Pedro Santana, step by step of a man who lives between lights and shadows

General Pedro Santana is one of the most important figures in the history of the Dominican Republic. It played a decisive role in the consolidation of independence, as well as in the subsequent struggles for its preservation.

Although he has been celebrated on countless occasions for raising the Dominican flag to its highest point, it has also been condemned for lowering it and putting a foreign flag in its place.

Santana was exalted several times and demoted, to the point that he was described on several occasions as a “traitor to the homeland”.

Commemorating the 158th anniversary of his death, below is a breakdown of the events that marked the life of this figure, and thus the course of Dominican history.

early years

He was born on June 29, 1801 in Hinsha, a town that at that time belonged to the Dominican territory but now corresponds to Haiti.

Concerned about the presence of Haitian forces in that city, his parents, Don Pedro Santana and Petronilla Familias, decided to move east.

As the journalist and historian Rafael Molina Murillo (1930-2017) mentioned in his work “Gloria y Repudio: Biografía de Pedro Santana”, they first stayed for a while in Gurabo, Santiago, then settled in Sabana Perdida, near Santo Domingo and finally, were Permanently assigned to El Seibo.

His father

Santana’s military inclination comes from his father, who was a captain in the militia. Long before his son, Pedro Santana Sr. earned a place in Dominican history books by being a participant in the Battle of Palo Hencado, which he fought in 1808.

This conflict ended French control of the island of Hispaniola and marked the beginning of the period known as “silly Spain”.


The soldier has an only twin brother named Ramon, with whom he grew up in the countryside, tending animals and tending his father’s crops.

According to Molina Murillo, when they migrated to another town, the economic situation of their family became precarious, so the Santana brothers had to sell firewood when they were just children in order to contribute as little as possible to the family.


Pedro Santana spent his childhood, adolescence and youth completely devoted to livestock tasks and was day in and day out working hard to earn wealth.

Although he was able to obtain a comfortable economic and social situation, the conditions that surrounded him and the environment in which he lived did not allow the general to have academic training or intellectual upbringing.

Their father, at the age of eight, had barely taught the twins to read and write.


Pedro Santana’s first marriage was a “marriage of convenience”.

Historian Roberto Casa tells in his work “Dominican Dictators of the Nineteenth Century” that Santana married Michaela Rivera, a woman fifteen years his senior, who was the widow of Miguel Viblis, one of the richest haters of the time.

Similarly, it is indicated that his brother Ramon married Rivera’s daughter on the same dates, with the aim of maintaining the business relationship they had maintained in life with the deceased breeder.

national independence

Santana has never hidden his hostility towards Haitians, which is why, in 1943, during the height of the occupation, he joined Los Trinitarios in order to promote a separatist coup.

Strategically speaking, on February 27, 1844, aristocrat Francisco del Rosario Sánchez appointed Santana’s twins to the Eastern forces, which consisted of a train of workers and peasants who had made use of their skills in cavalry and weapon handling, and White joined the fight. .

“In a turbulent manner, the troops proclaimed General Santana commander-in-chief, recognizing his leadership skills and as a sign of recognition for the social influence he had,” Casa asserts in his letter. .

Battle of March 19

Upon learning of Haitian President Charles Herrard’s intentions to invade the Dominican territory again with about 20,000 men, on March 19, 1844, Pedro Santana intercepted an enemy group at Azua, accompanied by three thousand Dominicans, thwarting the plans of the Haitian president.

As Casa explained in his work, this military action created an illusion in the population that “the only person who met the conditions to defeat the Haitians was Pedro Santana.”


The threat of Haitian occupation receded temporarily, differences of opinion between the General and the Trinidadians did not take long to flourish, and little by little society was divided between liberals (represented by Juan Pablo Duarte) and conservatives (represented by Pedro Santana).

first boss

“Pedro Santana built his leadership with the help of the legend of the indomitable military leader,” Roberto Casa quotes. It was precisely this legend that led the general to become the first constitutional president of the Dominican Republic.

