Today was History Day and what better way to understand the history of a city by walking it. That’s why we spent the afternoon on our City Tour, walking around San Cristóbal alongside our Local Ambassadors who were very excited to meet our glimpsers. Today we learned about one of the most controversial figures of the Dominican Republic: Rafael Leonidas TRUJILLO.
Trujillo was a tyrant who ruled the country under one of the bloodiest dictatorships in the region (from 1930 until 1961). and most of his legacy is still present all around San Cristóbal mainly because this is where he was born. Many buildings and monuments were built by him and are still standing (although with different names and purposes than the ones Trujillo first assigned for them).
Like any controversial story we tried to address it from different sides of one coin. We visited the places where he ordered the execution of people against him but we also had the chance to hear the opinions of those who revere his figure and look back in time with a nostalgic feeling. Like José Miguel Ventura a.k.a. Hippie for example, who collects items that belonged to Trujillo in his house/museum and told us how back in the day things would be done differently, there was no crime, traditional family values were respected and pursued by youth.
Our Local Ambassadors were telling us, on the other hand, a different aspect of this man who ruled the country for 31 years. They told us how much of a bloodthirsty dictator he was and how he spread terror all across the Dominican Republic in order to stay in power.
By the end of the day we reflected on how difficult it is to admire someone who did great things in terms of infrastructure and development when tortures and killing were part of the deal too. Is it worth to live in a society without crime and where traditional values are held up by all families… as long as you never criticize the leader? Or is it better to be free in spite of the social decay? Is there a middle point?
Complex issues that the Dominican Republic is still trying to solve.
I encourage you all to think about this issues and maybe once the glimpsers are back home you can keep the conversation going since these are all valuable lessons.
Everyone is doing great, lots of new friendships getting started. And they love the food!
So, stay tuned for further posts because I can assure you this is getting better every day.