Dominican Republic, first Afro-descendant people of the Americas’, by Celsa Albert Batista

To fix our gaze on our own mirrors, is to find ourselves… and from ourselves, with others.

Our Africanness is undeniable and indelible. The dictatorship of Rafael Leonidas Trujillo Molina and his hispanophile ideal of the Dominican society could not overshadow it.

The contributions of historians such as Dr. Hugo Tolentino Dip; Dr. Roberto Cassa; Dr. Franklin Franco; Dr. Mu-kien A. Sang Ben; Dr. Luisa Navarro and Dr. Celsa Albert Batista, author of the work I am commenting on today (Ediciones INDAASEL), designed by Eric Simón, have been important. Printed in Editora Búho, Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic, 2014).

For the author of this work “to make transparent the scientific objectivity of the conformation of the Dominican people, is one of the challenges that intellectuals and artists of the country have assumed, since the sixth decade of the twentieth century”( p.11).

This work, brief or few pages, but with a great conceptual dimension, from the identity point of view, is integrated by six (6) articles published and disseminated by its author, on the contributions of Africans in the Bohío-L Española-Santo Domingo Island, since the end of the XV century, as a starting point to study the Afro, as one of the strongest foundations, within the material and spiritual elements that make up our identity, as a people.

It is pertinent to highlight here the theoretical support on which the author is based, to trace the route of her studies, taking as a guideline the proclamation 66/460 of 2011 of the United Nations Assembly, which calls for the commemoration of the “Decade for the Studies of People of African Descent”-2012-2022.

Both the UN and UNESCO encourage the international community to investigate the Afro-Antillean reality in our lands, as a way of outlining the real components of our identity as a Latin American and Caribbean people.

In this work, which is a significant summary of one of the chapters of her doctoral thesis, entitled “Africanía en República Dominicana”, Dr. Celsa Albert Batista, raises the postulate that the Dominican Republic is the first Afro-descendant people of America. And she goes even further, by sustaining the idea that with these contributions of Africans, the configuration of a new physiognomy in the region of America, the Caribbean, began.

The reference to this new geographical physiognomy originates because “after more than five (5) centuries, the balance of the African population in the American continent reveals a new identity image and the expression of new cultures, the result of the ethnic-cultural mixture that has shaped the peoples of America and the Caribbean, the product of the exchange between the peoples that manifest this diversity” (p.16).

According to Carlos Larrazábal Blanco, in his work “La esclavitud del Negro en Santo Domingo”, p.12, he maintains that “On the island Bohío-La Española-Santo Domingo, there were slaves”. Let’s see: “whites, Berber or blacks, perhaps smuggled in”.

According to researchers such as Dr. Celsa Albert Batista, the presence of black Africans in our territory is linked to the strong gold work and the tiring agricultural work, having the Dominican Religious Order as the standard bearer of such an aberrant purpose, against the dignity of the subjects and human rights.

The church appears as a bridge and support of those slaves, although some voices, in some moment of our historical evolution, assumed its defense. There are the facts… although today we beat our chests, trying, in vain, to be “forgiven” for those “sins”.

I, who boast of believing in God, do not be frightened, my friend reader, I cannot hide that act where the then judge of residence, Alonso Suazo, accepted the demand of muzzle slaves, in large quantities, brought directly from Africa.

And what is even more serious is that this demand for slaves was made by the Hieronymite Fathers, who, by 1516, were the administrators of the island, seeking to guarantee the success of the change from the gold economy to the economy of the plantations, sugar mills and cattle ranches (See page 18).

These data on our social integration and identity are passed over in the national educational system. What a shame! They don’t even mention them, because some shoddy historians keep repeating our history full of myths and falsehoods that ignore the intermingling of the African population with the Spanish population, which, together with the process of miscegenation between Spaniards and Indians.

And later with the African slaves, originating the so-called mulattos and mulattos and the intense relations between these and laid the anti-slavery and manumission paths, until conforming what we are today…Dominicans.

For you, who are a possible lover of the subject, I take this opportunity to suggest that you not only read this text by Dr. Celsa Albert Batista, but also look for the following works:

– “Africa in America. Center for Economic and Social Studies of the Third World. Institute of Aesthetic Research. UNAM-Mexico. 1982.

-Albert Batista, Celsa. “Los africanos y nuestra isla”. INDAASEL. La Trinitaria Bookstore. Santo Domingo, D.R. 2010.

-Bosch, Juan… “Dominican social composition” (History and interpretation). Santo Domingo, R.D. 1979.

-Andujar, Carlos… “La presencia negra en Santo Domingo: Un enfoque etnohistórico” (Black presence in Santo Domingo: An ethnohistorical approach). Letra Gráfica Publishing House. Santo Domingo, R.D. 2001.

-Cassá, Roberto…Historia social y economía de la República Dominicana”. 2 volumes. Punto y Aparte Editores. Santo Domingo, R.D. 2006.

Among twenty titles related to the subject, because the deeper we go into our identities, the more we love ourselves as persons, as people, as thinking, creative, critical and participative subjects, and the more we make these, our utopias, our own.

To assume our identity is to love and defend our homeland, from a view that starts from our locality… towards our universality.

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