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One of the courageous and gallant heroes in the Dominican Republic’s history played a key role in the 1965 uprising against the military dictatorship.

Washington.– Called upon the world to condemn racism and human rights abuses The woeful mutual history of the Dominican Republic and Haiti is tainted with bloodshed as a result of tectonic political and racial tensions involving them over the decades.

However, intertwining the two, was Dr. José Francisco Peña Gómez, a Dominican national of dark skin and Haitian ancestry, who would eventually become revered as one of the most prominent and best loved Dominican political figures of the twentieth century. Born on March 6, 1937, his life became centered on politics long before he worked his way up to become the leader of the Dominican Revolutionary Party (PRD). During a political career filled with heartbreaks, disappointments and failures, Peña Gómez was nominated three-times as a candidate to be the Dominican president and mayor of the capital, Santo Domingo.

But above all, Peña Gómez’s battle against racial constraints and anti-Haitian bigotry that were perpetually used to deter him from his lifetime mission of winning the presidency and then using it to recreate a Dominican Republic which for the first time would be at the service of its citizenry. Although repeatedly denied the presidency of his country, without exception, he became one of the most outstanding black political figures in all of Latin America and the Caribbean, and a true hero in the hemisphere.

Rafael Trujillo, a virulent anti-Haitian and bloodthirsty Dominican dictator, headed the 1937 Parsley Massacre, known as “El Corte” in the Dominican Republic, in which he ordered the executions of an estimated 17,000-30,000 Haitians and dark-skinned Dominicans living along the Dominican-Haitian border over a five-day period. Guns, machetes, clubs and knives were employed against those victims who could not properly pronounce the Spanish word perejil, meaning parsley.

This massacre was supported by purported “evidence” that Haitians were stealing cattle and crops from Dominicans. In effect, what Trujillo was after was to advance a violent movement to “Dominicanize” the entire island. Many Haitians, including Peña Gómez’s parents, Ogis Vicente and Maria Marcelino, fled from Haitian-occupied pockets along the border of the Dominican Republic back to Haiti. As a result, Peña Gómez was orphaned and adopted, as an infant, by a Dominican family.

As Peña Gómez matured, he took on various jobs working in a grocery store, a bar, and as an apprentice of a shoemaker and a barber. In addition to these occupations, he became an instructor in a literacy program for poor children in his native province of Valverde, and later worked as a teacher in night and rural schools.

Peña Gómez determinedly entered the ears and minds of the public in 1960 after he moved to Santo Domingo, enrolled in a broadcasting course, and was hired as a sports announcer. His hunger and love for politics was awakened during his time spent in various colleges.

Peña Gómez’s ventures into politics were not limited to the classroom. He soon became an avid supporter of the Dominican politician and intellectual Juan Bosch, leader of the Dominican Revolutionary Party (PRD), a moderate left-of-center social democratic party. Dominican rightwingers, however, saw to it that the party was portrayed as radical after it became the leading opposition to the Trujillo dictatorship. Shortly after Bosch was elected to the presidency in 1962, as the first democratic president of the Dominican Republic in thirty years, he was ousted in a military coup.

Former Dominican Vice-President Joaquín Balaguer, a man who preached vicious anti-Haitian and racist attacks, and even wrote a book demonizing black people, secured the now vacant position as president of the Dominican Republic. During this period, Peña Gómez assumed the leadership of the PRD, and in 1965 he went on Radio Santo Domingo to call for a popular insurrection against the coup and for the reinstatement of Bosch as president. He was successful in inspiring thousands of Dominican youths to take to the streets and confront the military.

This insurrection led to a civil war in the Dominican Republic. But within Washington’s Cold War vision, Peña Gómez was labeled a “threat” to the democratic western hemisphere, and was accused of being both communist and pro-Cuban. U.S. President Lyndon Johnson ordered the U.S. Marines to invade the tiny country in 1965, ostensibly to rescue foreign nationals stranded there, but in actuality, to score a blow in the civil war, and to counter what was presumed as capable of evolving into a possible communist, pro-Castro movement.

