September 8, 1839
May 21, 1897
Gregorio Luperón was an Afro-Dominican soldier and politician who was acclaimed as a national hero during the War of Restoration (1861–1865) against Spain.
Born in 1839 in Puerto Plata, the young Luperón sold goods from the store run by his mother, Nicolasa, an English-speaking immigrant. His industry impressed a local timber merchant, who made him overseer when he was only fourteen. Largely self-taught, Luperón availed himself of his employer's library.
In March 1861, almost two decades after its foundation, the Dominican Republic was annexed by Spain, its former colonial ruler. While some members of the elite supported this move, it launched a series of rebellions. Luperón, then aged twenty-two, was jailed following a fight with an annexationist. He escaped and fled to Haiti and the United States. He returned to the island to take part in an unsuccessful uprising in 1863. Later, during the siege of Santiago, Luperón's bravery, charisma, and oratory caught the attention of his superiors, and he was made a general.
When a provisional government was set up, Luperón became supreme chief of operations. During the War of Restoration, in which many Dominicans of African descent participated, Luperón's strategic and leadership abilities came to the fore. With fewer men, arms, and supplies than the Spaniards, he resorted to guerrilla tactics. These unorthodox methods led his superiors to relieve him of his command.
The war ended in 1865 when the Spaniards withdrew, and Luperón accepted the vice presidency of a provisional government. When General Buenaventura Báez was restored to power in October, Luperón declared his opposition and was expelled from the country.
After a successful uprising against Báez, the country was ruled by a triumvirate of military leaders, of whom Luperón was the most prominent. A government was elected but it was overthrown in 1868, and Báez was reinstated. He soon began to advocate the country's annexation by the United States.
Luperón went abroad to organize against Báez. He helped Ulises Espaillat win the 1876 election and accepted the post of war and navy minister. A series of rebellions in the south forced Espaillat's resignation, and Báez returned to power. Luperón went into exile again.
Luperón returned after Báez went into exile in 1878 and headed a provisional government. Its fourteen months of progressive rule were followed by a period of political unrest. Luperón supported Ulises Heureaux, his former lieutenant and an Afro-Dominican war hero, in the 1886 elections. However, it soon became clear that Heureaux was a brutal dictator. Dominican liberals rallied round Luperón, who stood against Heureaux in the 1888 elections. Realizing that the elections would be rigged, Luperón withdrew his candidacy and fled to Puerto Rico. He unsuccessfully attempted to launch a campaign against Heureaux. While in exile in Saint Thomas he became seriously ill. A contrite Heureaux visited his former mentor and commanding officer and persuaded him to return home. He died in Puerto Plata on May 21, 1897.
Luperón wrote a number of pamphlets and articles. His Notas autobiográficas y apuntes históricos sobre la República Dominicana desde la Restauración a nuestros días (1895–1896) is a three-volume work about his life and the period of the restoration.
Moya Pons, Frank. The Dominican Republic: A National History. New Rochelle, N.Y.: Hispaniola Books, 1995.
christine ayorinde (2005)