The Beginning of Modernization

Historians and witnesses of the second half of the 1920s categorize it as the definitive beginning of Dominican modernity, with flowering trade and agriculture, incipient industrial activity and significant routes for land transportation. The city of Santo Domingo experienced a vast transformation thanks to its new commercial buildings on its main streets, the residences built in the surroundings of the city (nowadays Gazcue) and to the rapid expanding population of the Villa Francisca neighborhood.

The Americanization of the Dominican economic elites, the growth of the large sugar plantations and the eight years of occupation, which served as the seed of modernity, left their mark:

  • More than half of Dominican imports came from the United States.
  • The popularity of baseball, which replaced cockfighting as the national sport.
  • Cars and buses became the preferred methods of transportation, setting aside the use of railroads.
  • The Dominican economy became characterized by a system of large plantations dependent on the international market.
  • The sugar industry, with its foreign capital, became an enclave outside of Dominican government control. At the end of the occupation, this industry owned more than two million hectares of land, worked by not only Dominican, but also from other Caribbean, poor workforce. 

The Horacio Vásquez Mandate. In this new era, the Horacio Vásquez mandate was a continuation of the political principles developed by the U.S. occupation government: development of public works, growth of agricultural development and education and the improvement of sanitation services.

Upon beginning his presidency, Vásquez ratified the American-Dominican Convention through a new treaty, signed in December 1924, and arranged for a loan in December 1926, which supplied $10,000,000 to the government.

During his administration, the Santo Domingo aqueduct was constructed; the ports of Santo Domingo, Puerto Plata and San Pedro de Macorís were dredged and improved; the plan for irrigation and agricultural colonization of the Northeast Line and the border was developed; schools were built in 10 cities and the highway network was continued so that before 1930, it was almost complete.

Caudillismo or Tyranny. The economic and social changes were not sufficient to uproot strong man politics, patronage, the distribution of management positions and the internal struggles of Dominican politics; on the contrary, paradoxically, the changes would allow the unparalleled concentration of power.

In spite of the rupture of the alliance that brought him to power in the 1924 elections, Horacio Vásquez obtained a two year prolongation of his presidency by virtue of a constitutional reform prepared and approved in 1927. On the other hand, he would end his presidency by capitulating to the forces of the man he had named as head of the Army. The man that was his confidant would put an end to Vásquez’s plans for reelection with a coup d’état on February 23, 1930.

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