Mama Tingo: The Black Dominicana Revolutionary You Should Know

Mama Tingo BELatina
Photo Hispanos Del Mundo

Mama Tingo was born Florinda Muñoz Soriano in the Dominican Republic on November 8th, 1921. Despite almost being rendered a footnote in history, Mama Tingo’s contributions changed the ways in which people stood up for their rights, the history of the country, and solidified her place as a revolutionary forever. 

History is often written by the most privileged, and oftentimes what is captured is about the most privileged people that contribute to changing history. However, Mama Tingo was not among the financially or formally educated privileged class and thus her story is often left out. Mama Tingo was a farmer, revolutionary, and activist for farmers and financially poor people in the Dominican Republic. A farmer by legacy, Mama Tingo farmed her plot of land in the Hato Viejo region of the Dominican Republic. 

After generations of cultivating the land in the Hato Viejo region of island, the farmers were told that the land had been repurchased/reclaimed by a rich business person, Pablo Díaz Hernández, and that they needed to vacate the property. Vacating the property meant that the farmworkers would not only lose their homes but their livelihoods and their family legacies. Essentially what was happening was a land grab. A land grab is the forceful and often unlawful opportunistic obtainment of land by people who have more access to institutional wealth and power than those who are on the land. 

Even today land grabs are a problem across the world. In Brazil, the indigenous people of the land are being killed and forced to fight to the death to protect their land. In 2018, Afro Brasilian activist and councilwoman Marielle Franco and her driver were killed for fighting to protect the land that Brazilian Favelas are on. And in Africa, Chinese governments have come under criticism for alleged land grabs across the continent.

Many times, those who take the land are aware that it is already being occupied, tended, and cared for by people. However, the more financially affluent still choose to take the land for their own financial gains. 

At the time of the land grab, Hato Viejo was occupied by 350 families that lived and worked on the land. Many of these families were financially poor and only had their farms to make a living and provide for their families. Additionally, many of the smaller-scale farming practices cared for the land in ways that were more conscious of the ways to live and work the land so that they were not harmful to the natural landscape.

Mama Tingo was not going to allow the land grab to happen without fighting for herself and the community’s livelihood and homes. She went to several government officials protesting the land grab and the violence that was being used to remove people from the land. Reportedly, Mama Tingo and her husband even sought to buy the land but were unable to. However, racism, classism, and sexism made it to where the government officials were not interested in hearing about the troubles the poor community was enduring, especially from a dark-skinned Black Dominican woman with no formal education. 

Frustrated but not deterred, Mama Tingo saw it of paramount importance to organize the families and people that lived on the land so that they would have a united front when dealing with Díaz Hernández and the people he used to intimidate the farmers. She organized meetings where they would discuss ways to deal with the violence, crop share, and multiple strategies to deal with the land grab taking place.

Díaz Hernández and his people would use tanks, bulldozers, and fires to destroy the crops and land of the farmers. The farmers fought back with Mama Tingo. After several violent clashes, the courts finally agreed to hear the case. This court case was seen as a monumental occasion. Here you have a financially affluent man that was possibly backed by government officials being taken to court to fight accusations and allegations brought against him by an “uneducated and poor” Black woman farmer and the community she was fighting for.

Sadly, the court hearing would not end in her favor. On the day of the court hearing, Mama Tingo was led away from the courthouse by someone who told her pigs were loose. Mama Tingo left right away to secure her livestock. When she arrived to her land plot she was shot twice by someone Díaz Hernández sent to kill her. Forever the fighter, Mama Tingo fought back with her machete but died from the gunshot wounds. Some people alleged that the court hearing was just a tactic used by Díaz Hernández and connections he had to lure Mama Tingo away from the land and momentary let her defenses down.

Mama Tingo is a historical figure that demonstrates the many ways in which anyone can stand up for themselves and what they know to be right. Oftentimes history is told in ways that lead people to believe that they should have certain privileged backgrounds or look a certain way to be a change agent in their society. Mama Tingo was a farmer, fighter, and revolutionary who refused to allow these classist, racists, and sexist beliefs stop her. She fought for the rights of people to have access to the lives they always lived — lives that allowed them to tend to the land and provide for their family and community without the fear of losing it. After Mama Tingo’s death, many of the farmers continued to fight for their rights. Mama Tingo was survived by her children and husband. 

Today the region of Hato Viejo is simultaneously referred to as “Mama Tingo” and films have been made about her life. However, many do not know about her contribution to the liberation and rights of farmworkers and the financially poor. 

Mama Tingo is a political and revolutionary figure that can not be forgotten or ignored. The tapestry of women who have contributed to the history of revolution and change around the world, and the Dominican Republic, is more diverse than we have been led to believe. History is not a monolith and thus can not be told like one.

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