Article 210

After taking power, Santana almost immediately demanded the inclusion of Article 210 of the constitution authorizing him not to be held accountable for his actions.

This act, which was historically considered “legal rudeness”, revealed the true intentions of the general. On that he bent down to become a dictator.

“During the present war, and so long as the peace has not been signed, the President of the Republic may freely organize the army and navy, mobilize the National Guard, and take all measures he deems appropriate for the defense and security of the nation; being able, therefore, to issue all appropriate orders, judgments, and ordinances, without interfering with for any liability”, ordered the questionable decree.

Article 210 was the legal framework he used to commit a series of atrocities against those who “dare to challenge his regime”.

With this ratification, he ordered the life exile of the father of the country, Juan Pablo Duarte, the execution of Maria Trinidad Sánchez and her nephew, the aristocrat Francisco del Rosario Sánchez, as well as the death of the border guard, General Antonio Duverge, all key figures for achieving national independence.

This execution was followed by many other people who were part of an emerging but powerful oppressive regime. The dictatorship generated more and more rejection, and although he resigned in 1848 due to pressure, situations such as the Battle of Las Carreras, led by Santana, led to his return to the presidency.

Shades over lights?

Santana is described in Vitello Alvo’s “Historical Controversy: Santana Polymix” as a man of “high spirit, unshakable courage, the utmost serenity and a faith which to some extent limits fanaticism.”

Although Santana’s martial skills were not in question, his performance as a ruler was. In an unprecedented event in the history of the Dominicans, Santana attempted to lease the Samana Peninsula to the United States, a country that at the time intended to seize the country and with this movement was revealing its plans for annexation.

Speaking of Santana in his work “Roveneto”, writer Federico García Godoy warned that “his mistakes are not because of him alone, but because of the environment and the time in which he lived as well as the mentality of the time he lived to work, ignorant, full of old ideas and clumsy fears.”

Annexation to Spain

Upon assuming his third and final presidential term in 1958, the country sank into a major crisis, the product of the civil war that had arisen in the government of his predecessor, Buenaventura Paez.

In these critical circumstances, as Casa explains in his work Dominican Dictators in the Nineteenth Century, Santana began to envision the annexation of Dominican lands to Spain, another negative landmark attributed to the general.

Although Santana initially saw the United States as a first choice, he rejected his idea because it was unsuccessful to lease the Samana Peninsula.

“Spain was interested in expanding its colonial power, so the possession of Santo Domingo became a means of consolidating control over Cuba and Puerto Rico, which explains why Santana’s offers were so well received in Madrid’s ruling circles,” in this book.

According to the historian, Santana did not believe in the possibility of the country going on its own and lacked the concept of a nation.

Almost without opposition from his officials, on March 18, 1961, he achieved the accession of the Dominican Republic to the European state. The lowering of the tricolor flag to raise the Spanish flag at “Plaza de Armas” made it official.

Like any dictator, accustomed to holding absolute powers, Santana began to feel like a prisoner of the Spanish authorities and in 1862 resigned from his new position as governor.

In August 1963, the War of Restoration broke out, a revolutionary movement led by the hero Gregorio Luperon who, after several battles against the Spanish government, returned to the independence and sovereignty of the Dominican people.

the death

A short distance from military duties, on June 14, 1864, General Pedro Santana died suddenly.

Until today, it has not been possible to determine the cause of his death because although some archives and documents from that time indicate that he was suffering from illnesses, he was never seriously ill.

Being a figure of this capacity and importance, over the years many theories have emerged about the causes of his death. One of the most frequently mentioned is the possibility of poisoning or suicide.

Since 1978, by order of the then President of the Republic, Joaquín Balaguer, the remains of General Santana have remained in the National Pantheon.

In recent history, a bill introduced in the Senate in 2018 opened up debate in the community by proposing that Santana’s remains be excluded from the shrine, claiming that Cipano did not deserve to be in that place because it led to the annexation of Spain.

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