Gaviño, Juan Bosch: 1909-2001: Author, Politician

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Juan Bosch Gaviño: 1909-2001: Author, politician

Juan Bosch Gaviño, also known as Juan Bosch, was a most unusual mansuccessful and prolific in the world of literature and philosophy and prominent, if less successful, as a politician. His writings and his politics emphasized the gross inequalities between the poverty-stricken Dominican masses and the wealthy few. His creative writing focused on the struggle and sacrifices of Dominican peasants and celebrated their rich oral traditions. Although he was president of the Dominican Republic for barely seven months, "Professor Bosch," as he was widely-known, influenced Dominican politics for more than a half-century. He founded two powerful political parties and was instrumental in transforming the Dominican Republic from a closed society controlled by a wealthy, conservative elite, to an open democracy. A liberal, anti-communist democrat, Gaviño was respected as an intellectual of high integrity, as well as one of the greatest Latin-American short-story writers.

Gaviño was born on June 30, 1909, in La Vega, Dominican Republic. His father, José Bosch, was a stonemason from the Catalonian town of Tortosa in Spain, and his mother, Angela Gaviño Bosch, was Puerto Rican. They were lower-middle class artisans with strong interests in education, literature, and music. Gaviño's maternal grandfather was a farmer, an intellectual, and a poet. As a child in the rural tobacco-producing Cibao region, Gaviño witnessed first-hand the feudal relationship between large landowners and peasants. He also watched as the Dominican flag was replaced by the American flag, following the 1916 U. S. military intervention. Years later he wrote in The Unfinished Experiment: "No one will ever know what my seven-year-old soul suffered at the sight."

Wrote Early Stories About Rural Peasants

Gaviño's primary school teacher in La Vega, musician Rafael Martínez, instilled in him a concern for the future of the country and the world. Gaviño was drawing, sculpting, and writing by the age of nine. As a teenager he published a small newspaper in La Vega and published his first short story at age 14. Gaviño graduated with a degree in literature from the University of Santo Domingo.

Gaviño's earliest short stories were published in the newspaper Listín Diario and the journal Bohoruco. A small publishing house in La Vega printed 500 copies of his first story collection, Camino real, in 1933. It included one of his best-known stories, "La mujer," about a woman who is abused by her husband after using their meager resources to feed their young son.

Gaviño's first nonfiction, Indios: Apuntes históricos y leyendas, was published in 1935. His first novel, La mañosa: Novela de las revoluciones, published in 1936, was semi-autobiographical. A classic of Dominican literature, it dealt with the political and social issues that became the hallmark of Gaviño's work.

Although Gaviño cited Don Quixote, The Brothers Karamazov, and Huckleberry Finn as important influences on his work, as a short-story writer he emulated Rudyard Kipling, Guy de Maupassant, and Oscar Wilde. He was a part of the criollismo, a neorealist, Spanish-American literary movement that was influential between the end of World War I and the late 1940s. Like so many other Latin American authors, Gaviño linked his art to social and nationalistic issues. He emphasized plot over character development, used symbolism, poetic descriptions, and colloquial dialogue, while promoting Dominican popular culture. As campesinos began moving into the overcrowded capitals of Latin America, Gaviño incorporated this new urban underclass into his stories.

At a Glance . . .

Born Juan Bosch Gaviño on June 30, 1909, in La Vega, Dominican Republic; died on November 1, 2001, in Santo Domingo; son of José Bosch and Angela Gaviño Bosch; married second wife Carmen Quidiello, 1941; children: León, Patricio, Barbarita, and one other. Education: University of Santo Domingo, BA, literature, 1920s. Religion: Roman Catholic. Politics: Partido Revolucionario Dominicano, 1939-73; Partido de la Liberación Dominicana, 1973-01.

Career: Author of short stories, novels, essays, histories, biographies, political treatises, 1929-00; Cuban journalist, c.1939-52; Cuban government, advisor, c.1944-52; Institute of Political Education, San Isidro del Coronado, Costa Rica, professor, c.1952-58; Dominican Republic government, president, 1963; University of Puerto Rico, professor, c.1963-70.

Memberships: Partido Revolucionario Dominicano, founder, political committee head, and president, 1939-66; Partido de la Liberación Dominicana, founder and leader, 1973-94.

Awards: Juegos Florales Hispanoamericanos (Dominican Republic), first place award, 1940; Hernández Catá prize, 1943; FNAC Foundation (France), short story award, 1988; José Martí Order (Cuba), 1989; honorary degree, New York City College, 1993.

