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The Dictator's Seduction: Politics and the Popular Imagination in the Era of Trujillo

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The dictatorship of Rafael Trujillo, who ruled the Dominican Republic from 1930 until his assassination in 1961, was one of the longest and bloodiest in Latin American history. The Dictator’s Seduction is a cultural history of the Trujillo regime as it was experienced in the capital city of Santo Domingo. Focusing on everyday forms of state domination, Lauren Derby describ The dictatorship of Rafael Trujillo, who ruled the Dominican Republic from 1930 until his assassination in 1961, was one of the longest and bloodiest in Latin American history. The Dictator’s Seduction is a cultural history of the Trujillo regime as it was experienced in the capital city of Santo Domingo. Focusing on everyday forms of state domination, Lauren Derby describes how the regime infiltrated civil society by fashioning a “vernacular politics” based on popular idioms of masculinity and fantasies of race and class mobility. Derby argues that the most pernicious aspect of the dictatorship was how it appropriated quotidian practices such as gossip and gift exchange, leaving almost no place for Dominicans to hide or resist.Drawing on previously untapped documents in the Trujillo National Archives and interviews with Dominicans who recall life under the dictator, Derby emphasizes the role that public ritual played in Trujillo’s exercise of power. His regime included the people in affairs of state on a massive scale as never before. Derby pays particular attention to how events and projects were received by the public as she analyzes parades and rallies, the rebuilding of Santo Domingo following a major hurricane, and the staging of a year-long celebration marking the twenty-fifth year of Trujillo’s regime. She looks at representations of Trujillo, exploring how claims that he embodied the popular barrio antihero the tíguere (tiger) stoked a fantasy of upward mobility and how a rumor that he had a personal guardian angel suggested he was uniquely protected from his enemies. The Dictator’s Seduction sheds new light on the cultural contrivances of autocratic power.


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The dictatorship of Rafael Trujillo, who ruled the Dominican Republic from 1930 until his assassination in 1961, was one of the longest and bloodiest in Latin American history. The Dictator’s Seduction is a cultural history of the Trujillo regime as it was experienced in the capital city of Santo Domingo. Focusing on everyday forms of state domination, Lauren Derby describ The dictatorship of Rafael Trujillo, who ruled the Dominican Republic from 1930 until his assassination in 1961, was one of the longest and bloodiest in Latin American history. The Dictator’s Seduction is a cultural history of the Trujillo regime as it was experienced in the capital city of Santo Domingo. Focusing on everyday forms of state domination, Lauren Derby describes how the regime infiltrated civil society by fashioning a “vernacular politics” based on popular idioms of masculinity and fantasies of race and class mobility. Derby argues that the most pernicious aspect of the dictatorship was how it appropriated quotidian practices such as gossip and gift exchange, leaving almost no place for Dominicans to hide or resist.Drawing on previously untapped documents in the Trujillo National Archives and interviews with Dominicans who recall life under the dictator, Derby emphasizes the role that public ritual played in Trujillo’s exercise of power. His regime included the people in affairs of state on a massive scale as never before. Derby pays particular attention to how events and projects were received by the public as she analyzes parades and rallies, the rebuilding of Santo Domingo following a major hurricane, and the staging of a year-long celebration marking the twenty-fifth year of Trujillo’s regime. She looks at representations of Trujillo, exploring how claims that he embodied the popular barrio antihero the tíguere (tiger) stoked a fantasy of upward mobility and how a rumor that he had a personal guardian angel suggested he was uniquely protected from his enemies. The Dictator’s Seduction sheds new light on the cultural contrivances of autocratic power.

30 review for The Dictator's Seduction: Politics and the Popular Imagination in the Era of Trujillo

  1. 5 out of 5

    Tatiana

    To be fair, even with the title I was expecting a much more cut-and-dry "here is everything that was effed up". This book talks about all the more subtle ways Trujillo completely messed with the collective DR mindset and there's less focus on the intimidation and violence and more on the ways in which he insinuated himself into everyday life, and the ways in which he fed into what people wanted. Point being, it makes some of my family members look less straight-up deluded about the dictatorship, To be fair, even with the title I was expecting a much more cut-and-dry "here is everything that was effed up". This book talks about all the more subtle ways Trujillo completely messed with the collective DR mindset and there's less focus on the intimidation and violence and more on the ways in which he insinuated himself into everyday life, and the ways in which he fed into what people wanted. Point being, it makes some of my family members look less straight-up deluded about the dictatorship, and more a product of everything that was going on. I get it more than I did before.

  2. 4 out of 5

    Bas

    I learned almost nothing about Trujillo's dictatorship from this book. What I did learn, what the clothes he liked to wear, who his daughter had sex with, why he liked his hat, and, what magical powers the peasants thought some random hill-dweller possessed. Symbolism, conjecture and normative notions fill this book. If I were not required to read this for university, I would find myself asking "Well what was the point of that?"

  3. 4 out of 5

    Christian Aracena

    The book is well researched but its important to note that its best read after spending time reading other books that explain the vicious nature of the Trujillo regime. Its excellent for someone who already has extensive knowledge about the regime.

  4. 4 out of 5

    Graham Rollins

    An interesting subject matter rendered in almost completely unreadable form. Plan to have a laptop on hand to look up humanities jargon once or twice a page.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Caroline

  6. 4 out of 5

    Jerrad Benedict

  7. 5 out of 5

    James

  8. 4 out of 5

    Josh Mintanko

  9. 4 out of 5

    Consuelo Crow

  10. 4 out of 5

    hb

  11. 5 out of 5

    Colin

  12. 4 out of 5

    Katherine Marino

  13. 5 out of 5

    Francis Sanchez

  14. 4 out of 5

    Kevin Mason

  15. 4 out of 5

    Sergio Sánchez

  16. 4 out of 5

    Emily

  17. 4 out of 5

    Matt Salisbury

  18. 4 out of 5

    Sam Bam Handy Ma’am

  19. 4 out of 5

    Melissa Gismondi

  20. 5 out of 5

    Andrea

  21. 5 out of 5

    Tia Malkin-fontecchio

  22. 4 out of 5

    Shalea

  23. 4 out of 5

    Isabelia

  24. 4 out of 5

    Steve Schroth

  25. 4 out of 5

    Jeremy

  26. 4 out of 5

    Jeanette

  27. 4 out of 5

    Elizabeth

  28. 5 out of 5

    Dolorennys Rosario

  29. 5 out of 5

    Tom St John

  30. 4 out of 5

    Nathalie

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