Saturday, September 29, 2018

Rafael Trujillo: "Benefactor of the Nation"

Dictators tend to be vain, but few if any could ever match Rafael Trujillo, president of the Dominican Republic from 1930 to 1961.   Changing careers early in life from not-so-petty criminal to soldier, Trujillo was able engineer his "election" to the presidency with 99% of the votes cast.  Four years later he started issuing stamps bearing his image.
Dominican Republic, Scott 287 (Wiki Commons)
Scott number 287, shown above, was one of a set of three stamps issued to commemorate Trujillo's 42nd birthday.  The stamp itself is attractive, produced by engraving, an expensive process but which produces, in my opinion, stamps with the best visual appeal.  Trujillo is described here as presidente, a title which should have satisfied anyone, but not him.

Dominican Republic, Scott 323 (
In 1937 Trujillo had a set of stamps issued (Scott Nos. 323-325) issued commemorate the renaming of the country's capital from San Domingo to Ciudad Trujillo.  He also had an obelisk constructed, which looks suspiciously like the Washington monument. 

Consistent with his view of himself as the George Washington (and then some) of the Dominican Republic, Trujillo awarded himself new titles, shown on Scott 323 the not overmodest Generalissimo, Doctor, Benefactor de la Patria 
("Supreme War Lord, Esteemed Scholar, Benefactor of the Nation.")  

Nothing was out of reach of the Trujillo ego.  Need a stamp for Mother's Day?  Trujillo's mother is on the stamp, but not just one stamp, but a set of four (Scott 358-361).  Father died four years ago?  Issue another set of stamps.  (Scott 346-350). 
Scott 328,"Year VII of the Benefactor" (
Already by 1937, stamps issued ostensibly to commemorate other events, had the dual purpose of promoting Trujillo, for example Scott 328, issued to mark the first national Olympics, but which also bears the legend Ano VII del Benefactor ("Year VII of The Benefactor").
Scott 552, "My greatest friend has been the 
working man" (
The Benefactor was assassinated in 1961.  This was murky affair, and there has been talk for a long time of possible CIA involvement.  Trujillo's toadies were able to run the country for a while, long enough to have stamps issued which mourned Trujillo's death (Scott 548-557).  
Scott 562, showing the capital's name restored to
Santo Domingo (
The attempt to carry on Trujillo's legacy ended soon after his death, and one year later, the day of his assassination, May 30, 1961 was depicted in a completely different light on Scott 562, with the figure of Justice rising above a map of the country, and the capital's name shown as Santo Domingo rather than Ciudad Trujillo. 

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