Happy birthday, Buenaventura Baez!
Buenaventura Báez Méndez (July 14, 1812 – March 14, 1884) was the President of the Dominican Republic for five nonconsecutive terms. He is known for attempting to annex the Dominican Republic to other countries on multiple occasions.
Báez was born in Cabral, Barahona, Dominican Republic. Báez’s mother, Juana Méndez was a freed slave and his father was a wealthy merchant from Azua. Báez inherited a fortune from his father and because of it was able to study in Europe. There, he learned various languages including English, French and Creole.
During the Haitian occupation Báez served as the legislator of Azua to the ruling Haitian occupational government. This post was gained in part because of his role in the revolution that overthrew Jean Pierre Boyer from power.
In 1844 Báez helped to lead a successful rebellion against Haiti, which established the independence of the Dominican Republic. He went to Europe in 1846 to convince France to establish a protectorate over the Dominican Republic, but the French refused. As president for the first time, from 1849 until 1853, he attempted to convince the United States to take over the country. He was President again from 1856 until 1857, when he was deposed in a coup.
Báez next supported the idea of having the Dominican Republic be taken over by Spain. He went into exile in Spain and led a luxurious life there. The Spanish agreed to occupy the Dominican Republic in 1861, but by 1865 they had abandoned it (see Dominican Restoration War). Báez then returned to the Dominican Republic and became President again until he was deposed in another coup in May 1866. He then served his longest term as President, from 1868 until 1874, during which time he again attempted to have the United States annex the Dominican Republic. This time he was almost successful, as he convinced American President Ulysses S. Grant to send warships to the Dominican Republic, and drew up an annexation treaty which reached the United States Senate floor. The treaty, however, was not ratified in the Senate, and it became an embarrassment for Grant.
Báez became President again from 1876 until 1878, when he was deposed in a final coup and sent into exile to Puerto Rico, at the time a Spanish colony, where he lived his final days.
He is buried in the Catedral de Santa María la Menor.