Although ‘‘Daughter of Invention’’ is a fictional story, it involves real people and political events. It takes place in 1961, shortly after Rafael Trujillo, the Dominican dictator, was assassinated. The Garcia family has fled the dictator’s violent regime to settle in New York City, where they watched the violence in their country on television. In New York, family members discover that they have individual rights and freedoms that were severely lacking under Trujillo.
The Dominican Republic Under Trujillo
Rafael Leonidas Trujillo Molina was elected president of the Dominican Republic in 1930. Although there were breaks in his official presidency, in reality Trujillo controlled the country as a dictator for a continuous thirty-one years, from 1930 until his death in 1961. In the periods when Trujillo was not officially president, the office belonged to his brother, He´ ctor Bienvenido Trujillo Molina, who was president from 1952 to 1960, and Joaqua´ in Balaguer Ricardo, who served from 1960 to 1961. These men served only as figureheads to preside over ceremonial affairs while Trujillo ruled behind the scenes.
During Trujillo’s thirty-one years in power, the Dominican Republic experienced economic stability and growth. Trujillo and his family members each controlled one sector of the economy, forcing private owners to sell out to them and amassing vast private fortunes, while the majority of the country remained in poverty. Nevertheless, the nation paid down its foreign debt and attracted foreign investment. The public education system grew, illiteracy declined, and new roads, airports and public buildings were constructed.
Despite this, the citizens of the Dominican Republic lacked fundamental rights. Trujillo remained at the head of the only legal political party, as well as commander in chief of the armed forces. The press was tightly controlled. A secret police force that reported directly to Trujillo terrorized the population; Trujillo worried constantly about conspiracies against his government and people Trujillo perceived to be his enemies were ‘‘disappeared,’’ tortured, and killed. It was precisely for this reason that the Alvarez family—and the fictional Garcia family—emigrated to New York.
Trujillo’s ruthless foreign policy led to his downfall. In 1937, under Trujillo’s orders, the Dominican Army slaughtered approximately twenty thousand Haitian men, women and children in retaliation for the Haitian government’s execution of Trujillo’s secret agents in Haiti. U.S. President Theodore Roosevelt demanded indemnity be made to Haiti. Then, in 1960, Trujillo ordered the assassination of Venezuelan president Romulo Betancourt. Betancourt had spoken out against Trujillo’s policies and some Venezuelan influence was uncovered in a plot to overthrow Trujillo. The assassination attempt was unsuccessful; Betancourt was injured but not killed. This incident caused the Organization of American States to sever diplomatic relations with the Dominican Republic and to impose economic sanctions on the country. Trujillo was assassinated on May 30, 1961; some journalists reported that the CIA had been involved.
Sara Constantakis – Short Stories for Students – Presenting Analysis, Context & Criticism on Commonly Studied Short Stories, vol. 31, Published by Gale Group, 2010