Listen, then: there is an Antille
in the middle of the Ca ribbean sea
that gets light and life
from the sun of Liberty
manuel rodríguez objío, “Mi patria” (1868)
After dark on a late spring night in 1864, an anonymous group toppled a tow-
ering palm tree, the Tree of Liberty, in the town square of Santo Domingo.
Planted by officials from Jean- Pierre Boyer’s administration four de cades
earlier, the tree represented a cele bration of Dominican emancipation, in-
de pen dence, and the unification of the former Spanish colony with the revo-
lutionary Haitian state.1 Those who won abolition in 1822 called themselves
“freedmen of the Palm.” The tree grew just meters from the plaza’s whipping
post.2 The unification of Santo Domingo and Haiti lasted for more than two
de cades before it dissolved, and a mobilization in the east created a separate
republic. The night the palm fell, however, in de pen dence had vanished. A
colonial slave power ruled Dominican territory again, warships threatened
Port- au-Prince, and fighting raged throughout the east. Spanish troops, who
controlled the Dominican capital, moved into free black neighborhoods and
other parts of the city to prevent protests over the tree’s destruction.3 “The
tree of our glories is toppled to the ground,” a Dominican poet decried, imploring,
“Brave Dominicans, why do you suffer so much insult?”4
We Dream Together considers anticolonial strug gle in an island at the heart
of Ca ribbean emancipation and in de pen dence, Hispaniola, Quisqueya,
Introduction
ROOTS AND BRANCHES OF THE TREE OF LIBERTY
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