Every February 27th Dominicans all over the world celebrate their nation’s independence and many Dominicans in Rhode Island make it a point to stop by the Duarte monument located in Roger Williams Park near the Broad Street entrance. Now, you may be asking who was Duarte and why is there a monument to him in the park?

Undated picture of wreath laying ceremony at the Duarte monument by Octavio Gomez.

A the start of the nineteenth century the city of Santo Domingo was a Spanish outpost on an island shared with the free republic of Haiti. In the 1820s some prominent citizens in Santo Domingo felt that Haitian rule would bring prosperity and literally handed over the keys to the city. However, two decades of Haitian rule left many in Santo Domingo yearning for independence. Juan Pablo Duarte, a young visionary who had studied in the US and in Europe, created a movement called the trinitarios to consolidate the growing opposition. On February 27, 1844, the group seized a fort in Santo Domingo and declared independence, establishing the Dominican Republic. Curiously, Duarte himself made a stop in Providence on July 2, 1829, before heading to France to continue his studies. He was sixteen years old at the time.

Today, the more than forty thousand Dominican-American who live in Rhode Island continue to make significant contributions to our state. This growing community is very active in commerce, the arts and culture, and local politics. The Duarte Plaza memorial in Roger Williams Park was erected to honor the many achievements of this community as much as it memorializes the country’s founding father, Juan Pablo Duarte.

– Written by Roger Williams Park Conservancy board member Gonzalo Cuervo.