Juan Pablo Duarte Day: January 23
Juan Pablo Duarte Day is a public holiday in the Dominican Republic.
The Dominican Republic (previously known as the Spanish colony of Santo Domingo) has had a tumultuous history over the years, sharing an island with the people of Haiti. After the Haitians took control of the colony in 1822, various pro-independence groups rose to fight against the Haitians.
One of the most notable was Juan Pablo Duarte, who is celebrated as one of the primary founders of the Dominican Republic. Duarte’s birthday and his work towards independence is honored every year on the closest Monday to the actual date of his January 26 birthday. In 2010, celebrations will fall on Monday, January 25.
History of Juan Pablo Duarte Day in the Dominican Republic
Juan Pablo Duarte was born in Santo Domingo on January 26, 1813, three and a half years after the Spanish Reconquista of the colony from the French Haitians. Duarte studied at the University of Santo Domingo at first, but he wanted to learn more. He went on to study in New York, London, Paris, and Barcelona before eventually returning to Santo Domingo in 1833.
Upon his return, Duarte noted the condition of the colony and its people who increasingly grew frustrated with Haitian rule. The Haitians had again seized the colony in February of 1822 after the people of Santo Domingo briefly flirted with independence. Haiti imposed harsh trading and farming regulations on Dominicans and began forcefully drafting young Dominicans into the Haitian army. The university system collapsed. Taxation and mandatory tributes undermined stability in the region.
From this grew La Trinitaria, a secret society founded by Duarte on July 16, 1838, designed to undermine Haitian rule and promote complete independence. There were many members of La Trinitaria, but of them Ramón Matías Mella and Francisco del Rosario Sánchez stood out in fight for independence, later dubbed as founding fathers of the Dominican Republic along with Duarte.
The revolution against Jean-Pierre Boyer and the Haitian occupation began in 1843, but the first attempt to overthrow Boyer was unsuccessful. Duarte and his companions were at first jailed, but then forced to leave the country. It is speculated that during his exile, Duarte wrote what he saw to be the ideal constitution for a free Dominican Republic.
Loyalists to La Trinitaria again attempted to oust Boyer despite Duarte’s exile, and finally succeeded on February 27, 1844, declaring full independence. Duarte was sent word of the victory and invited to return. Elections were set up, and Duarte was nominated as a candidate for President by the Liberal party on June 12. Duarte was opposed by Pedro Santana, a military man who had originally helped La Trinitaria with the expulsion of the Haitians. However, Santana strongly supported Spanish rule of the island, something that went against the very ideals of La Trinitaria.
Duarte lost the election, and Santana banished Duarte and his loyalists. While La Trinitaria remained active from afar, Santana’s support eroded, leading to revolution and guerrilla warfare during the War of Restoration in the 1860s. Duarte briefly returned during this war for independence, and on March 3, 1865, the Queen of Spain formally withdrew control of the region, leaving it to the people. Duarte died in Caracas, Venezuela in 1876, and his remains were transferred to Santo Domingo in 1884 where a proper burial with state honors was held.
Dominican Republic’s Juan Pablo Duarte Day Traditions, Customs and Activities
The tomb of Juan Pablo Duarte rests at the Altar de la Patria in Santo Domingo where people offer flowers and wreathes to remember him. A statue of Duarte in Duarte Park is used as a focal point for celebrations. Parades of military members and children are typical, replete with The Hymn to Juan Pablo Duarte played by a band.
The 2010 celebration of Juan Pablo Duarte and Dominican Heritage Month is overshadowed by the massive earthquake that flattened Haiti on January 12, 2010. On January 18, leaders of all the major political parties met at the General Consulate of the Dominican Republic in New York, agreeing to both solidify aid to Haiti and press forward with the celebration of Duarte and Dominican culture.
“Now more than ever, neighboring Haiti is in urgent need of solidarity from all Dominicans and political parties, and we have a responsibility to become catalysts for a broad movement of support to alleviate the sufferings of the survivors,” said Carlos Felix of the Dominican Liberation Party.
The 2010 festivities are still scheduled to be held as planned in the Dominican Republic.