Interpreting the Unresolved Legacy of Trujillo at the 1955 Dominican World's Fair Site
Historic Preservation and Conservation
The decay and uses of the Center of the Heroes reflect larger implications of Trujillo's 31-year dictatorship, the first 25 of which were celebrated by the 1955 World’s Fair held there. By hosting a World’s Fair, the Dominican Republic provided a platform to advertise its signs of progress, real and projected, all the while framing them as direct results of Trujillo’s rule. The fairgrounds were later converted to use for government offices and then re-named as the Center of the Heroes of Constanza, Maimon and Estero Hondo in honor of those men who were killed for their opposition to Trujillo's rule. Over time the site has grown into a center for not only government, but also many significant organizations and educational institutions by day and a center for prostitution and drugs by night. The Center of the Heroes is a complex and in many ways troubled place. Many sites with similar issues or origins have begun to manage theirs through careful engagement with the public. Research into memorial and interpretive models, as well as methodologies for site management, provides a framework of best practices that can be applied to the Center. The increasing number of statues and memorials, combined with the private market tours and mass media accounts demonstrate interest in exploring the different facets of the site’s history. In 2004, the area’s increasingly poor reputation spurred the major organizations involved with and located at the Center to host a competition for revitalization plans. A jury composed of government officials, as well as architects from both the Dominican Republic and abroad, selected two proposals. Approximately eight years later, the proposals have yet to be implemented, or even begun. I propose a new approach to the site, employing theories developed for the preservation, management, and interpretation of international “sites of conscience” as a means to achieve the ultimate goal of a new “Center of Dominican Democracy”.