It is no secret that the Dominican Republic has had a long, complex and bloody history. Those of us who have researched said history or were taught about it by way of our family members and ancestors, might recognize the names of people like the dictator Rafael Leonidas Trujillo and the martyrs Las Hermanas Mirabal: Patria, Minerva and Maria Teresa. However, more often than not, we fail to learn about the Afro-Dominican activists who fought and sacrificed their lives to liberate the D.R. from corruption and tyranny.
In the spirit of Women’s HERstory Month, I want to dedicate this post to an Afro-Dominicana who was unapologetic in her pursuit of freedom and liberty and who, like many other Black women in the resistance, are often forgotten.
I first learned about Yolanda Guzmán when I came across this article two weeks ago. Guzmán was born on July 8th, 1943 in a small town in San Francisco de Macorís, D.R. to a mother who worked as a domestic laborer and a father who served as an Inspector for the Juan Bosch Presidency. As a young girl, she showed an interest in politics, as her mother was an anti-Trujillista and she grew up listening to clandestine Cuban radio broadcasts. After Trujillo assassinated Patria, Minerva and Maria Teresa Mirabal, Guzmán vowed to dedicate her life to fighting for freedom from oppressive regimes.
As she got older, she began frequenting a cultural and social hub named after Juan Pablo Duarte. It was there where she began uniting and organizing with people in favor of the country’s laborers and also the country’s return to constitutionality after the coup d’etat against President Juan Bosch.
Now, some folx might be surprised to learn this (read the following as sarcasm), but the U.S. first occupied the D.R. from 1916-1922 and has been meddling in their affairs ever since. After military commanders ousted then President Juan Bosch and instated Donald Reid Cabral as the new President, the U.S. then began their second occupation of the island but many Dominicans were NOT having that, Guzmán included.
After Bosch’s expulsion from the country, Guzmán participated in several protests. She visited jails and brought political prisoners food as well as helped single mothers gain access to sewing machines, milk and bread for their children. She told her mother Doña Beatriz of her plans for the revolution and would often entrust her with preparing and delivering food to political prisoners and revolutionary leaders.
Between April 24th-26th, 1965, a civil war erupted on the island, which would become known as the “April Revolution.” The constitutionalists’ efforts proved successful as they were able to overthrow Cabral’s government, though the U.S. didn’t officially terminate their occupation until a year later.
On May 2, 1965, after the D.R. announced the new Constitutional President was being sworn in, Guzmán jumped in a jeep with 5 other compatriots to witness it. Their car was intercepted by the CEFA (armed forces) and they were brutally assassinated and left in ditches.
Yolanda Guzmán was an activist and revolutionary. We must remember her and the countless of other Black women who fought to restore peace and liberty to our peoples, but whose names and stories are often erased and forgotten.
Remember their names.
Say their names.
Say her name.