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Lawrence, MA’s Dominican community remembers and celebrates its roots

By José Ayala
Rumbo News

Casa Dominican, Inc. continued to celebrate the Patrimony Month to mark the 169th anniversary of Dominican independence and the bicentennial of the birth of Juan Pablo Duarte, and it did this past Saturday at the Public Library Lawrence with the screening of a short film.

With a cozy atmosphere and the threat of a snow storm that never arrived as predicted, a diverse audience of about 75-80 people, including parents with their children, students and teachers, was presented the film “The Birth of a Nation” followed by an interactive dialogue led by historians Jorge Tapia and Eufemio Garcia.

Garcia is a Jesuit novice and professor of theology, who lives in Lawrence, and with a long and successful history of community activism since his teenage years in the Los Gandules District of Santo Domingo. Tapia is a primary school teacher, community activist and scholar of Caribbean history.

“It is the responsibility of each of us as parents and teachers teaching our children the origins of their Dominican roots, history and the men and women who sacrificed their property and their lives to give us independence,” said Garcia who focused mostly on Trinitarians moral values which should be imitated by today’s generation.

Tapia said some details regarding certain heroes of Dominican history sometimes have been erroneously disseminated and on purpose by other historians.

“Pedro Santana is a very controversial figure in our Dominican history. Some historians called him a hero, while others, and I agree with them, said that he was the most treacherous and criminal man, our history has known,” Tapia said briskly.

“Santana should be in the last place of the historical figures of the time. His ideas were so dishonest and subservient to the foreign oppressor that he annexed the newly created Dominican Republic to Spain so we had to jump back into the fight to restore our independence”, Tapia said about Santana.

According to Tapia, Santana hated the heroes of our independence to the point that he chased them into exile to foreign lands, including Juan Pablo Duarte, Francisco del Rosario Sanchez and Ramon Matias Mella, among other vile acts of treachery and wickedness.

Tapia, a native of the southern province of Peravia in the Dominican Republic, lamented that there are still people in the Caribbean country that insist in honoring and imitating Santana’s figure as in his native town Bani where a municipal district was named Pedro Santana.

Meanwhile, students at Lawrence High School, Carmen Vidal, Luz Evangelista, Ivette Sosa and Shanell Sanchez, accompanied by their Spanish Teacher Belén Tournas, recited in unison the Trinitarian Oath.

A cause for laughter, amazement and even a bit of embarrassment for some adults was when 7-year-old Lillian Disla asked the panelists: “… But what’s the point … What are we celebrating … Why are we here?”

I was serving as moderator during the public participation and with amazement, almost mute, I passed the question to other children and adolescents present. Another girl answered in English and Spanish that we were commemorating Dominican independence and the objective was to promote Dominican culture in America.

Among others present in the activity, were Lawrence Mayor William Lantigua and his assistant Vinicio Frómeta.

Lantigua spoke of his pride of having been born in the Dominican Republic and highlighted the contributions of the thriving Dominican community in this city.

“It is unquestionable and it is fair to acknowledge the contributions made by Dominicans to our city through trade, art, education, and why not say it through politics,” said Mayor Lantigua.

Besides Dalia Diaz and Alberto Surís of course, the event was captured on camera by Ernesto Bautista and the MassTV girls (broadcast on Saturdays on Channel 283, Comcast). Also, Rafael Disla of the radio Strengthening the Family on Impact 1490 WCEC-AM, José Luis López, founder of Latino Lawrence Interactivo on Facebook, featuring events in the immigrant city since created in 2008.

This activity marked the closing of many events held during the Month of the Fatherland by Casa Dominicana, Inc., and they had the support of some merchants who donated ginger tea with cornbread and rolls. These include Cibaeña Bakery, El Pez Dorado, Amable Supermarket, El Pilón Supermarket, El Rincón Supermarket y Union Supermarket..

A general production Nandy Rivas and directed by Félix German, “The Birth of a Nation” is a short film sponsored by Efemérides Patrias of the Dominican Republic, and since its launch in 2006, is commonly used during celebrations of the Independence Anniversary of this country on February 27.

The film lasts 21 minutes and it is a historical overview highlighting this epic patriotic Dominican figure of Juan Pablo Duarte, the Trinity and the challenges and sacrifices faced by its members.

The Trinity was a secret society founded on July 16, 1838 by Juan Pablo Duarte and other Dominicans in order to perform actions to wean the eastern part of the island the Spanish occupation of Haiti and form an independent state they would call Dominican Republic.

The name The Trinitarian was placed in honor of the Holy Trinity. The nine founding members were divided into three groups, hence the name Trinity. They were: Juan Pablo Duarte, Juan Isidro Perez, Pedro Alejandrino Pina, Felix Maria Ruiz, Jose Maria Serra, Felipe Alfau, Juan Nepomuceno Ravelo, Benito Gonzalez and Jacinto de la Concha.

The Dominican Republic gained its independence from Haiti on February 27, 1844 having the Spanish side of the island been under Haiti’s control for 22 years. Casa Dominicana, Inc. is a nonprofit organization dedicated to helping integrate Latinos into the United States’ system through English classes, citizenship, computer skills and working in collaboration with other local agencies. It also enhances and disseminates cultural values of Dominicans through conferences, artistic events and the Dominican Parade of Lawrence.

Currently this organization is carrying out an aggressive campaign for funds and volunteers.

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