La Virgen de la Altagracia is considered the spiritual and protective mother of the Dominican Republic. There are many different versions as to why she is venerated. Miracles. Hope. Virgin Mary. This is a day of great worship of her followers. This is in stark contrast with my search for Trujillo!
Today saw me in the Colonial Zone. It started off as any normal day, but with the desire for a little adventure. I never know where that wanderlust will take me, but today it took me to Santo Domingo’s Zona Colonial. I walked around and stopped at one of the museums and took notes for what I want to research on Dominican Republic’s history. While wandering, I happened upon the festivities in Parque Colon, forgetting as I do forget on a regular basis, this was “El Dia de la Altagracia.
The square was alive with activity. Colourful clowns with balloons for children, the usual duo of guiro and tambora, and to my surprise, the Policia Nacional brass band!
I regarded them for only a moment when I heard a cacophony of church bells. My curiosity peaked and I HAD to follow the sound to get a better view. The street in front of the Catedral Santa Maria was jammed with people watching and waiting for their religious icon. To see so many of such strong faith for their patron held me in awe. The procession flowed down the street and the attendees watched as they went by … awaiting the symbolic virgin.
The church-bells rang in a fervent pitch. I am amazed that the ringing of the bells is all done by hand and in immediate proximity to the bells. I cannot imagine the ringing in their ears after. I do hope they were wearing at the very least ear plugs. It must be such an honour to be a bell-ringer for La Altagracia. I am history-obsessed of late. I snapped photo after photo, talked to some interesting people, and shimmied sideways through the crowd to escape, “permiso, perdoname …,” as I bumped and squeezed through. I went on to wander the zone.
I encountered a gentleman, an American, named Daniel Duvall, who is a scientist and photographer that sells his photos of Taino pictographs. An amazing fellow in his own right. I gested about finding a brass door to Scotiabank in the zone stating it belonged to New York Fire Department. Even the bank is a scavenger here. He laughed, told me that yes there are some interesting “manholes.” I raised an eyebrow and inquired, “oh yea?” He told me of “manholes” on Calle Las Damas depicting Trujillo’s name and era. This facinated me and the search was on. This spawned an interest in reading what was forged in steal. I look down as I walk, fascinated by what I see.
Now, a little historical background. Rafael Trujillo was dictator of the Dominican Republic from 1931 – 1961. He served in presidency for two terms, 1930 – 1938 and 1942 – 1952. Though he served as president for only 2 terms, he was a ruler under figurehead presidents when he himself wasn’t president. La Era de Trujillo, during his reign of power or reigh of terror, whether president or not, he saw to the deaths of more than 50,000 people. The Parsley Massacre resulted in the killings of approximately 20,000 Haitians. Trujillo was very egotistical and had a large cult following. Santo Domingo’s name was briefly changed to Ciudad Trujillo and reverted back to Santo Domingo at a later date. The power of a dictator. Statues of Trujillo were erected everywhere and he was paid homage. There is much more to be learned in history books of this political dark time in the Dominican Republic. I encourage you to learn and discover.
It intrigued me that I may come across history in a nameplate. A nameplate, not in a museum, but on the street. Why that feels so much more important than all the buildings and monuments, I am not sure. It feels somehow more connected.
Well the “manhole” didn’t exist, but the aquaduct plate did … many of them. I searched high and low down Calle Las Damas for a manhole cover … I am TIRED! In the end I found what I was looking for. Trujillo!
My prize, the long search revealed! I reveled in my glory! Trujillo, I found you…
I feel I have succeeded in discovering a small part of history for myself. From revered virgin, to feared dictator, I learned a little history today. Locagringa, super sleuth!
Listen to the palms…
© Loca Gringa and https://locagringa.wordpress.com