I had a history teacher once (or maybe it was all of them!) who taught us that the winners write history. The majority, the winners, write the textbooks. They decide what we learn in school, what our perceptions as a society are. And this morning I experienced a great example of that! (Please don't read this as a political statement, but rather a creating of space for questioning and for alternative stories.) Until I moved to the Dominican Republic and read the book "Why the Cocks Fight," I did not know that the US has occupied the DR not once, but twice, in the last 100 years. We never learned that in history class. We actually never learned anything about the DR in history class... hmm. The fact remains, however, that the US did in fact intervene in the government of the Dominican Republic twice; first, 1916-1924, and second, in the 1960's.
Some of my coworkers made a poster to hang in our 8th grade classroom describing the US interventions in the DR as they learned it in school - again, who writes the textbooks? It's pretty eye-opening to the way Dominicans perceive US action... Check out this picture (translated below) and then read the links I've provided - they're not super long articles - and see what you think.
Translation: (left to right, top to bottom) Title: Government of the United States - The US Military intervention in the DR and Haiti
Left: Many military dictators were supported --> They became dicatators with the support of the United States Center: The [US] marines encountered opposition in the DR and Haiti --> The movements of the armed opposition in those two countries took control: Cacos and Gavilleros [2 guerilla groups] --> The violation of sovereignty contributed to the opposition Right: [hidden by the title it says] There were military interventions by the marines --> In Latin America and the Caribbean --> to control their governments and the economy
Wow. That really struck me - "They became dictators with the support of the United States." Whether or not this statement is true, it's apparently the perception of large numbers of people with whom I live and work. And we actually know that Trujillo, the DR's worst dictator, got most of his training under the US marines as part of the US-set-up Dominican National Guard. So yeah, in a way, the US did support these men to become dictators. (Disclaimer: I am not making a statement about the US government, simply pointing out differences in the histories we have learned and propose that maybe there's more to it than what we read in our books.)
As I told my coworkers today, "They don't teach us this side of US history in school!" I am grateful for the opportunity to live and learn here, in another country, and I am grateful for the opportunity to read someone else's textbook, to listen to the voices of the "losers" or the "minority" and to learn from them.