It was also during this period that Peña Gómez was sent into exile. While living abroad in France, he was involved in efforts to attract international support for the condemnation of human rights violations against Haitians and dark-skinned Dominicans in the Dominican Republic.

Before his increased political activity and resulting exile, Peña Gómez enrolled in the Autonomous University of Santo Domingo and graduated with a law degree in 1966. His yearning for education and intellectual growth continued as he studied political science and constitutional and labor law for two years at the University of Paris, and later studied political science at Harvard and Michigan State Universities.

Throughout his life, Peña Gómez, like other dark-skinned Dominicans and Haitians, felt the stigma of racism perpetuated by the country’s light-skinned Dominican elite. His intrinsic worth spoke for itself, and it was no wonder that soon Peña Gómez became a presidential contender with overwhelming credentials.

However, his party (PRD) did not support his nomination, arguing of the handicap posed by the impossible, even inconceivable notion that a black man, especially of Haitian descent, could become president. This is the result of the crippling fact that no politician who openly acknowledged African ancestry has ever been elected president of any Spanish-speaking country in Latin America.

Peña Gómez returned from exile several years later and even after successfully securing the presidential nomination in both 1990 and 1994, he ostensibly lost to Joaquín Balaguer. The government claimed that the 1994 election revealed a narrow victory over Peña Gómez, but it was the influence and support of the U.S. for Balaguer that allowed him to run away with the presidency, even though there was universal belief that the election had been fixed.

The negative publicity surrounding this election resulted in a shortened term of two years and an agreement for a new election in 1996. This incident was clearly racially motivated to intentionally prevent Peña Gómez from heading the country as its first black president. Conservatives, the ruling elite, and the United States, viewed Peña Gómez as a negative symbol of empowerment for black Dominicans and those of Haitian descent.

He was also seen as an embodiment of the 1965 Dominican civil war. In 1996, Peña Gómez lost for a third time to the current Dominican President, Leonel Fernández, who was supported by Balaguer (before the latter’s death) and the conservative right wing. Each of these elections, which resulted in narrow defeats of Peña Gómez, were sullied with irregularities and fraud. There is no doubt that Peña Gómez actually had won at least one of these ballots, maybe two.

Peña Gómez’s life would soon come to an end, as he was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer in 1994. He died on May 10, 1998 in San Cristóbal, Dominican Republic, just six days before the mayoral elections in which he was running, leaving behind his wife and eight children. Most significantly, this Caribbean nation lost an extraordinarily gifted political figure and a person of towering morality and strength of character, who was unique to his generation.

His body was taken to the Olympic Stadium of the Juan Pablo Duarte Olympic Center. There, masses of Dominicans wept over the loss of Dr. José Francisco Peña Gómez, exceptional politician and weighty intellectual who was crudely kept out of reach of opportunities to change Latin American racial politics and the cause of democracy forever.

Peña Gómez always appreciated the work of Council on Hemispheric Affairs (COHA) and for almost two decades, he rarely came to Washington without coming over to its office to discuss the latest misadventure being endured by his party, government, or country.

(This analysis was prepared by COHA Research Associate Deanna Cox.)

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COMMENTS
43 comment(s)
Written by: etiennc01, 19 Apr 2009 8:19 PM
From: United States
Sure looks like Alejandro Williams.
Written by: belly51, 19 Apr 2009 11:36 PM
From: United States, Seattle, WA
etiennc01,

I would never compare this guy to Senator Williams. Peña was a polititian with integrity and moral values. He calmed the public down even tought the election was stolen from him and then he said he would rather loose the Presidents seat than see his fellows Dominicans fighting against each other. I don't know what anybody call this act from him but in my mind thats Real Patriotism,Integrity and moral values. The only polititian in DR that actually said what he really means instead on another lie to the public.
Written by: glomarexplorer, 20 Apr 2009 12:44 AM
From: United States, Fresh Water Paradise-NY Finger Lakes
Too bad that racial bigotry impeded this obviously talented and moral man from achieving deserved greatness. While I did not know him personally, judging by everything published about him, he was a very intelligent man and good politician.

