, an organization which demanded a rectification of the U.S. president's policy in Santo Domingo.
    • Creation of the Unión Nacional Dominicana in 1920. Chaired by Don Emiliano Tejera, it demanded "pure and simple deoccupation". Its members were Américo Lugo, Fabio Fiallo, Pelegrín Castillo, Enrique Apolinar Henríquez, Max Henríquez Ureña, César Tolentino and many others.

    The defense of the reestablishment of Dominican sovereignty was expressed through various cultural manifestations: speeches, books, letters, plays, editorials. Even the baseball games held between Dominicans and teams composed of U.S. Marines served to channel the rejection of the oppressive authority

    Hughes-Peynado Plan, 1922. The economic crisis unleashed in 1921, the national and international campaigns against the intervention and the election of a new U.S. president favorable to the departure of the occupation troops, provided for this new agreement that set the foundation for the Dominican Republic's return to independent life. It was named for its negotiators: Francisco J. Peynado for the Dominican Republic and Secretary of State Charles Evans Hughes for the United States. The plan stipulated:

    • Installation of a provisional government elected by the principal Dominican political leaders and the Archbishop of Santo Domingo.
    • Preparation and organization of elections by the provisional government
    • Recognition of the legal acts of the military government that created law in favor of a third party.
    • Recognition of the validity of the loans taken out during the years of occupation.
    • Recognition of the customs tariffs established by the military government in 1919, which favored more than 945 U.S. products.
    • Validity of the American-Dominican Convention of 1907 until the Dominican Republic paid its external debt, therefore leaving the U.S. in control of customs and with the right to authorize or reject the acquisition of any further public debt in the country.

    Juan Bautista Vicini Burgos assumed the provisional presidency in October 1922 and constitutional elections were held March 15, 1924, resulting in the election of candidate Horacio Vásquez of the Partido Nacional. In August of the same year, the evacuation of the occupation army concluded.

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