Exiled for 24 Years

Gaviño was 21 when General Rafael Leónidas Trujillo, one of Latin America's most notorious dictators, took control of the Dominican Republic in a military coup. In 1933 Gaviño was imprisoned for conspiracy against the regime. In 1937, following a Trujillo-ordered massacre of 15,000 Haitian squatters on the border between the two countries, Gaviño moved to Puerto Rico with his wife and children.

Gaviño modeled his life in literature and politics after the nineteenth-century Puerto Rican writer and patriot Eugenio María de Hostos. In 1939 he moved to Havana, Cuba, to oversee the publishing of Hostos's complete works. Gaviño also wrote two books on Hostos, Hostos, el sembrador and Mujeres en la vida de Hostos. In 1941 he married his second wife, the playwright Carmen Quidiello, who was from a prominent family in Santiago, Cuba. They had a son, Patricio, and a daughter, Barbarita.

A member of Cuba's intellectual and literary elite, Gaviño worked as a journalist and published in the Cuban magazines Bohemia and Carteles. For a time he was a medical representative for the Cuban Biological Institute and he continued to write short stories as well as nonfiction. Using a pseudonym Gaviño entered "El socio" in the Juegos Florales Hispanoamericanos of the Dominican Republic in 1940. This story about the plight of peasants under an evil landowner won first place. His story "Luis Pie," included in the collection Ocho cuentos, won the Hernández Catá prize in 1943. Trips to Bolivia inspired Gaviño's final novel, El oro y la paz, written in Puerto Rico in 1964, and his critically acclaimed story, "El Indio Manuel Sicuri," written in Chile in 1956. This story was made into a Bolivian film that played at the Cannes Film Festival.

Became Politically Active

In Cuba in 1939 Gaviño helped found the Partido Revolucionario Dominicano (PRD), the leftist Dominican Revolutionary Party. It became the most influential of the exiled anti-Trujillo organizations. Gaviño served as PRD president until 1966. He spent several months during 1942 doing party organizing in New York. In 1947 Gaviño helped organize the Dominican-Cuban Cayo Confites expedition, a failed attempt to overthrow the Trujillo dictatorship.

Between 1944 and 1952 Gaviño held various positions within the Cuban government, including secretary and advisor to President Carlos Prío Socarrás. However in 1952, threatened with deportation to the Dominican Republic by the new Cuban dictator Fulgencio Batista, Gaviño fled to Costa Rica, where he became a professor at the Institute of Political Education in San Isidro del Coronado, on the outskirts of San José. He also traveled throughout Latin America and Europe during the 1950s. Returning to Cuba in 1958, he was jailed by the dictatorship. After his release he moved to Venezuela. When Fidel Castro overthrew Batista in 1959, Gaviño returned to Cuba. However, he left again in disgust over the policies of the new communist government.

Following Trujillo's assassination in 1961, Gaviño returned to the Dominican Republic and built up his PRD party with peasants and laborers. Appearing on television weekly and with frequent radio broadcasts, his good looks and eloquent but plain speech won him wide popularity. Gaviño was a social democrat at a time when many political factions branded any type of socialism as communism. When a Spanish Jesuit called him a communist during the presidential election campaign, Gaviño withdrew from the race. However, after a four-hour nationally-televised debate, the priest retracted his charges and, two days before the vote, Gaviño re-entered the race. In December of 1962, in a landslide election, Gaviño became the first freely-elected president of the Dominican Republic in 38 years.

Short Presidency Impeded by International Factions

President Gaviño drew up a constitution, undertook land reform by limiting the size of landholdings, and strengthened the rights of agricultural and industrial workers. He also nationalized some businesses, initiated major public works projects, and promoted civil liberties and nationalism. He began routing out corruption in the government and cut government salaries. The right-wing, led by the Roman Catholic Church, was furious. Pro-Cuban communists were unhappy with Gaviño's form of socialism as well. He was widely criticized as politically inexperienced, impractical, and ineffective. Although Gaviño had been promised the full support of the United States, after only seven months in office he was ousted in a right-wing coup by a group of military officers and government officials, linked to Dominican industrialists and businessmen and to the United States. Gaviño went into exile and taught at the University of Puerto Rico.

The revolution in April of 1965, led by Gaviño's military supporters, would have returned him to power and restored the constitution of 1963. However, U. S. President Lyndon Johnson feared that Gaviño would establish another Cuban-like state in the Caribbean. The U. S. Federal Bureau of Investigation surrounded Gaviño's home in Puerto Rico to prevent him from returning to the Dominican Republic. The United States sent 22,000 marines to occupy Santo Domingo and civil war broke out.