Sadly, anti-Haitian feelings run so deep in our country that we couldn't accept fact that he was legitimately Dominican and, therefore, entitled to aspire to and achieve all political levels within his capabilities. Certainly, a strong argument could be made that several whom have risen higher than he ever did are much less capable individuals, as borne out by their meager achievements.

I hope that hereafter we shall resolve to judge people by the content of their character and capacity to achieve, and ignore skin color and ancestry. For far too long the elite oligarchs have been in control of our destiny because of our ignorance. Perhaps it is high time to revise our thinking.
Written by: Edward, 20 Apr 2009 7:29 AM
From: United States, Faux News: Unfair Imbalance
A true gentleman who despite all the odds against him never gave up. He's one of the Dominicans that I most admire. His legacy will only get bigger as more and more people around the world discover who he was and start reading about him.
Written by: etiennc01, 20 Apr 2009 9:25 AM
From: United States
Great God,this article took Gizmo by surprise and he has nothing to say.
Written by: Bonahan48, 20 Apr 2009 9:28 AM
From: Dominican Republic
The article is full of inaccuracies. This is what remeber---

1. Pena-Gomez was not Dominican. Supposedly born in Loma del Flaco (no real evidence available), Pena was a direct descendant of Haitian migrants, Oguis Vicent and Mari Marcelin. The PRD, with the support of an irresponsible lawyer, made up a Dominican legend to cover up his origins. Eventually, Pena admitted that his father was Haitian, but kept claiming that his mother was partially Dominican (not evidence available).

2. After 1937, Mari Marcelin went back to her family in Haiti and died in the 1980s. It is my understanding that Pena actually saw her before she died. Again, he tried to hide her.

3. Pena always tried to avoid talking about his Haitian identity.
Written by: Bonahan48, 20 Apr 2009 9:29 AM
From: Dominican Republic
4. A pride to his people??? Pena WAS A SELF-HATING NEGRO. As a kid I remember one of his favorite phrases. “I look black outside, but I am a white man inside.” Another one: “I’m a black man with a white soul.” Etc. After he became famous, he decided NEVER TO DATE A BLACK WOMAN AGAIN. Look at the record, all of the women he dated were White Dominicans, especially women with connection within the upper classes-those who never mixed (Gilka Melendez, Peggy Cabral, etc.).

Written by: etiennc01, 20 Apr 2009 9:29 AM
From: United States
Belly51.lately you have been forcing me to read your posts and reflect.
There are objective, impartial and refreshing.
I do not read posts that are slaves of ignorance,intolerance,and prejudices.
Written by: Bonahan48, 20 Apr 2009 9:30 AM
From: Dominican Republic
5. He was a corrupt political figure. One incident I remember vividly. During the 1990 campaign, Pena attacked a former party member accusing him of stealing funds from Capital’s budget. The accused responded by providing evidence of how the money was diverted from the Capital’s budget to the PRD treasury. In other words Pena took the money himself. Another incident in 1990, in the Monsenor Nouel Providence, a woman won a candidacy to congress but Pena wanted another person in that seat. Pena forced this woman to trade her seat for money and his friend became a member of congress. The new congressman went on to become super-rich by taking a cut for everything that moved in congress. This type of corruption was directed and promoted by Pena himself. Most of his friends in the International Socialists ended up in prison. Etc. PENA GOMEZ WAS NOT CLEAN, THE EVIDENCE SHOWS THAT HE PROMOTED AND ENGAGED IN CORRUPTION HIMSELF. HOWEVER, WE ARE NOT SUPPOSED TO SAY THE TRUE. SORRY
Written by: belly51, 20 Apr 2009 10:38 AM
From: United States, Seattle, WA
etiennc01,

Belly51.lately you have been forcing me to read your posts and reflect.
There are objective, impartial and refreshing.
I do not read posts that are slaves of ignorance,intolerance,and prejudices.

