Video documentary, Dominican Republic "Papa Liborio" 1
CONTENTS IN ENGLISH: Study Guide
"PapA Liborio: el santo vivo de Maguana"
(Papa Liborio: the living saint of Maguana) 2003 [56:16]
"Liborism" is a form of folk Catholicism which developed in the interior southwest
region of the Dominican Republic during the early twentieth century. It is based on the
devotion to Olivorio Mateo "Liborio" (1876-1922), a miraculous folk healer whose
leadership arose at the time of transition between pre-capitalistic and capitalistic society
and who became the most important messianic leader in Dominican history. His
devotees consider Liborio an incarnation of Jesus Christ.
The video documentary situates the rise of a messianic leader in the area which, not
coincidentally, was the political and spiritual center of the island during pre-conquest
Taino times. It traces the development of "Liborism" from both socioeconomic and
spiritual perspectives. The work includes its resurgence in the Palma Sola Movement
during the early 1960s, a rural Christian commune which developed at another
tumultuous time in Dominican history: following the assassination of Rafael Le6nidas
Trujillo and the end of his 31-year dictatorship. Like Liborio and his followers in the
1920s, the Palma Sola Movement came to a tragic end at the hands of the military. The
work features testimonials from family, friends, and devotees of Liborio about his life,
death, and practices. These include statements from a daughter and from the living
remaining leader of the Palma Sola Movement.
The work also includes extensive examples of the music associated with "Liborism," past
and present: Salves (the sung Salve Regina prayer), palos (long-drums), and the
Comarca-the accordion music (a derivative of the carabine social-dance music) with
which Liborio performed his healing.
The documentary suggests that the persecution by both Church and state has lessened
today due to a greater respect for this homegrown folk religion and its tenacious
followers. In fact, the production itself of the video is an initiative of the Dominican
minister of culture. But the work concludes by arguing that, since the marginalization of
the peasantry of the southwest has still not been rectified, active, militant "Liborism"
could well resurge again.
The video is directed by anthropologist/ethnomusicologist Martha Ellen Davis, produced
by Miguel Fernandez, and edited by Arturo Guzman. It was premiered at the Cinemateca
Nacional in Santo Domingo on June 22nd, 2003.
Video content in order
Don Jose Mateo, great nephew of Liborio and custodian of "La Aguiita de Liborio"
(Liborio's Spring) in El Naranjo, above Maguana Arriba, San Juan de la Maguana, says:
"Liborio was the chosen one to speak the word of Christ"
Video documentary, Dominican Republic "Papa Liborio" 2
Music: Drums of the Holy Spirit (of the largest Afro-Dominican religious brotherhood in
the country), whose center is the rural area of El Batey, about 18 kms. northeast of the
town of San Juan de la Maguana. This drumming style was central to Liborio's musical
milieu. Views of drum dance, El Batey, the doll representing the patron saint (Holy
Spirit). Drummer: Don Andres Medina, folk "missionary" of Liborio.
History of La Maguana as the political and ceremonial center of the island during pre-
conquest Taino times. It was also the area of the first Native-American opposition to the
European conquest in the New World and likewise of the first African opposition.
Conclusion: "Thus we know that this land of Maguana had natural richness, religiosity
and rebelliousness since the time of the Tainos."
Expert: Dr. Jan Lundius, Swedish expert in religious studies, author of two books on the
folk religion of the San Juan Valley and specifically Liborism. Reviews the historical
background of the rise of Liborism during the early days of the Conquest.
The role of religious devotion in sustaining dwellers of the San Juan Valley. Includes
three signs of the coming of a messiah: Halley's Comet in 1910, an earthquake in 1911,
and a civil war in 1912.
Mythology: St. John the Baptist (San Juan Bautista) was believed to have appeared in
Liborio's Spring (i.e., is the religious milieu in which he was raised), as king of the
Indian deities who inhabit this sacred spring.
Narrator: Rise of religious leader: It is no surprise that a religious and rebel leader
would arise in this same spot, an encarnation of Caonabo (the first Taino rebel leader)
and St. John the Baptist: a miraculous healer, the most important messianic leader of
Mythology: Selection of Liborio as encarnation of God/Christ: Don Jose Mateo,
custodian of "La Agiuita": "God asked St. Anthony to go to earth and find someone in
whom he could 'put his word' (encarnate). St. Anthony looked the whole world over and
found no one. God said: 'Look for him in the Middle of the World; that's where he is. In
our opinion, he chose Liborio."
Expert: Liborism: Prof Lusitania Martinez, author of most important book on the Palma
Sola Movement: Palma Sola: opresi6ny esperanza (opression and hope). Definition of
Expert: Messianism: Prof. Lusitania Martinez. Definition of messianism.
