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1956 3 ivan 8mthsIn 1957 my parents were enjoying some semblance of normality and peace after the tumultuous years or phony trials, persecution, and jailing of my father. Out on "loan" to Benitez Rexach my father was the captain of the Moineau Yacht part of the year, and of a merchant ship the rest. The arrangement between Trujillo and Rexach stated that my father worked for Rexach in whatever capacity he demanded or my father went back to jail. My father had been out of jail now for about 2 years. My mother was busy with the birth of her third child, Ivan 10 months prior and my oldest brother Pico and I.  Life was somewhat normal: My father went to work, my mother took us to school and ran their home and surrounding properties in Arroyo Hondo with the help of a few maids and gardeners.  Nothing too out of the ordinary and no threats. 

My grandfather was a savvy and successful business man who, among other things, was the distributor for Sinclair Oil Company in the Dominican Republic. In 1957 he sold the company for a few million dollars and had all the money deposited outside of the country. He pretended to travel for business, did the transaction, and stayed in Europe and the US until the death of the dictator in 1961. It is the sale of the company that is the crucial detail for what happened next. Every crime is based on love, money, revenge or jealousy. This one was definitely, based on money and maybe, revenge.

In the 50's, the area of Arroyo Hondo was way outside of the city, very rural and my parents were some of the earliest settlers in the area. In fact, when we had birthday parties, everyone complained that it was to far to go for a party. Most of the area was made up of farms and open pastures and land.

Because we were in such a desolate area and my father had already gone to jail, etc., when my father built the house, he designed it in a way that, when you closed all the doors leading to the bedrooms, you were completely isolated from the rest of the house. It was impossible to break into them once they were closed. You could go through the living room, kitchen, etc. but you could not get to the rooms. Also ornamental rod iron security bars covered the windows. The only room outside of the locked rooms, was the guest room. This room had been meant to be an office. But with guests and relatives visiting, it became a library/guest room.

mamadiana jovenOne Friday, in 1957, someone removed a few panes from the living room jalousie window and broke into the house. They obviously walked around the house and saw my mother’s friend, Lupe Anglada (Mama Lupe), asleep in the guest bedroom. I imagine she was already around her 40’s. The only thing the thief stole was a small silver cigarette humidor with my father’s name etched on the top, part of a set my parents had bought in Mexico. My parents later imagined that the guy had to prove that he had been able to break in and this was the perfect item to prove that with. In the morning my father called the police. They came but they weren’t going to loose sleep over a little cigarette case.

Saturday afternoon, my grandmother, Diana Pichardo, arrived from Bani, the town she was originally from in the southwest of the island. She said something told her to visit. So, she did. She was clairvoyant and this was not unusual. The thing to understand about my grandmother was that she was a larger than life character that was not afraid of anyone dead or alive. She never married because she said that the woman that got married deserved everything she got.

That evening, around 6 pm, we were having dinner and we heard the back screen door close. My mother called out the maid, Ramona’s name but she didn’t answer. I remember this part as clearly, my mother commenting that maybe Ramona was going out instead of coming in. We kept eating. On Saturday evenings, my parents always went dancing. And they had mentioned that they didn’t want to go because of the robbery the previous night. My grandmother persuaded them to go because she was staying the night. Mama Lupe asked them to give her a ride home sine she lived very close to the Voz Dominicana club that they were heading to, where the Orquesta de San Jose, one of the best in the island, played Saturday evenings.

So, my parents went out and took Mama Lupe home. Sometime later, they sent me to bed. I am not sure if I fell asleep but woke up because I heard something moving around in my closet. Or if they put me to bed and then I heard the noises. The result was the same: I was afraid.  I got up and went out in the porch where my grandmother was watching TV with my brother Pico and one of the maids. I told my grandmother that I was afraid because there were monsters in the closet and she said that they were probably just mice. But she let me stay and I fell asleep in the porch.

I woke up a bit later and it was mayhem. There were screams and everyone running around. The story goes as follows: my grandmother was watching TV and saw a man sneaking down the hall with my brother Ivan in his arms. As soon as she saw him she ran and attacked him. They struggled with the man as she clawed, kicked him in the groin a lot of times while screaming for the maids to help, until the man ran for his life. He was so desperate to get out that he tore the screen door off the hinges. My grandmother had my brother in her hands.

In the evenings, after dinner, the maids usually hung out at the front entrance of the property chatting with friends or boyfriends. When they heard the screams the men ran in to help. But, by then, the guy had disappeared into the wilderness.

Mama Diana called my parents who rushed home. The next day, detectives came to talk to my grandmother and show her pictures of common criminals that were in the system. She told them that they were just entertaining her because she knew that the guy who broke into the house was not going to be in those books. In other words, the guy had been sent by the government to kidnap one of us to ask for ransom. That way, someone in the government could finally get their hands on my grandfather’s money. It was quite the scheme. I remember they dusted my closet and you could see the finger prints and shoe prints all over the closet. The detectives left and my parents never heard from the police again. It was all hushed. So, they knew. This was a kidnapping attempt by someone in the government.

As soon as my grandfather heard about the kidnapping, he sent my mother the money to build the 8-foot cement wall that enclosed our property the rest of the time we lived there. There were two huge gates in the front and barbed wire facing in at the top like concentration camps. My parents also got a lot of big dogs for the yard. It was my brother and my job to feed the guard dogs every night, turn the lights on all over the yard, and let the dogs loose. Someone was going to have to kill the dogs to get in there again.

My parents always thought that, the night before when the guy broke into the house to case it, he saw Mama Lupe sleeping in the guest room. When he came back, he didn't know that Mama Diana had arrived. When he heard that Mama Lupe was going home, he thought the lady was leaving and didn't realize that another was staying. His worse nightmare.

Until the day I got married, I couldn’t go to sleep until I checked under my bed, in the closets and I had the light on all night.

PS
My mother just told me something I had not heard. A few years after the kidnapping attempt, my father got a visit at the port from a guy who claimed that he had been part of the SIM and that he had some information for my dad. He claimed that the maid that took care of Ivan had a husband that also worked for the SIM. He claimed that she was also in on the attempt. The man my grandmother described was medium build, not too tall, not too short, wearing khaki pants, a blue shirt, and the kind of boots that soldiers or policemen wore. 

1955 casa arroyo hondo me

Me in the entrance to our house around the time of the kidnapping.

mami papi ivan pico me

My Mom, Ivan, Pico, Me, and Dad a couple of months before the kidnapping.

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