In Dominican Republic, a Museum of Horrors of Trujillo Era |


Luisa de Peña Díaz, the director of the museum and one of its founders, whose father was killed in 1967 as he plotted an insurrection against the president at the time, Joaquín Balaguer. Ruth Fremson/The New York Times

SANTO DOMINGO, Dominican Republic — Melba Navarro froze at the image of the man with bulging eyes, his mouth flung open in terror. Or was it pain? He was strapped into an electric chair.

“How horrible was the suffering,” she said, a replica of the chair — a simple wooden seat with straps, a little light bulb on the armrest, a wire snaking from the handle to the socket — behind her. It sits under a single light bulb in a bare, chilly subterranean room meant to evoke the feeling of a torture chamber.

A shock to the conscience is the goal of the new Memorial Museum of Dominican Resistance, which brings into stark relief the years of repressive rule in this country, principally the 30 years of dictatorship under Rafael Trujillo from 1930 to 1961, considered among the bloodiest in Latin America.

In his Pulitzer Prize winning novel “The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao,” Junot Díaz explored the Trujillo era and the tendency for Dominicans, indeed cultures the world over, to bury bloody chapters rather than “take the full measure of that traumatic legacy.”

“We patrol our silences with greater energy than we patrol anything,” Mr. Díaz, who was not involved in building the museum, said in an e-mail.

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