Historical milieu: Liborism coincided with peasant rebel movements elsewhere in the
island: los Gavilleros of the East, Desiderio Arias in the North, and Carlemagne Peralte
of the Cacos guerrilla movement in Haiti.
Video documentary, Dominican Republic "Papa Liborio" 3
Liborio as messianic leader: Liborio offered a return to the idyllic state of equality,
peace, and brotherly love.
Expert: Prof Lusitania Martinez. Definition of the "natural state" desired.
Opposition to Liborio and his movement by the local business and intellectual elite of the
time, as a threat to their interests.
Testimonies of the illiterate followers who, until now, have not had a voice:
1) Don Andres Medina, "missionary" and drummer: Liborio was Christ himself.
Everybody went to him and supported him because of his enlightenment.
2) Don Antonio Mateo, Liborist of Maguana Arriba: A lot of people went to him
because he performed miracles.
3) Don Hermelio Luciano Encarnacion, Protestant Liborist of Maguana Arriba: Liborio
had great wisdom but we do not know whether human or divine.
Some of today's local elite who give voice and do justice to Liborio:
Expert: Dr. Leopoldo Figuereo (lawyer, assistant District Attorney, San Juan de la
Maguana, author: De Liborio a Palma Sola [From Liborio to Palma Sola]. Says that
Liborio was the Dominican folkloric figure of the twentieth century because he was a
pioneer in confronting injustices by the local elite who deceived the peasantry to get their
land, and in opposing the First U.S. Occupation, 1916-22. Yet he was accused of
promoting free love, while there are others who accused him who were local studs.
At El Calvario, Maguana Arriba (upper Maguana), where Liborio was born:
The custodian, Dofia Reina, raises the flag with the national anthem, as she does every
morning. Final part, translated: "And if we were to be enslaved a thousand times, we
then must be free the same amount of times."
Pilgrims arriving at the site to honor Liborio as a living saint.
Received by Dofia Reina, as their first sacred stop before preceding to the sacred bath at
the spring, La Agiita.
Personal history of Liborio, from unknown, uneducated agricultural laborer to spiritual
He was lost in the mountains (Cordillera Central, Central Mountain Range the highest
in the Caribbean) during a storm for 3 or 7 days (testimonials vary), and thought dead.
He reappeared speaking of prophecies and with powers of healing. People thought he
was mad until they saw he had returned with a gift of healing and clairvoyance.
Testimonials of his disappearance and reappearance.
* Don Jose Mateo
* Dofia Ventura Agramonte
Video documentary, Dominican Republic "Papa Liborio" 4
* Don Marcos Mateo
Miracles when he returned:
* Don Jose Mateo: He was taken to the hills, and offered the power of "destroying the
world and creating it again." But he had to agree to the same Via Crucis of Christ: he
had to be crucified too. He agreed to it all.
* His daughter, Carmela Mateo Valdez: He returned during the wake of his mother-in-
law. He was going to revive her from the dead as his first miracle, had a relative
followed his orders re: certain preparations. But since he did not, she could not be
revived, and tears ran down the face of the dead woman. [Represents mythology
developed in just one generation]
Miracles of healing the crippled and the blind.
His healing procedures and how people came from everywhere on mountain paths to
reach him: Don Felix Caamafio, local Liborist researcher, San Juan de la Maguana
Prohibited from charging: Don Jose Mateo says that he was prohibited from making
money for his services, and he warned his apostles of the same: "Everything of God is
done for love, nothing for profit."
Don Andres Medina says that God is unhappy with the poor distribution of wealth today
in the world. This must be clarified to the wealth, who "have the solution of the world in
Liborio's healing procedures illustrated at the sanctuary of Dofia Reina at El Calvario;
with his concluding statement: "Salga el mal y entire el bien" (Out with evil and in with
Music at El Calvario: "La Comarca"-the music with which Liborio healed (he had his
own accordion); probably derived from the Carabine (social dance music of the
Southwest). Refrain: "Long live God and down with Evil."
The assassination of Liborio (by the U.S. with Dominican army after some 5 years of
The wake (taped: of Liborio's last living friend) as if of Liborio himself.
The economic scenario which led to his development as a peasant leader and threat to the
powers-that-be, causing him to be killed.
Expert: Reasons for Liborio's murder: Dr. Jan Lundius. The transition from a pre-
capitalistic to capitalistic economy, represented by the measuring and fencing off lands
which used to be communal, by the local elite, and the marginalization of the peasantry
from the land. At the same time, the loans taken out by national president Ulises
Heareaux ("Lilis") to build railroads and ports, which could not be repaid, leading to the
U.S. occupation of the Dominican custom houses and closing off of the Haitian border.
