Commemorating the historical significance of the 1965 Revolution
A Lost Literary Gem Recovered

A rare 19th Century travel narrative in the Dominican Republic


Fabens, Joseph Warren. In the Tropics, by a Settler in Santo Domingo with and Introductory Notice by Richard B. Kimball. New York: G.W. Carleton, 1863. Print.

Prof. Sarah Aponte would like to acknowledge Mr. Luis Canela, a friend of the CUNY Dominican Studies Institute since its inception, who kindly donated this first edition of a classic. Thank you to Dr. Ramona Hernández, CUNY DSI Director, for securing this unique donation.

    This travel narrative chronicles the adventures of a New York native who settled in Santo Domingo (1862-1863). The settler’s unsuccessful ventures as a farmer and lawyer in North America lead him to explore the possibility of making Santo Domingo his home. The book narrates his experience interacting with Dominican laborers and land proprietors and portrays the ample class affiliations held by Dominican people, from wealthy land owners to working class farmers.

    Dominicans call the settler el vecino welcoming him with earnest hospitality which he attributes to the Dominican character. The Dominican people tend to glorify the settlers’ agricultural knowledge and tools. For example farmers and their families come from all over the countryside to see the settler transform sour oranges into sweet oranges by transplanting saplings from native farmer Juan’s garden. This transformation becomes a spectacle and is described as a religious miracle. Soon Dominican farmers like Delfino, Juanico, and Juan Garcia are studying under the settler to learn his “American ways.” The settler introduces several agricultural tools like the plough and scythe to Dominican farmers who then purchase these tools for themselves. El vecino’s perception of the Dominican people ranges from glorifying their generosity to criticizing them as “ignorant field-hands [with] ill-trained oxen.”  

    This travel narrative is ideal for students, scholars, and those generally interested with the post-independence settlement of the Dominican Republic. This narrative demonstrates how gender, class, and racial dynamics manifest between Dominican people and North American settlers in the 19th century. It is a close look at the seedlings that will develop into a long standing relationship between the Dominican Republic and the United States.

Sophia Monegro

Research Assistant


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