Gerardo Gallegos is a peripatetic Ecuadorian writer of a kind not uncommon in Latin America, a journalist by trade and experience with aspirations of becoming a major novelist and writing profound social commentary, a traveler in and around Latin America who, because of the absence of independent wealth and because positions for journalists are often fleeting, is obliged to scramble for a position here, a job there, unemployed between times, in and out of various political movements, not an international figure but important enough and with sufficient contacts to have met some famous men and to have had some memorable experiences. These comments are not meant to be pejorative, but to provide some background for understanding what kind of book Gallegos’ Trujillo is. It is not a full biography of the Dominican Republic’s late dictator, nor a history of his rule, nor a systematic analysis of the regime—as the subtitle implies. Rather, the book is anecdotal, very uneven, highly opinionated, sometimes inaccurate, sometimes dull and occasionally interesting, gossipy, chatty, highly personal, marred by some gaps of both information and comprehension, and yet a significant document nonetheless.

During his stopovers in the Dominican Republic, Gallegos was introduced to and then worked intermittently as a publicist and journalist for Trujillo. His book claims to be neutral, but it is hardly that. Gallegos is a Trujillo apologist, not quite on the level of the fawning biographers who wrote during Trujillo’s lifetime but, with the benefit of some hindsight, a strong admirer notwithstanding. He repeats the oft-stated chronicle of Trujillo’s building projects, his “social assistance” programs, his “struggle against communism,” his economic accomplishments, and so on ad nauseam. He attacks Betancourt, Figueres, and the “Caribbean Legion” as being part of the “Caribbean Comintern,” and he ends up whitewashing the regime and lauding Trujillo as an “authentic democrat.”

Gallegos was not close to the centers of power and had little knowledge of the inner workings of the Trujillo regime. Yet he was in on some interesting activities and reports the hearsay about others. His remarks on the uses made by Trujillo of the public communications media, for example, of which Gallegos had some first-hand knowledge, are enlightening. He also reports some worthwhile sidelights on the Haitian slaughter of 1937, the functioning of the Partido Dominicano, the two invasions of the Dominican Republic in the late 1940s, the Galíndez case, the OAS condemnation of Trujillo, and his assassination. Moreover, in his explanation of Trujillo not as an aberration but as a logical outcome of Dominican history and tradition, as well as in his analysis of the peculiar style and structure of the organic, corporate, Latin American state (as distinct from the North American model), Gallegos displays considerable understanding and sophistication.

For the Trujillo scholar, therefore, this book has enough significant information to warrant its examination; however, the general reader who wants a more comprehensive understanding of the Dominican Republic and/or the Trujillo period is advised to look elsewhere.