This was distasteful to the peasantry of the central southwest, which traded with Haiti
(Port-au-Prince was much closer and more accessible than was Santo Domingo). But the
Video documentary, Dominican Republic "Papa Liborio" 5
measure was supported by the local businessmen because the peasantry would then have
to buy from them rather than from Haiti. Liborio and the peasantry violated the closed
The U.S. occupation of the customs houses, ca. 1905
Commerce by peasantry between San Juan and Haiti: Don Felix Caamafio, local
researcher, San Juan de la Maguana
Support of Liborio by the peasantry: How Don Pedrito de los Santos, the last living
friend of Liborio, was recruited to join and help him.
The First U.S. Intervention, 1916-22.
How Liborio got arms: from the local caudillo, Wensceslao Ramirez during the 1912
Civil War when Ramirez challenged the central government. Don Felix Caamafio.
How Liborio was persecuted-such as an effort to poison women with him. Don Felix
The last days of Liborio
Liborio's assassination at the Hoyo del Infierno (Hell Hole)
* Don Felix Caamaio States date of assassination as July 29, 1922 [error re: day]
* Statement by Don Mateo about the final entrapment where Liborio's son was shot first
and when Liborio returned for him, he was hunted down by the army sharpshooters.
Question: Was Liborio a rebel or a healer, or all of this and more?
Continued mystical manifestation of Liborio:
Scene of the Bosque de Liborio (Liborio's Woods), a patch of virgen forest in the
denuded mountains that cannot be cut down or injury, illness, or bad luck will disgrace
whoever attempts to do so. Reverence of local guide at cross in the woods.
Devotion at La Aguita de Liborio (Liborio's Spring), La Maguana Arriba with its many
activities: cleansing by holy waters, drum dancing, blessings.
* Blessing by Don Ernesto Manuel Jimenez "missionary" at La Agiuita
* Declaration in trance by Hernandez, "missionary" and accordionist at El Calvario
Continued debate about the meaning of Liborio:
* The continued celebration of Liborio's birthday in La Maguana, April 19th
* Don Jose Mateo: What does it mean that his tomb was empty the day after his burial?
"If he had lived during the era of Christ, he would have been one of the greatest
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* Da. Ventura Agramonte: "Liborio is not dead; he is alive-he was sanctified by Christ
and is alive!"
* Don Antonio Mateo testimonial (well known) of Carmito Ramirez, surveyor and son
of local caudillo Wenceslao Ramirez, about 1940 to the men in Maguana Arriba: that
Carmito had placed a handkerchief on Liborio's face at the time of burial, and that
night Liborio appeared to him to return the handkerchief.
* Don Marcos Mateo a couple of months ago a woman came to his door to deliver a
message from Liborio: that he still lives; Marcos responds: "Tell Liborio that I am
waiting for him."
The Movement ofPalma Sola (1961-62): A delegation from Media Luna, Las Matas de
Farfan, sings a Salve Regina with a concluding stanza about Liborio. Among them: the
"Mellizo," the surviving "twin," of two leaders of the Palma Sola Movement.
As they sing, a sequence of historical photographs of arrivals to and devotion in that
Christian commune, and its destruction by the Dominican army in December, 1962.
Statement by the Mellizo, Don Le6n Ventura: "I am Liborist since I was in my mother's
belly..." About all he and his family suffered. That the men of power (elite) hold the
solution to poverty.
Second statement: Speaking with the voice of Liborio: calls for brotherly love "because
we are all children of Adam and Eve."
Third statement: Re: the authorities today are different (respect them) [although have not
solved problem of poverty!]
He embraces the minister of culture, who arrives at El Calvario for a visit during the time
of St. John the Baptist (June, 2002).
Expert: Could Liborism arise again? Prof. Lusitania Martinez: The division between
formal and folk Catholicism has softened; there is more receptiveness by formal
But if the marginalization of the peasantry is not addressed, Liborism could rise again!
Musicians at La Aguiita spring: Don "Americo the Musician" sings to long-drums: "In
the Dominican nation...when Liborio returns, we don't know how many followers there
A return to Liborio's wake (actually Liborio's friend, Don Pedrito):
His spirit, possessing a family member, calls for "water!" (which blesses and spiritually
Message for all, Liborio's statement upon concluding a healing:
"Salga el mal y entire el bien" (Out with evil and in with good).
Music: Concluding drummming: The "guaracha de Liborio":
"They say Liborio is dead, but he is not dead at all..."*
Singer/drummer: Don Andres Medina
[* Made commercially known by Luis Dias, who arranged it and changed the
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Following credits (after coming out of trancelike state), singer/drummer Don Andres
reiterates Liborio's messages of peace with justice: "Let's love each other as brethren"
and "Give bread to the hungry!"