In This Article Expand or collapse the "in this article" section Rafael Trujillo

  • Introduction
  • Reference Works
  • Trujillo’s Rise to Power
  • The Armed Forces
  • Secret Police and State Violence
  • Ideology
  • The Dominican State
  • Political Parties
  • The Economy
  • The Trujillo Family
  • Social Policies
  • Religion
  • Race
  • Culture
  • Assassination
  • Legacy

Latin American Studies Rafael Trujillo
Eric Paul Roorda
  • LAST REVIEWED: 05 May 2017
  • LAST MODIFIED: 28 October 2011
  • DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780199766581-0042


Rafael Trujillo (b. 24 October 1891–d. 30 May 1961) was the archetypal Latin American dictator. In control of the Dominican Republic from February 1930 until his assassination thirty-one years later, Trujillo remains a controversial figure, as he was during his lifetime. The literature about him and his government tends to be either harshly critical or ardently favorable. However he is viewed, Trujillo has been the subject of a large volume of work, much of it produced during the self-proclaimed “Era of Trujillo” to praise the dictator, publicize his efforts to modernize the Dominican Republic, and heighten its people’s national pride and self-awareness. At the same time, the increasing number of critics of his regime—political exiles, foreign diplomats, and investigative journalists among them—countered the flood of pro-Trujillo publications with their own exposés of his brutal regime. The trujillato, or era of Trujillo, ended in assassination in May 1961, but the impact of Trujillo’s long-term domination of the Dominican Republic and his influence in the Caribbean was felt for years afterward, stimulating postmortem scholarship analyzing his regime. Beginning in the early 1980s, Bernardo Vega’s Fundación Cultural Dominicana in Santo Domingo began publishing compilations of Dominican and US government documents revealing further details of Trujillo’s domestic repression and foreign policy. In more recent decades, several fictional evocations of Trujillo have gained international attention and acclaim, broadening public awareness of him and casting him in a starkly unfavorable light. At the same time, a range of more nuanced scholarly studies have been published about him, which are based on new research, questioning claims that his power came from oppression and not popular support, and that he was a puppet of the United States and not an independent geopolitical operator. A half-century after his death, Trujillo remains the subject of deeply divided opinions among scholars and in the popular culture.

Reference Works

There is no objective compendium of factual data covering the entire trujillato. However, many of the publications of Bernardo Vega could serve as reference works for specific periods of time, such as Vega 1988 and Vega 1995 (both cited under Relations with Haiti and the Haitian Massacre of 1937), and Vega 1999 (cited under Relations with the United States). The Trujillo regime itself published a comprehensive series of books in 1955 titled La Era de Trujillo (Rodríguez Demorizi 1955), written by a group of the regime’s most active authors, to commemorate the twenty-fifth anniversary of its namesake’s rise to power.

  • Rodríguez Demorizi, Emilio, ed. La Era de Trujillo: 25 años de historia dominicana. 20 vols. Dominican Republic: Impresora Dominicana, 1955.

    Emilio Rodríguez Demorizi, a prolific historian during and after the Trujillo regime, edited this official history and wrote two volumes: Cronología de Trujillo and Bibliografía de Trujillo. Other subjects include an overview of the Era of Trujillo, a general history of the country, finances, foreign relations, the Haitian frontier, the military, public works, social policies, the University of Santo Domingo, and education.

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