On February 16th, I attended the screening of Después de Trujillo at John Jay College of Criminal Justice. Claudia Calirman, Associate Professor of Art History, invited co-directors Lisa Blackmore and Jorge Domínguez Dubuc to screen and discuss the new documentary on dictatorship, space, and memory with her students. The documentary opened a space to discuss the legacy of the Trujillo dictatorship through the monuments, memory gardens, and contemporary ruins. A range of Dominican voices from historians and architects to activists and torture victim’s talk about the rise of Trujillo in the wake of the destruction of Hurricane San Zenón in 1930 as Trujillo came to power and consolidated his power through the modern architecture and the testimonies of resistance leading up to his demise in 1961.
The students engaged with the filmmakers by asking questions concerning represented voices in the film, national identity, and the role of Dominican and foreign artists or architects in shaping the vision of modernity. Also, they discussed the remnants of the dictatorship both physical and emotional for the many families still coping with their traumatic experience lived during the regime. The many institutions and public memorials like the Museo Memorial de la Resistencia Dominicana, Casa Museo Hermanas Mirabal, Monumento Héroes del 30 de Mayo, and Monumento a Los Héroes de Constanza, Maimón y Estero Hondo still exercise this past and challenge the politics of memory after Trujillo.
Furthermore, the impact from rescuing memory and development of Truth Commissions in Latin America the last few years situates the film in an unusual context of confronting historical impunity. The voicing of modernity enforced during the Trujillo dictatorship and the ghosts, which live on through monuments, gardens, and contemporary ruins are defining the complex issues with memory within Dominican society today.
We currently do not own a copy of the film, but we highly recommend this documentary to the public, students, and scholars with interest in the Trujillo era (1930-1961), Historical/Cultural Memory, Modernism, and the history of urban development in the Dominican Republic. Also, check out the co-director’s blog to learn more about the film where they share the process of making the film from beginning to end.