The first Dominican Presidents
and what happened after
Dominican Independence!

Dominican independence was declared in 1844, following 22 years of occupation by Haiti, although the two countries continued to be at odds for many years afterwards. Here is a brief 'timeline' of things that occurred after the declaration of Dominican independence:-

1844: After Dominican independence was declared, the new Dominican Republic's First President – General Pedro Santana, was duly inaugurated.

1849: Pedro Santana's chosen successor Buenaventura Baez came to power. Santana's choice of 'heir' was influenced by the fact he expected Baez to be his 'puppet' whilst he effectively remained in charge!

1853: Having found that Baez was unexpectedly 'uncontrollable' Santana became disenchanted with the choice of successor that he had made, as he had hoped to remain the power behind the presidency. Santana therefore stood for and achieved re-election and then he immediately exiled Baez.

1855: Within two more years Santana had not only lost favor with Dominicans themselves, but also his efforts to develop relations with the US had aggravated Spain and England -- as well as further inflaming Haiti. The terrible and bloody Battle of Santome, in which many Dominican and Haitians perished, marked the end of the increasingly tenuous grip that the domineering Santana had on the leadership of the country.

1856: Santana resigned on May 26th. Regla Mota, the Vice President, took over for the short-term. He was pressurized by Spain to appoint the previously exiled Baez as his own Vice President after which Mota then also resigned, leaving Baez back in power.

1858: After inciting a rebellion Santana led the people of the Cibao region against Baez. They declared General Jose Desiderio Valverde President, and Benigno Filomeno de Rojas as Vice-President, and briefly established a new, liberal constitution, christened 'Moca'. The ever power-hungry Santana rapidly usurped the new Government and having assembled enough military support he then unseated Baez, and in July of this year he re-established his own Presidency.

1861: By now the turbulent and unsettled beginning for the independent Dominican Republic had undermined its economic integrity. In a turn-around and change of loyalties, Santana approached Spain for help and the Dominican Republic was made an annexe of Spain on March 18th of this year. For the time-being Dominican independence became a thing of the past!

1862: In January after his brief period as 'Captain General' of the annexed Republic, Santana was displaced by the first of a succession of Spanish Generals.

1863: By February the Dominican people began the process of rebellion against the exploitative Spanish governors. From its roots in Neiba the rebellion soon spread to the whole Cibao region and on September 14th the Dominican constitution of Mocawas resurrected.

1865: On March 3rd the War of Restoration came to an end when the Queen of Spain released the Dominican Republic once more to become an independent state. Two years of constant fighting had convinced Spain it was more trouble than it was worth to persist with the annexation... once again Dominican independence became a reality!

To 1879: To this date the intervening 14 years were marked by the government of the Dominican Republic being in turmoil. Different Dominican Regions represented by a variety of ' Caudillos' (influential local 'leaders') vied for country wide power, each having differing aims and goals for the bickering country.

Further political confusion was engendered by the fractious relationship between the two main parties, the 'Azules' (Blues) who had previously supported Santana, and the 'Rojos' (Reds) supporters of Baez.

Twenty one Presidents came and went.

Baez tried to broker another annexation with representatives of President Grant of the US. It was favoured neither by Dominicans nor many Americans. In a final vote, opponents of the plan within the US Government, led by Charles Sumner, won out.

1879: General Gregorio Luperon, an 'Azule' leader based in Puerto Plata final established overall control. He embarked upon a variety of positive initiatives in critical areas. He ratified a revised, liberal constitution. He implemented reforms in the economy, the military and education. He developed trading relations with Haiti.

1880: Luperon recommended the Catholic Father Fernando Arturo de Merino as his successor and he duly became the next President of the tentatively progressing Dominican Republic.

1884: General Ulisis 'Lilis' Hereaux, once Luperon's assistant, ran for office against General Casimiro Nemesio de Moya. Fraudulent activity ensured that Hereaux became President. Thus began another era of 'Caudillo' style rule.

1899: Hereaux's 'strongman' tactics maintained his leadership until he was assassinated in July of this year.

...And so ended the 'colorful' 1800's...but the ups and down's of the Dominican Republic's history, so frequent from the time of the declaration of Dominican independence...were soon to prove not to have come to an end!

As the Republic entered the 20th century Dominican independence was still a reality, so, ordinary Dominican little suspected that it wouldn't be but 3 decades before the country was in the hands of someone who became one of the World's most infamous dictators!

(For more Dominican History, see our 'early history' pages, and our 'history timeline' of the 1900's!)

Happy history lessons!!!

Ruth & Esther

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