Ignacio López-Calvo. God and Trujillo: Literal and Cultural Representations of the Dominican Dictator -

Ignacio López-Calvo. God and Trujillo: Literal and Cultural Representations of the Dominican Dictator

Alfonso González
Ignacio López-Calvo. God and Trujillo: Literal and Cultural Representations of the Dominican Dictator. Gainesville: University Press of Florida, 2005. Pp 197.

1 Through an exhaustive and detailed research in historical, social, and literary texts and articles, Ignacio López-Calvo offers the reader a round figure of one of the most repressive and theatrically grotesque dictators of twentieth-century Spanish America: Rafael Trujillo of the Dominican Republic. This is a worthwhile contribution to our knowledge and understanding of how and why such a horrific figure rose to power and stayed there with the help, blessing, or indifference of governments such as the United States and Spain.

2 Focusing on the public and private life of the dictator, on his known and probable psychological traits, the book traces the history of Spanish-American dictators in general and Trujillo in particular. The reader sees Trujillo through the eyes of national and foreign historians, biographers, novelists, and a Dominican popular ballad. We witness the pompous and egotistic actions of a sexual predator as well his mandated tortures, kidnappings, and murders in grotesque detail.

3 God and Trujillo is divided into six main parts, as well as an introduction and conclusion. Chapter one, "Latin American Caudillos and Dictators," gives an overview of the history of Latin American dictators in general, including Trujillo. It gives us excerpts from the main sources of information the author will use in his analyses, whetting our appetite to know more and better comprehend how this unsavory character rose to power and his unspeakable acts. Novelists and social scientists generally agree on their depiction of a cruel, egotistical, and theatrical man who believed in the supernatural and became a sexual predator to his own people. The author refers to Trujillo, who controlled the press, as "The Goat," a nickname given to him by his people and other authors.

4 Chapter two, "From the Praetorian to the Gendarmist State: Trujillo, the Church, the United States, and Fidel Castro," highlights the interdependence of the Latin American tyrant and U.S. imperialism, and how Trujillo remained in power for nearly thirty-two years with the tacit backing of the CIA and an impressive array of American representatives, including senators, governors, mayors, lawyers, and reporters, who received generous bribes and political favors from the Dominican dictator. The U.S. government backed this dictatorship during more than three decades first because it felt that through Trujillo it could control the region, and later because of its hard-line anticommunist stance. When Trujillo was no longer seen by the U.S. government as a needed ally, and because of his lavish spending, he fell out of grace with the United States. He then condemned his former ally, rallied his people against the U.S., and tried to win the support of Russia and Fidel Castro.

5 Chapter three, "The Goat, the Patriarch, and other Trujillos: Condemning or Abetting Dictatorship?" studies the complex image of the dictator. Did novels about Trujillo such as The Autumn of the Patriarch condemn or abet his dictatorship? The author examines well-known novels about Trujillo such as Mario Vargas Llosa's The Feast of the Goat and Julia Alvarez's In the Time of the Butterflies, as well as those of lesser-known writers such as Manuel Vásquez Montalbán's Galíndez, a novel about a Spanish Republican who denounced Trujillo and was assassinated by him; and the Chilean Enrique Lafourcade's King Ahab's Feast. Other novels with strong suggestions that refer to Rafael Trujillo are also studied.

6 Chapter four, "The Novel as History/ Historical Documents as Fiction," examines the close relationship between history and fiction in two novels, Galíndez and King Ahab's Feast, where Trujillo becomes a secondary actor, a shadow in the lives of all Dominicans and particularly in that of Jesú#xFA;s Galíndez, one of his most famous victims. It also studies the role of his court favorite and surrogate, Joaquín Balaguer, as well as that of other acolytes who appear in the novel They Forged the Signature of God and several other works.

7 Chapter five, "Women, Class Resentments, and the Politics of Revenge," focuses on Trujillo's relations with women and the connection between his government and social struggle as it appears in works such as In the Time of the Butterflies. The author states that the only kind of relationship the dictator had with women was through submission, rape, and torture. In addition, it analyzes Trujillo's denial of his black heritage, and the cruel, gruesome revenge that he took on his opponents, particularly through the abuse of women's bodies. We read how he spent his life bragging about his Spanish lineage when he was in fact the son of a mulatto woman. We also witness how Trujillo punished harshly any kind of criticism of his regime through torture, maiming, and murder. The second section of the chapter deconstructs the phallocentric discourse of some authors and their veiled admiration for the sexual exploits of the Dominican playboy Porfirio Rubirosa and the Trujillo clan.

8 Chapter six, "After Trujillo: The Ideologeme of the Leftist Militant and the Collapse of the Left," studies Trujillo's legacy of terror in several novels and testimonials. It is not without surprise that the reader finds out that one of Trujillo's acolytes, Joaquín Ballaguer, was elected as his successor. Ignacio López-Calvo quotes several possible causes for Trujillo's downfall as it appears in what he calls the Trujillato narratives: 1) the assassination of the Mirabal sisters, 2) the assassination of Galíndez, 3) the assassination of Gerald Murphy, an American pilot, and 4) the loss of the dictator's usefulness to the United States. The chapter also analyzes the demythification of the leftists who led the resistance against Trujillo and the treatment of homosexuality by Dominican authors.

9 The conclusion is an in-depth analysis of the Trujillo or Trujillato, a paradoxical, horrific, and theatrically grotesque regime propped up by the United States. Trujillo and God offers an insightful and shocking look at one of the worst examples of dictatorship in Spanish America. It is a valuable contribution to our understanding of the causes and effects of Rafael Trujillo's regime.