Gaviño returned home to run in the elections of June of 1966. However, he did not campaign because of repressive electoral conditions, threats on his life by the military, and American support for his rival Joaquín Balaguer, an ultra-conservative, former ally of Trujillo. Despite widespread allegations of electoral fraud, Gaviño did not contest his defeat.

Examined and Spoke Out Against Democracy

Gaviño went to Spain and entered a period of disillusionment and reflection. His years as a productive short-story writer ended. Rejecting representative democracy, Gaviño began writing about the concept of a "popular dictatorship." He was quoted in the Seattle Times as saying, "They [the United States] are insisting that our countries be democratic, and that we celebrate elections every four years. But in the United States they don't know the situations of people without schools, work or hospitals. We Latin Americans have to search for a political way out that is adequate for us to confront the problems of our people."

Gaviño began examining the workings of capitalism in underdeveloped countries, analyzing class struggle, and calling for political reform. During the 1960s three of his books were translated into English and published in the United States. The Unfinished Experiment: Democracy in the Dominican Republic analyzed the class structure of Dominican society and the difficulty of establishing a democratic government there. In his review of the book for the Journal of Politics, Howard J. Wiarda called Gaviño "a magician with the Spanish language." David: The Biography of a King compared the Dominican Republic to Israel without the biblical King David. In Pentagonism: A Substitute for Imperialism, and in other books and essays, Gaviño criticized American foreign policy. He used the term "pentagonism" to describe the ever-expanding militarization of American society, arguing that American military operations around the world were used to justify the arms race that drove the American economy. Viaje a los antípodas criticized U. S. intervention in Vietnam. De Cristóbal Colón a Fidel Castro and Composición social dominicana were published in 1970 and Breve historia de la oligarquía appeared in 1971.

Gaviño returned to the Dominican Republic in 1970 and founded the socialist Partido de la Liberación Dominicana or Dominican Liberation Party (PLD) in 1973. He ran for president on the party's ticket in 1978, 1982, 1986, 1990, and 1994, losing to Balaguer every time. The 1990 election was very close and the 80-year-old Gaviño and 82-year-old Balaguer finally agreed to a recount brokered by former U. S. president Jimmy Carter. A Dominican pollster was quoted in Time Magazine as saying: "It appears that the elder of the dinosaurs has won." Ironically, in addition to their political rivalry, Gaviño and Balaguer competed for the title of the Dominican Republic's most important contemporary writer. Gaviño and Balaguer formed an alliancethe National Patriotic Frontthat enabled the PLD candidate, a Gaviño protégé, to win the 1996 election.

Works Honored Before and After Death

Gaviño published more than 50 books, including novels, collections of short stories and essays, histories, and biographies, as well as contributions to anthologies and prologues for other texts. Many of his writings have been translated into various languages and reprinted often. Some of his books, particularly his biographies, are used as textbooks throughout Latin America. Many of his essays originally were published in the periodicals Vanguardia del Pueblo, PoliticaTeoria y Accion, and Hablan los Comunistas, between 1974 and 1985. Excerpts from Trujillo: Causas de una tiranía sin ejemplo were published as La fortuna de Trujillo in Santo Domingo in 1985.

In 1988 Gaviño received a short-story award from the FNAC Foundation in France. During the 1980s he made several trips to Cuba and in 1989 Fidel Castro presented him with the José Martí Order. In 1993 he was awarded an honorary degree by New York City College. The Puerto Rican Traveling Theater of New York City produced a dramatization of five of Gaviño's short stories, including "The Beautiful Soul of Don Damián," in 1998.

Gaviño died of respiratory failure on November 1, 2001, in a Santo Domingo hospital. He laid in state at the National Palace and was buried in La Vega. For many Dominicans Gaviño embodied pride in their nation and hope for its future. Amy Coughenour Betancourt, of the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington, told the Miami Herald: "The Dominican Republic lost one of its greatest thinkers and visionaries of all time. Gaviño's legacy of literature, political thought, and leadership with regard to human rights, political rights and freedoms, and social and economic development is indelible. He has left behind a vision for what the country can become, and has left his mark on generations of leaders now and yet to come."

Selected writings


Camino real, R. A. Ramos (La Vega, Dominican Republic), 1933; revised edition, El Diario (Santiago, Dominican Republic), 1937.

La mañosa: Novela de las revoluciones, El Diario, 1936.