Thank you for this comments it feels good to know you like them.
By the way you made laught a couple of times keep it up
Written by: cyberdragon, 20 Apr 2009 10:59 AM
From: Dominican Republic
Good posts Bonahan, I think all Negroes in the West are self hating. You can see that in USA, where the blacks sympathize the ODR just to mix with the already half breeds to produce children more white. I would be proud of belonging to a race if I were them, but it seems that most of us mongrels have more pride in us than the pure negroes do.
Written by: etiennc01, 20 Apr 2009 11:01 AM
From: United States
Poor Pena Gomez. he tried so hard to deny his haitian background.
Now they have found out that he was indeed Haitian his memory is going torn apart by the anti Haitian gang.
No 1 Ulisses Heureaux , Haitian devour him
No 2 Alejandro Williams Haitian devour him !
No 3 Pena Gomez Haitian devour him !
No 4 Jonhy Ventura ? wait !
and ect.
Written by: ny4life, 20 Apr 2009 2:59 PM
From: United States, Respect Dominican sovereignty. No fusion on the island of Hispanola.
The article is definitely bias. However, where wants to talk about DR being racist but we all know that HAITI was founded on racism and killing whites in mulattoes. Till this day, Haitians are not proud to be black as they claim and they continue to be dominated by the tiny mulatto elite. Haitans view DR mulattoes/whites in the same light they view those in there country but they don 't understand that we have a different history than them. The same abuses didnt occur in DR like it did in Haiti.
Written by: brootto, 20 Apr 2009 3:07 PM
From: United States, South West Florida
i do understand your comment ny4life and you might be right to certain points and their history are different, but here is a thing who are the elite in dr? whites yes regardless their spaniard ancestry so they will always maintain that separation with the rest of dr masses. my point is that haiti is not my concern regarding their racial history. dr is and where ever you go there you could see the racism. of course you have to fall under that characteristic to experience it. Believed me I just came from there i saw it with my own eyes. we are so behind regarding race issues.
Written by: Lautaro, 20 Apr 2009 3:20 PM
From: Dominican Republic, Bring DT Forum Back
brootto, if we are so behind regarding race issues as you say, then how come multirracial marriages are more prevalent here on the DR than in the US? I'd love your answer to that, genius.
Written by: Bonahan48, 20 Apr 2009 3:22 PM
From: Dominican Republic
Last time I checked, Pena was part of an elite and serve the wealthy with all his heart. Some people here come to make stupid comments without an informed notion of Dominican history and reality.
Written by: brootto, 20 Apr 2009 3:49 PM
From: United States, South West Florida
Let me said elite refer to even those black want to be, and to lautaro the masses are the first to break tradition and because of it there is changes in society, but racism is never root out regardless the changes in society look what is happening is USA we have a black president and racial issues and incident are occurring more frequent than ever, and to let you know is the president with the most death threats a ever period. Just because the masses is mixing it up that those not mean society is, about that genius.
Written by: etiennc01, 20 Apr 2009 3:56 PM
From: United States
Domincan Today really set up guys.
You still can not have an intelligent discussion relevant to an intelligent article so profound, so well written and well balanced.
This is Dominican Today and we have a hard time grasping its reality just as many white Republicans have a hard time grasping the Obama reality,
Written by: Lautaro, 20 Apr 2009 3:58 PM
From: Dominican Republic, Bring DT Forum Back
brootto said: "Let me said elite refer to even those black want to be, and to lautaro the masses are the first to break tradition and because of it there is changes in society, but racism is never root out regardless the changes in society look what is happening is USA we have a black president and racial issues and incident are occurring more frequent than ever, and to let you know is the president with the most death threats a ever period. Just because the masses is mixing it up that those not mean society is, about that genius."

