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In her 50s, this Dominican Republic hero was killed to end her fight for black people’s lands

April 16, 2019 at 10:00 am | Women

Elizabeth Ofosuah Johnson

Elizabeth Ofosuah Johnson | Staff Writer

April 16, 2019 at 10:00 am | Women

Photo Hispanos Del Mundo

In much of the Caribbean, the end of slavery brought with it new problems for the black community very similar to what was happening in the U.S. and colonized countries in Africa. Blacks were segregated and suffered great racism. Although many fortunate blacks in better positions fought for their people, the masses who were generally poor and vulnerable to social injustices were largely forgotten.

In the history of the Dominican Republic, Doña Cristiana Florinda Soriano Muñoz, also called Mama Tingo is celebrated as a woman for the people, a fighter and activist who despite her old age fought for the largely forgotten black people who were victims of power and deceit.

Mfoni mbuayɛ ɛma Doña Cristiana Florinda Soriano Muñoz statue

Her work as an activist started when many other activists were paving way for the younger generation. In her 50’s in the 1970s, she became upset and fed up with how their lands were stolen from blacks and given to white settlers and farmers. For over a century, freed blacks had to work for several years before they were offered lands by their former white masters or colonial masters on which they farmed to sustain themselves. Many of these landowners were peasants and poor farmers who could not afford to leave the plantations they once worked on.

All her life in the Dominican Republic, Mama Tingo watched several blacks of her kind become homeless after their lands had been stolen. Seeing enough of it, she led the Federation of Christian Agrarian Leagues (FEDELAC) to become an activist group fighting for the rights of the less privileged and the many black landowners who had lost their lands. Before her initiative, FEDELAC existed as a Christian community of blacks who worked to bring others into Christianity.

Mfoni mbuayɛ ɛma Doña Cristiana Florinda Soriano Muñoz statue

By the early 1970s, her work as a rights activist and land fighter had earned her the respect of the black community. She became a militant leader and representative for hundreds of people who had lost their lands and a threat to the government at the time. Being a woman and old did not deter her from fighting for what she knew was right and the several threats from the government only fueled herto do more.

Mama Tingo managed to win back lands for over 300 black farmers and also raised a generation of fearless activists. In 1974, Pablo Diaz Hernandes, a popular land thief claimed the land of Hato Viejo on which Mama Tingo and her husband Filipe lived on. Claiming that he had bought the land,
Pablo Diaz Hernandes was backed by powerful white elites and was soon able to wire the land which was over 8000 acres and started clearing it.

Mfoni mbuayɛ ɛma Doña Cristiana Florinda Soriano Muñoz

Out of the over 300 farmers who were losing their lands, only about 12 were willing to fight Pablo Diaz Hernandes with Mama Tingo as their leader. But this did not deter Mama Tingo. Together with the farmers and FEDELAC, she led a huge demonstration .

Before the demonstration in October 1974, Mama Tingo and her husband Filipe went to see the then president of the Dominican Republic Joaquín Antonio Balaguer Ricardo to fight for the vulnerable black community. According to the Women’s Media Center, President Balaguer promised to distribute the land among the 350 families living on it but failed to stay true to his word. 

On November 1, 1974, Mama Tingo led the farmers and FEDELAC in a March demonstration. They marched up to Monte Plata Court to have their case heard and several of them including Mama Tingo were arrested.

Mfoni mbuayɛ ɛma Doña Cristiana Florinda Soriano Muñoz statue

The march brought national attention to Mama Tingo and the plight of the farmers in the Dominican Republic and the case was taken to court for a hearing. Unfortunately, the ensuing results would mean to several people that the court case was only a way to show fake concern and bring order back into the country.

On November 3, 1974, the scheduled day of the hearing, Mama Tingo was making her way to the court when she was told that her pigs had been let loose and were walking on the land. Knowing that her property was in great danger, Mama Tingo decided to get the pigs back into their sty before going back to the court.

On the farm, she was shot by Ernesto Diaz, one of Pablo Diaz Hernandes’ loyal followers. Aiming to kill, Ernesto shot Mama Tingo twice, once in the head and in the stomach. Although she tried to fight back with a machete, she died on the spot. She died at the age of 53 although some accounts say she was well over 60 before she died as her birth date is not accurate. Her murderer was released months later and many of her family members went through several issues with the law after her death.

Mfoni mbuayɛ ɛma Doña Cristiana Florinda Soriano Muñoz statue
Photo:

Considered as a symbol in the struggle for land and strong woman, Mama Tingo is honoured by the town council of Monte Plata with a statue and has a station in Santa Domingo Plata named after her. Born on November 8, 1921, Doña Cristiana Florinda Soriano Muñoz was never educated, worked all her life on the farm and married her husband at the age of 30.

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