Santana, Pedro (1801–1864)

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Santana, Pedro (1801–1864)

Pedro Santana (b. 29 June 1801; d. 14 June 1864), cattle rancher, general, and president of the Dominican Republic (1844–1848, 1853–1856, and 1857–1861). Santana was a wealthy landowner from the eastern part of Hispaniola known as El Seibo, where he organized the armed forces at the time of the Dominican Republic's declaration of independence from Haiti on 27 February 1844. Heading the victorious Dominican troops during the battle of 19 March 1844 at Azua, he emerged as one of the heroes of the war of liberation against Haiti as well as the commander in chief of the liberation forces.

After becoming the first president of the Dominican Republic, Santana ruled as a caudillo with an iron hand, suppressing all opposition and exiling many of his former associates, including the "father of the Dominican Republic," Juan Pablo Duarte. Santana executed many Dominican patriots, including María Trinidad Sánchez, who had sewn the first Dominican flag; the brothers José Joaquín and Gabiño Puello, who had distinguished themselves in the war against Haiti; General Antonio Duvergé, victor of many battles against the Haitians; and the national hero, Francisco del Rosario Sánchez, who along with Duarte and Ramón Matias Mella is regarded as one of the three founding fathers of the Dominican Republic.

Throughout his terms as president, Santana faced Haitian invasions that were organized by the Haitian ruler Faustin Soulouque. In the battles of Santomé (1845), Las Carreras (1845), Cambronal (1855), and Sabana Larga (1856), Santana nullified all Haitian attempts to reconquer the Dominican Republic. However, the frequent Haitian incursions convinced Santana that his country should be annexed by a larger nation. His efforts to persuade France or the United States to annex the Dominican Republic proved futile.

In 1861, Santana made arrangements with the government of Queen Isabel II for the reannexation of the Dominican Republic by Spain and was rewarded with the title of Marqués de Las Carreras. The majority of Dominicans opposed the renewal of Spanish control and fought the successful War of Restoration (1863–1865) against Spain. By the time Santana died at Santo Domingo in 1864, he was no longer regarded by most Dominicans as the hero of the fight against Haiti but as the traitor in the War of Restoration against Spain. His reburial in the Pantheon of Dominican Heroes by order of President Joaquín Balaguer stirred up the controversy over Santana's ambivalent role in the history of his country.

See alsoCaudillismo, Caudillo; Dominican Republic; Duarte, Juan Pablo.


Emilio Rodríguez Demorizi, El General Pedro Santana (1982).

Additional Bibliography

Cassá, Roberto. Pedro Santana: Autócrata y anexionista. Santo Domingo: Tobogan, 2000.

                                    Kai P. Schoenhals

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Santana, Pedro (1801–1864)

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