Well, buddy, your own reasoning have defeated you, cuz' you can't find a more racist elite than the one governing the US. Are you ignoring the fact that they were the ones to invent the "one-drop rule", that is, one drop of african blood (as in having one african ancestor) makes a person black for them? Do you want a more absolute manifestation of racism than that? Not even our elites are that absolute, (cont)
Written by: Lautaro, 20 Apr 2009 4:00 PM
From: Dominican Republic, Bring DT Forum Back
(cont..) so I'll suggest you to mind the ills afflicting your own society first before pointing fingers at the ones afflicting others, unless you want to look like a "bruto", that is.
Written by: Bonahan48, 20 Apr 2009 4:01 PM
From: Dominican Republic
How many blacks were lynched yesterday? Brotto. You must be kidding...Racism is a natural reaction to percieved differences. It could be a bad thing without control. But the same could be said about sex. Should we prohibit that too? There's more rape today than 100 years ago. What should we do? Let's make sex illegal. Hiperboles, hiperboles, que forma de argumentar.
Written by: Lautaro, 20 Apr 2009 4:12 PM
From: Dominican Republic, Bring DT Forum Back
Now that we're speaking of the one drop rule, brootto, would you have the guts of classifying our political class as "white" according to that rule? The fact that our political class is of color in its majority (as the country itself) and the fact that they exercise as much power as the economic elites (your hated europeans) is enough to bring your POV down in flames.
Written by: brootto, 20 Apr 2009 4:14 PM
From: United States, South West Florida
there is a different lynched look at the prisons and educations and also job hiring cut your bull crap because in today society the reason that there is no lynching is because it would be to in the open so they find another way. as population grows of course there going to be more of everything but regarding rape, lynching in today society everyone have learn that it may be wrong but in those time rape was not so much of an issue due to the fact women were not educated enough to go about it. I also know that you two are not part of the elite, whites maybe.
Written by: Lautaro, 20 Apr 2009 4:17 PM
From: Dominican Republic, Bring DT Forum Back
The crucial difference brootto, is that, unlike you, we LIVE in the country and breathe its reality on a daily basis, so we're in a better position to make a judgement of its situation than you will ever be.
Written by: brootto, 20 Apr 2009 4:20 PM
From: United States, South West Florida
ok you might have a point lautaro. I express it how i see it and feel it.
Written by: Belly, 20 Apr 2009 4:32 PM
From: United States, Seattle, W.A.
Brootto

I don't see your point saying we are the most racist in Latin America Pena Gomez won the elections by choice of the general public and some elites stole it from him and he refused to see Dominicans fighting against each other for him being selfish. Would you mind explaining this to me. Because i'm just confuse on your point.
Written by: brootto, 20 Apr 2009 4:35 PM
From: United States, South West Florida
belly remember what the opposition used to smear him? that he was Haitians and a witch by who the white elite.
Written by: Belly, 20 Apr 2009 4:41 PM
From: United States, Seattle, W.A.
Brootto

belly remember what the opposition used to smear him? that he was Haitians and a witch by who the white elite.

But the elite is only 1 percent of the population Pena Gomez won by a large margin even thouthg the elite were didn't want him to win. The general public still voted for him against the will of the elites. Thats politics they call each other everything they can just to win. In USA Obama was called the BEAST,Terrorist,Racist,Not a real american but that didn't stopped the public for voting for him. For record it wasn't just WHITE ELITES it was all elites.
Written by: brootto, 20 Apr 2009 4:58 PM
From: United States, South West Florida
it is one percent with the money and Dominicans money is what win the elections, look what el presidente does he will pay a few pesos the masses and guess what presidente again. throughout dr history election never been fair belly you know better than that.
Written by: Gizmo This user is banned, 20 Apr 2009 6:00 PM
From: United States
No wonder! http://www.coha.org/2009/04/the-l....-of-dr-jose-francisco-pena-gomez/
Written by: belly51, 20 Apr 2009 6:01 PM
From: United States, Seattle, WA
Brootto