Dos pesos de agua, cuentos A. Ríos (Havana), 1941.

Ocho cuentos, Trópico (Havana), 1947.

La muchacha de La Guaira; cuentos, Nascimiento (Santiago, Chile), 1955.

Cuento de Navidad, Ercilla (Santiago, Chile), 1956.

Cuentos escritos en el exilio y apuntes sobre el arte de escribir cuentos, Librería Dominicana (Santo Domingo), 1962.

Más cuentos escritos en el exilio, Librería Dominicana, 1964.

Cuentos escritos ante del exilio, Edición Especial (Santo Domingo), 1974.

El oro y la paz, Edición Especial, 1977.

Cuentos, Casa de Las Américas (Havana), 1983.

"The Beautiful Soul of Don Damián," in Rhythm and Revolt: Tales of the Antilles, Plume, 1995.

"Encarnacion Mendoza's Christmas Eve," in The Oxford Book of Caribbean Short Stories, Oxford University Press, 1999.


Indios: Apuntes históricos y leyendas, La Nación (Santo Domingo), 1935.

Mujeres en la vida de Hostos, Asociación de Mujeres Graduadas de la Universidad de Puerto Rico, 1938.

Hostos, el sembrador, Trópico, 1939.

De espaldas a mi mismo: Conceptos laudatorios sobre la obra de gobierno del generalisimo Trujillo Molina, Partido Dominicano (Ciudad Trujillo, Dominican Republic), 1942.

Judas Iscariote: El calumniado, Prensa Latinoamericana (Santiago, Chile), 1955.

Trujillo: Causas de una tiranía sin ejemplo, Librería Las Novedades (Caracas), 1959.

Símon Bolívar: Biografia para escolares, Escolar (Caracas), 1960.

Apuntes para una interpretación de la historia costarricense, Eloy Morúa Carrillo (San José, Costa Rica), 1963; revised, Una interpretación de la historia costarricense, Juricentro (San José), 1980.

The Unfinished Experiment: Democracy in the Dominican Republic, Praeger, 1965.

David: The Biography of a King, Hawthorn Books, 1966.

Teoría del cuento: Tres ensayos, Universidad de Los Andes, (Mérida, Venezuela), 1967.

Pentagonism: A Substitute for Imperialism, Grove Press, 1968.

Composición social dominicana: Historia e interpretación, Colección Pensamiento y Cultura (Santo Domingo), 1970.

De Cristóbal Colón a Fidel Castro: El Caribe, frontera imperial, Alfaguara (Madrid), 1970.

Breve historia de la oligarquía, Impresora Arte y Cine, 1971.

Tres conferencias sobre el feudalismo, Talleres Gráficos (Santo Domingo), 1971.

El Napoleón de las guerrillas, Editorial de Ciencias Sociales (Havana), 1976.

Viaje a los antípodas, Alfa y Omega, 1978.

Articulos y conferencias, Alfa y Omega, 1980.

La Revolución de Abril, Impresora Mercedes (Santo Domingo), 1981.

La guerra y la restauración, Corripio, 1982.

Capitalismo, democracia y liberación nacional, Alfa y Omega, 1983.

La fortuna de Trujillo, Alfa y Omega, 1985.

Capitalismo tardio en la República Dominicana, Alfa y Omega, 1986.

El estado, Alfa y Omega, Santo Domingo, 1987.

Capitalismo y democracia, Alfa y Omega, 1988.

El PLD: Partido nuevo en América, Alfa y Omega, 1989.

Temas económicos, Alfa y Omega, 1990.

Breve historia de los pueblos arabe, Alfa y Omega, 1991.

(With Avelino Stanley Rondon) Antologia personal, University of Puerto Rico Press, 1998.

En primera persona: Entrevistas con Juan Bosch, Comision Permanente de la Feria del Libro, 2000.



Peacock, Scot, editor, Hispanic Writers, 2nd ed., Gale Group, 1999, pp. 110-112.


Financial Times, (London) November 2, 2001, p. 12.

Journal of Politics, August, 1965, pp. 671-673.

Miami Herald, November 2, 2001.

NACLA Report on the Americas, March-April 1997, pp. 24-25.

New York Times, November 2, 2001, D9.

Seattle Times, September 9, 1986, A12.

Time, May 28, 1990, p. 39.


"Juan Bosch," Afiwi, ?id=162 (April 7, 2003).

"Juan Bosch: The Long Road to Transcendence," Granma International,ño-i.html (April 7, 2003).

Margaret Alic