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Meeting of the Trinitarians

Stautue of Duarte on Pico Duarte, the highest mountain of the Caribbean

Statues of the three founding fathers Duarte, Sánchez and Mella at the Altar de la Patria, Santo Domingo

Images of Duarte, Sánchez und Mella on a Dominican 100-pesos bill

Juan Pablo Duarte y Diez was born in Santo Domingo on January 26, 1813, as the son of the Spanish merchant Juan José Duarte and Manuela Diez Jiménez, daughter of a Spaniard and a native.

After the French troops conquered Santo Domingo in 1801, led by the Haitian hero of independence, Touissaint Louverture, who then still was fighting for France, the Duarte family fled to Puerto Rico with many others. After the reconquest and restoration as a Spanish province, they returned in 1809.

Duarte was considered a diligent and intelligent student. When he was 15 years old, he traveled to the United States, England, France and Spain with a merchant, a friend of the family, where he got in touch with the liberal ideas of the French Revolution. After twelve years, Duarte returned to Santo Domingo to work in his father's business.

The then Spanish province, which was reconquered in 1808 but completely neglected by the Spanish government - the period between 1809 and 1821 was called "España Boba", "stupid Spain" - was occupied by Haiti since 1822, after the country became independent under José Núnez de Cáceres for the first time on December 1, 1821, calling itself "Independent State of Spanish Haiti" (Estado Independiente de Haití Español), and trying to get the protection of Gran Colombia. But pro-Haitian movements conspired against the new state, which did not abolish slavery, as Haiti did in its independence in 1804 following the expulsion of the French colonialists.

Haiti, as the legal successor of France, considered to be entitled to occupy the Spanish territory on the eastern part of Hispaniola and unite it with Haiti on the basis of the Treaty of Basel of July 22, 1795, according to which Spain ceded this territory to France in exchange of territories that France conquered from Spain in Europe. This occupation still is the main reason for many Dominicans to see the haitians as the main enemy. After Haiti had conquered the Spanish territory, most of the Spanish-born businessmen and landlords arranged themselves with the new government. Upon his return, Duarte lived an intense social life within the urban bourgeoisie of Santo Domingo, until he noticed that there was growing a certain patriotic feeling and an aversion against the black rulers who tried to suppress everything Spanish, also because many of the Spanish-born landlords wanted slavery back, which was totally unacceptable for a country founded by liberated slaves.

The government of Jean-Pierre Boyer, president of the Republic of Haiti from 1818 to 1843, which was initially liberal and progressive, had become a brutal dictatorship. Boyer raised taxes to pay for the exorbitant French demands as a price for the country's independence, leading to insurrections against Boyer inside the original territory of Haiti.

In this historic environment, Duarte with some allies founded the secret organization La Trinitaria on July 16, 1838, which had the goal of driving out the Haitian occupiers and to proclaim an independent  state. Their slogan was "Dios, Patria y Libertad" (God, Fatherland and Freedom), which is still the motto of the Dominican Republic's coat of arms. Duarte had a precise concept of a Dominican nation whose constitution made it clear that the Dominican flag would cover all races without favoring or discriminating a particular race. His idea of the republic was anti-colonial, liberal and progressive. But the leading class was not interested in independence, because it brilliantly came to terms with the French lifestyle of the Haitian elite. However, in the middle class, his ideas became more and more popular and he received the necessary support for his movement.

When in 1843 the rebellions against Boyer spilled over from Haiti to the eastern part of the island, Duarte led a reformist movement in Santo Domingo and became the Republican leader fighting for independence from Haiti. However, he was forced to leave the country with a few companions and his companions Francisco del Rosario Sánchez and Matías Ramón Mella, who are now known as the Fathers of the Nation along with Juan Pablo Duarte, brought independence to an end on February 26, 1844.

After Duarte returned to the country on February 27, 1844, he became a member of the provisional central government, which unfortunately was dominated by the most conservative sectors that did not believe in the new republic. After internal struggles in the leadership, General Pedro Santana was named the first president of the first Dominican Republic and the founders of the Republic (Duarte, Sánchez and Mella) were declared traitors and forced to leave the country.

General Pedro Santana became Dominican President two more times and, after only 17 years of independence, he asked Spain, due to the Haitian threat (Haiti tried to retake the Dominican Republic 14 times between 1844 and 1856 , because according to them, for the Treaty of Basel, it was Haitian territory - However, Haiti then recognized the Dominican Republic in 1867) and the state bankruptcy to re-integrate the Dominican Republic as a Spanish province. On March 18, 1861, Spain officially announced the annexation and Pedro Santana became governor. But many of the Dominicans disapproved of this annexation and rebelled. Francisco del Rosario Sánchez led an invasion from the territory of Haiti that was aimed to overthrow Santana, but was captured and executed on July 4, 1861. On August 16, 1863 (today the National Holiday) began the Restoration War, which ended with the final independence of the Dominican Republic in 1865.

Juan Pablo Duarte came back from his exile to the Dominican Republic in 1864 and was sent to South America as a consul with the task to seek help for the struggle for independence from Spain again. This mission became another involuntary exile for Duarte, because a pension was promised by the Dominican government, which he never received. Therefore, completely dissappointed, he remained in Venezuela along with his family, despite the request of President Ignacio María González to return to Santo Domingo. In Caracas he ran a candle factory until his death on July 15, 1875. The remains of Juan Pablo Duarte were not transferred to his homeland until 1884, when the Dominican dictator of Haitian origin, Ulises Heureaux, declared Duarte, along with Sánchez and Mella, a national hero.


Juan Pablo Duarte, Father of the Dominican Republic