Manuela Díez, the mother of Duarte’s role
Women have always been played a very important role in the history of mankind. The Dominican Republic is not exempt from that prominent and heroic role. We are talking about the mother of the national hero Juan Pablo Duarte, Manuela Díez, whom the historian, Alfau Durán, glorified because she not only gave birth to a man of such moral and political altitude but also had an important position in a female select group that somehow had an active participation in Dominican Independence movement and Republic proclamation in 1844.
What we know of her is just a photo and a pair of old panties, now yellowish, she wore in lifetime, which are exhibited in the Duartino Institute; however, the story of Manuela Díez begins at the north of La Romana province, one of the oldest city in the country named Santa Cruz del Seibo where she was born. This city was founded in 1502.
She saw the world for the first time on 26 or 27 of June, 1786. She has profound Spanish roots because her father, Antonio Diez, was a native immigrant of Osorno Villa at the Palencia province, Spain. Her mother, Rufina Jiménez Benítez, on the contrary, is a native of Santa Cruz del Seibo.
According to Alfau Durán, she had three brothers: Antonio, Mariano and José Acupérnico. Perhaps, being a member of a numerous family encourages Manuela, at the age of 14 and after getting married with Juan José Duarte, to have 8 children: Vicente, Celestino, Juan Pablo, Filomena, Rosa, María Francisca, Manuel, Ana María and Sandalia.
The married couple escaped to a neighboring island running from the invasion of Haitian General, Toussaint Louverture who, already an omnipotent character of French colony, wanted to exercise his authority to win the eastern part of the island that despite being assigned to the French Republic under the Basilea Treaty, was still under Spanish power.
Juan Pablo, the second son, received a good education from her mother when he was a child. This allowed him to mainly develop reading skill. Later, he attended to a small school for pre-school education whose director surname was Montilla. Afterwards, he attended to primary school just for boys where he demonstrated his great intelligence since the beginning. He finished his studies in the Don Manuel Aybar School.
Manuela didn’t stop proving her unconditionally love to her son when supported his ideas about a new secret Trinitarian society by taking some actions to put an end to Haitian occupation in the eastern part of La Española. Her support, not only a gesture of solidarity from a simple mother to her sons and daughters but also a militant consciousness of deep convictions she helped to inculcate in Trinitarian hearts, made her to be subjected to persecution and several raids to her home while he remained hidden during the process of conspiracy until he was expelled from the country. It was a tragic moment because in November, 1843, she had to assume all the responsibilities at her home after becoming a widow while a conflict for the persecution of Haitian government was taken place.
By request of Juan Pablo, she donated the recently inherited goods from her father for the cause. After Juan Pablo Duarte returned from exile, she accepted Sanchez’s request, despite her mourning, to open the house doors, crowd of people inside, and hang a flag at the window. For this reason, Ramón Emilio Jiménez wrote this poem in her honor: “Manuela Diez Jiménez, who would have said yesterday/ that your being had been predestined by God/So that from it was born the immaculate hero/ Who gave democracy of the world another flag!/You were to the Patriot a foundation/Soul of redemption, flesh of atonement/ and like pure soil concealing precious gold/Gold of freedom of a noble core it was...”.
As the historian, Federico Henríquez y Carvajal, states in his books, the best of her daughters, Sandalia, was a virgin and martyr during her youth and one day “she was kidnapped by some American buccaneers and died after her reappearance, victim of a deep and overwhelming sadness”.
On the third of March 1845, she receives an international passport and with it, an order for her immediate departure with all family members. Thus the government somehow avoided employing coercive means to keep the peace in the country. She embarks with her family to the Guaira, where she arrives on the twenty-fifth of that month and year, and remains there until the sixth of April when she moved to Caracas. “Of her stay in Venezuela we know nothing important. She never returned to her homeland. We have only brief news”, wrote Emiliano Tejera.
Under these considerations, mainly because she had to experience the shame of being expelled from her homeland, the historian at the Autonomous University of Santo Domingo, Natacha Gonzalez Tejera points out that the merits of Manuela Diez were many. “We find a strong, dedicated woman, of great values and unmatched ability to make sacrifices.
Manuela died in Caracas, Venezuela, on December 31, 1858. For this reason, the historian, Alfau Durán says: “because of the mission of her son, she suffered countless persecutions to finally end in a strange land, together with her orphaned children, to mourn her widowhood and end her life in a strange land, in whose soil lays in unfortunate and painful forgotten memory her venerable bones...”.
To honor her memory, Manuela Diez Street, which goes from Albert Thomas Street in the town María Auxiliadora in the capital all the way to Hermanos Pizón Street in Consuelo Villa, recalls her heroic deed. This street is probably the only tribute the progenitor of the Father of the nation has received.
A paragraph wrote by Joaquin Balaguer in his extensive biography of Duarte, epitomizes the existence of this suffering woman: “Doña Manuela attends, under a silent attitude, first his revolutionary works and then his long expiation, which is one of the causes that most powerfully contributed to sustain the nature of Duarte, who never bowed under the weight of misfortune nor under the rigor of persecution. The parents were, undoubtedly, worthy of their son, and he was, in turn, worthy of the moral lineage of his parents.”