For any Dominican, who was living in DR during that year, this question is akin to ‘where were you on September 11th’. Lots happened in 1965 due to political instability and the American occupation of the Dominican Republic.

I first found out about the events of 1965 during the time immediately before ‘Operation Desert Storm’ in early 1991. The US had set a deadline of January 17th, after which they would bomb Iraq. I was working in a mental health clinic in Bushwick with predominantly Spanish speaking clients. Many of the clients started getting increasingly anxious during this countdown. I noticed the increase in anxiety but did not know exactly why until one person was aware enough to connect the dots between her current anxiety and her experience in 1965 where she, as well as many other Dominicans, witnessed and experienced many atrocities. She told me her experience. I looked for books on the subject but found none. This was the age before internet, so there was no Googling anything back then. I then started asking all my Dominican clients who were born before 1965 what their experience had been and each and every one of them had a story to tell. They told me of the fear they went through during the months of this occupation. Children did not go to school and when family members left the house, sometimes they didn’t come back.

The events of 1965 are complex politically. I have never felt satisfied in knowing what ‘really happened’ in the Dominican Republic in 1965 by looking at books or on the internet. I did find out though that the US Intrepid, was one of the ships that went to the Dominican Republic in 1965 and is now stationed a few miles away from the predominantly Dominican neighborhood of Upper Manhattan. What this means symbolically is up for discussion I suppose.

As far as mental health is concerned, there is always that one question that unlocks the memories and emotions that are otherwise hidden away in the recesses of the mind.

May 24, 2012


Very interesting post. As therapists, we often have to be private investigators and look for clues in what may be in obscure places. A person may view their experience as something that is commonplace and not until it is brought forth and processed will be perceived as significantly as it truly is. Thanks for the reminder.

This occupation is why my grandfather refuses to step foot on American soil. He only came here once, against his wishes, because his youngest daughter was getting married in Long Island. He didn’t stay long and hasn’t been back since.

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