NEW YORK – On March 17, a coalition of left and progressive organizations of the Dominican community in the Washington Heights neighborhood here gathered to pay homage to the memory of Orlando Martinez. Martinez was a leader of the Communist Party in the Dominican Republic, and major journalistic voice in the struggle against the Balaguer dictatorship. Martinez wrote for newspapers, edited the magazine El nacional and worked on television. He was assassinated March 17, 1975, by agents of the dictatorship.

The annual event was sponsored by Dominican community organizations including the Centro Orlando Martinez, the Centro Cultural y Communitario Hermanas Mirabel (Mirabel Sisters Community and Cultural Center), the Iglesia San Romero de las Americas and the Colegio Dominicano de Periodistas (The Dominican Journalists Association) and by the Dominican left bloc, which included a number of Communist and anti-imperialist organizations.

The hall at the Dominican Cultural Center was packed with over 150 people. The program, presented entirely in Spanish, included cultural presentations by percussionist Guillermo Cardena, poetry from Mayovanex Perez and Julio Alvarado and music performances by Luis Diaz and Jhara. Genoveva Gonzalez, director of the Dominican Cultural Center, spoke of the importance of Orlando Martinez to the Dominican community, and to her family.

Dr. Wilson Spencer, who teaches Dominican Studies at the City College of New York, spoke about the three pillars of Orlando Martinez’s thought: patriotism and internationalism, democracy and equality. He said that these three principles are still relevant for the struggles of today.

Radhames Morales spoke for the committee organizing the event about the ongoing struggles for democracy in the Dominican Republic and for decent jobs, education and housing in the United States. The audience, like the neighborhood, was comprised mostly of immigrants and their first-generation New York-born children

Because of the long history of U.S.-backed dictatorship and the U.S. invasion in 1965 against the anti-imperialist government of Juan Bosch, the Dominican Republic is home to strong left-wing organizations. When Dominicans came to New York, forced to leave their homes because of poverty and political repression, like many immigrant groups before them, they brought these revolutionary traditions with them. This event honoring Orlando Martinez was an expression of these traditions. The crowd chanted throughout the afternoon, “Orlando Vive, La Lucha Sigue” (Orlando Lives, The struggle goes on!).