The Joseph A. Unanue Latino Institute, along with the Department of History and Latin American and Latino/a Studies (LALS), sponsored a lecture on Olivorio Mateo, the famed Dominican folk hero. The lecture was delivered by adjunct professor Dr. Maisha Mitchell.
Dr. Mitchell discussed how Mateo, referred to by his followers as Papá Liborio, rose as a spiritual healer, claiming to be the reincarnation of St. John the Baptist. He went from town to town not only healing people, as it is claimed, but preaching a message of unity, love, and a return to nature. She emphasized the role Mateo played in intertwining religion and politics on the island. "It was sort of very reluctantly that he fell into politics," Dr. Mitchell said. "But it was something that he was doing on behalf of his people and something that he wanted to carry out."
Mateo faced backlash from the U.S. occupied forces in the Dominican Republic and was ultimately killed. Nevertheless, his Liborista movement lived on, maintaining a large commune in Palma Sola. The persecution of his followers continued though, and resulted in the Palma Sola massacre in 1962. Around 600 people were killed as a result of a napalm strike and military forces firing upon the commune.
Despite all the tragedies that have befallen Mateo's Liborista movement, his legacy still lives on as there are followers to this day and Liborista's holy sites are maintained. "Do people still believe in this religion? Are they still adherent to this religion? Absolutely," Dr. Mitchell said.
The event was well attended and brought a thorough discussion on Mateo's lasting legacy through his teachings.
The Latino Institute would like to thank the History Department and LALS for sponsoring this special lecture and Dr. Mitchell for delivering an informed discussion on a pivotal historical aspect of the Dominican Republic.
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Categories: Arts and Culture