Dominican Republic 1922

A Newspaper’s Account of the First American Occupation
(El Cable)

Written: 1922;
First published: El Cable, Year II, Nº 58, March 25, 1922, Nº 67, May 27, 1922;
Source : Edgar Valenzuela, Hidden Treasures of El Cable Newspaper, Archivo General de la Nación, 2012 , Santo Domingo;
Translation: for Marxist Internet Archives, Amaury Rodríguez;
This edition: Marxists Internet Archives, 2016.

Translator’s note: The impact of the first U.S. occupation of the Dominican Republic ((1916-1924) was twofold: First, the military occupation set the stage for the rise to power of Rafael Leónidas Trujillo who would head a dictatorial regime spanning three decades from 1930 to 1961. Second, U.S. troops – acting on behalf of foreign sugar companies – dispossessed peasants of their lands. Not surprisingly, peasants in the East organized armed resistance units to defend themselves. U.S. troops persecuted, maimed and killed those opposed to the occupation. Both major urban cities and rural areas faced the wrath of the foreign troops. From the start, U.S. Marines unleashed a torrent of violence to pacify the population. During the occupation, public executions became commonplace. One document from that period describes the lynching of an eighty-year-old man suspected of aiding the peasant guerillas. Indeed, Horacio Blanco Frombona, a Venezuelan intellectual who sided with the Dominican cause, reported such a case to an author writing about the American occupation in Nicaragua. [1] For the most part, the targets of the American troops were innocent civilians, including women, children, the disabled and even the occasional bystander. The following news accounts were originally published in El Cable newspaper from San Juan de la Maguana Province.

I thank Edgar Valenzuela for granting me permission to translate these passages from his book. Grammar corrected for clarity.

A U.S. Marine Injures a Woman [2]

On the afternoon of March 15th a Marine from the occupying forces in Santiago wounded Ana Julia Peña with a bullet. [3] According to the victim, prior to the event no incident occurred between the marine and her. This U.S. marine arrived to her house with two prisoners; one of the prisoners was her husband. She engaged her husband in conversation, and the marine – who was filling up his belly with rum – shot her with his Mauser. The bullet went through her legs. The official version of this disgusting event stated that it was purely accidental. But accidental events like this – on purpose or due to drunkenness – occur too often here and anywhere else occupied by U.S. Marines.

Another Murderous Marine

Last Saturday night, a [U.S.] marine punched a man who was buying a cup of coffee in a fritanga stand [4]; breaking two of his teeth and then knocking him down. The victim broke his neck against the pavement and died. The attacker fled the scene. But afterwards, a suspect was arrested for being the culprit. The dead man was buried without being identified.

El Cable, Year II, Nº 58, March 25, 1922.

A Marine Assaults a Blind Man

Last week, a drunken marine from the occupying forces stationed in Azua carried out a brutal and unfair assault against a blind man named Guzman Perez. [5] The assault happened this way: the marine beat up a child who seemed to have bothered him. The child fled the aggression, taking refuge in the home of the blind man. The continental followed him inside and, in an outburst of drunkenness, began to hit the harmless blind man who became a scapegoat of his savage fury. [6] Sources tell us that the Preboste severely punished the delinquent marine. [7]


1. “One of the most atrocious incidents, which I have not yet mentioned, is that of Hato Mayor, which was one of the districts which suffered the most under the tyrannical rule of the American forces of occupation. There even the druggists had to report to the American officers – unless they wanted to get shot – everything they sold, even every prescription, stating the name of the buyer or the party for whom it was brought. On June 7, 1917, an eighty-year-old man presented himself at the drug store of José Maria Fernandez with a prescription issued by a physician called Guillermo Sanchez. The medicine was intended to heal some wounds. He said that he had to take it at once to El Salto, where the patient was waiting for it. That patient was his own son. The American officers immediately suspected that those medicines could only be for the rebel leader Vicente Evangelista. So they had the man summoned and forced him to confess that such was the case by having him kicked clear over the plaza, he was immediately hung to a tree and his body riddled with bullets. A man by the name of Peralta cut the rope and the old man’s corpse, tied with a lariat to a horse’s tail, was dragged all over town as a warning.”

See Rafael De Nogales, The Looting of Nicaragua, Robert M. McBride & Company: New York, 1928, 269-270.

2. I substituted the word “yankee” and replaced it with “U.S. Marine.”

3. Santiago is a city in the Cibao region in the North.

4. A fried food stand.

5. Azua or Azua de Compostela is a municipality located in Azua province in the South.

6. An old American currency that had little or no worth at the time.

7. Military police.