Literature and Film
- Where to Go
- The Best of the Dominican Republic
- A Nature Lover’s Dominican Trek
- The Sexiest Dominican Beaches
- Historical Dominican Road Trip
- A Dominican Culture Tour
- Carnaval and Its Masks
- Planning Your Dominican Wedding
- Dominican Adventures
- Golfing the Dominican Republic
- Dominican Music and Dance
- La Ruta del Mango
- Day-Tripping in Monte Plata
- The Best Small Resorts
Political oppression fueled writers from the days of Spanish settlement on the island of Hispaniola back in the 1400s. Literature in the Dominican Republic began as a form of protest against the government and its abuses of the Taíno people and the land—as was the case for Bartolomé de la Casas in his Historia de las Indias. His writings were a first-hand account of the atrocities and a plea to the Spanish rulers to stop the inhumane treatment of the Taíno people.
From the 1400s to the 21st century, the Dominican Republic’s literary landscape has been one of a nation both reconciling with a tumultuous political history and trying to grasp an image of its own national identity. The Dominican Republic has undergone not only Spanish rule, but also French and English. African influence has superimposed itself onto the culture by way of the slave trade. Haitian influence comes by way of invasion, annexation, and sharing an island. The Trujillo years, from 1930 to 1961, intensely influenced all aspects of Dominican day-to-day life and, therefore, its literature during the decades he was in power and to this day.
Early female poets were Leonor de Ovando (the first poet in America), Manuela Aybar, Josepha Antonia Perdomo, and Salomé Ureña de Henríquez. Ureña is a celebrated nationalist, poet, and revered teacher who launched the first teacher training school, a superior education center for women in the 1880s. Her style is mostly neoclassical poetry. Another lasting work from this time is by the poet José Joaquín Pérez, who penned a collection of poems called Fantasías Indíginas (Indian Fantasies) about encounters between conquistadores and Taínos.
Trujillo’s impact on poetry and literature has had a lasting effect. During his time of rule, he had an oppressive hand in sanctioning only the type of poetry that he approved of. However, this meant that a few underground movements of new poets and writers, including La Poesia Sorpredida, were bubbling under the surface waiting to burst forth with new styles, ways of thinking, and words when the time was right. And they did just that. They blatantly confronted issues of racism and classism throughout the country. The Sorpredida voices were surrealists who used dream-like imagery and were: Franklin Mieses Burgos, Freddy Gatón Arce, Aída Cartagena Portalataín, Manuel Rueda, Manuel Valerio, and Antonio Fernández Spencer. Juan Bosch Gaviño, president of the Dominican Republic in 1963, was one of the most influential essayists, novelists, and short story writers of 20th-century Dominican literary history. His writing has inspired new writers to either emulate him or rebel against his traditional topic: the problems of the lower-class citizens.
Some notable Dominican writers who have emigrated to the United States are Julia Alvarez and Junot Díaz. Alvarez’s How the Garcia Girls Lost Their Accents is a story about a family leaving the Dominican Republic during the time of Trujillo and the subsequent acculturation of the Garcia girls in the United States. Her book In the Time of the Butterflies is an award-winning novel that fictionalizes the lives of the Mirabal sisters—three Dominican women involved in a plot to overthrow Trujillo. Díaz’s novel, The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao, won the 2008 Pulitzer Prize.
Although the Dominican Republic itself doesn’t have a strong film industry, it is striving to foster growth in the industry. In 2008, the country hosted the second Dominican Republic Global Film Festival. Films were screened in 10 venues, in Puerto Plata, Nagua, Santiago, Higüey, and Santo Domingo, over the course of five days. Its mission was to bring world dramatic and documentary cinema to the Dominican Republic and hopefully create a cinematic presence in the country as a location for the business.
Hollywood has passed through to make more than 60 films or TV shows either partially or in full. Some of the better known titles are: The Godfather: Part II (1974, Francis Ford Coppola); Apocalypse Now (1979, Francis Ford Coppola); Jurassic Park (1993, Steven Spielberg), shot at the Salto Jimenoa Uno near Jarabacoa; The Lost City (2005, Andy Garcia); Miami Vice (2006, Michael Mann); The Good Shepherd (a 2006 spy film by directed by Robert DeNiro); and Sugar (2008, Anna Boden and Ryan Fleck), an independent film that received much critical acclaim at the 2008 Sundance Film Festival, about a baseball player from the Dominican Republic who tries to make it in the minor leagues in America.
A couple of Dominican-made films have seen some success in recent years: Sanky Panky (2007, directed by José Enrique Pintor) and Yuniol (2) (2007, directed by Alfonso Rodríguez).
© Ana Chavier Caamaño from Moon Dominican Republic, 4th edition