I'm still kind of confuse how Elites having money makes the whole country racist. There is not a country in this planet thats not having the same problems. Every country is controlled but the top 5 percent. Thats just the way the world goes around we may have little more problems than developed countries but is the same thing just in a different way.
Written by: brootto, 20 Apr 2009 6:31 PM
From: United States, South West Florida
if you read my comment it said what they can do with money that's all. the fact of having money have change many courses in our history. that is world wide. for such small island we are racist to the fullest. I will guarantee you that you will not see a black president in your life time that is if you are in your 30's. Reasons why Obama is president is because of the transparency that USA have, which is not so clear yet. Also because the elite didn't took him seriously until it was too late. What i mean the elite is the s.b. only those who are selected to be president.
Written by: cyberdragon, 20 Apr 2009 8:04 PM
From: Dominican Republic
The only reason why Obama got elected was because he was given full media coverage with all articles being biased in his favor, if you notice. Brootto: understand, discrimination is a natural mechanism of reaction to something odd, different groups of any kind aren't supposed to be living in the same space. That only leads to conflicts, hell I can even see that when my brother stays here and he always leaves the windows open when I like them closed and we get to disputes. I don''t know about you but I found a very huge solace when I traveled back to DR for the first time after I moved to the US(I am still a dependent teen) and I was walking in the supermarket surrounded by all those people that are like me, I also find solace at Cuban and Puerto Rican parties. Very different compared when I have been to Queens, Chinatown or in Connecticut, you'll see what I am referring to when you travel back for vacation to DR, if you are Dominican.
Written by: dominipapi, 20 Apr 2009 8:52 PM
From: United States
You are in Heavens Dr. Peña Gomez. I strive everyday to be more like you. You will never be forgotten.
Rest in Peace, Leader Maximus
Written by: letroudeballeGeneroso This user is banned, 20 Apr 2009 10:48 PM
From: Dominican Republic
How many million of times do we need to say that Haiti is a nationality AND NOT A RACE for your guys to say racism!!!!

Pena Gomez is responsible for the death (or genocide) of hundreds of Dominican when he used the public airwaves to rally the people to go out to the streets and fight the military knowing the people could not fight back (1965)!

Pena was a troublemaker and he was the inspiration for Solange Pierre to initiate the MUDHA club!
Written by: antonioj, 20 Apr 2009 11:26 PM
From: Canada, Ottawa.. Bring the Forum back
letroudeballeGeneroso mange la marde, please take your pills fast thank you
Written by: etiennc01, 21 Apr 2009 2:15 PM
From: United States
I really admire the evil way that some of you demonize,dedominicanize and finnaly haitianize some black Dominicans.
What your ultimate goal is ?
I really do not know.
The mere existence of people like Alejandro Williams,Pene Gomez and so many others prove just one point : that the pogrom of Rafeal Jrujillo had shamely failed.
Haiti and the Dominican Republic occupy the same space,breath the same air and the survival of one depends on the survival of the other.
Some leaders have recognized the conflict exixting between the two countries and are mapping a human and non violent way to solve it .""""""Conflict means that there are not enough resources for Dominicans to share with Haitians""""
Written by: etiennc01, 21 Apr 2009 2:16 PM
From: United States
read" finally"
Written by: agibus This user is banned, 22 Apr 2009 1:49 PM
From: United States
DR history books have to be impartial with black and white dominican versions.Next generation may consider the way of island unificaton to stop those bullshit discrimination
Written by: agibus This user is banned, 22 Apr 2009 2:02 PM
From: United States
Pina-Pinao was a charismatic leader like Aristide in Haiti.People have seen in him a salvador of poor class.But DR is ot naive like haitians they make the right choice.Leftists are still losers.
Written by: Lautaro, 22 Apr 2009 2:38 PM
From: Dominican Republic, Bring DT Forum Back
agibus said: "DR history books have to be impartial with black and white dominican versions.Next generation may consider the way of island unificaton to stop those bullshit discrimination".

You're sorely mistaken if you think that the island's unification would change things. If something, it will make the competition for the remaining natural resources (which are located in the dominican side of the border in their majority) even more acute. Besides, you're also committing the mistake of seeing this issue only as a racial one, disregarding the very real fact that there are economic/cultural/language barriers between both nations. As the people over here would say "no hay cama pa' tanta gente" (there are not enough beds for so many people). Only if both countries were economically equal would be the way of unification be feasible, a thing that I don't see happening anytime soon.
Written by: Belly, 22 Apr 2009 3:40 PM
From: United States, Seattle, W.A.
agibus

Would you care to give the benefits this would do to the Dominican Republic side of the island. Because as far as i know We Dominicans live in peace within our selves. unless you can tell me the great benefits this would do to DR and who knows i may agree with you. until then i say we leave it like it is and we can help Haiti once we get off the ground while you all are "doing the same".
Written by: Bonahan48, 3 May 2009 1:05 PM
From: Dominican Republic
lautaro, unification is big no. we rather sink the island before turning it into a quiskeyano thing. dios, patriA o muerte.
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