Dominican Artists Protest US Occupation

The costly failure of the Bay of Pigs Invasion in 1961 did not deter the United States from intervening in the politics of its Caribbean neighbours to prevent the spread of communism. Just four years later, on 28 April 1965, the administration of Lyndon Johnson responded to the start of the Dominican Civil War and fears of “a second Cuba” with the launch of Operation Power Pack. US Marine Corps entered Santo Domingo and would maintain their occupation of the island until September 1966, successfully quashing the popular uprising and managing the installation of the authoritarian but pro-American government of Joaquín Balaguer.

lora war of aprilOn 4 July 1965 a group of Dominican artists, poets and playwrights delivered a statement deploring the ‘unspeakable outrage’ of American intervention in issues of national sovereignty and self-determination. Under the auspices of the Frente Cultural Constitucionalista (Constitutionalist Cultural Front) the artists called for the use of art in aid on society and would make posters, organise art exhibitions and publish a collection of poems in support of the revolution.

The action was led by militant painter Silvano Lora, who that year created a series of paintings entitled Guerra de Abril (War of April). Under Balaguer’s rule Lora was forced into exile, but throughout his life the artist remained fiercely committed to social causes. In recognition of his lasting influence, in 2013 (ten years after his death) the Galería Nacional de Bellas Artes in Santo Domingo celebrated his work in the exhibition Silvano Lora: Un Arte Combatiente (Silvano Lora: A Combatant Art).

Image: Silvano Lora, Homenaje a Jacques Viau (Tribute to Jacques Viau) from the series Guerra de Abril (War of April), 1965. Acrylic on canvas, 64 x 44. Collection Tony Raful.

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