As the first Spanish colony in the “New World,” the Dominican Republic shares a complicated geographical and cultural relationship on the island of Hispaniola with the former French colony of Haiti. Known for years as “Santo Domingo,” this sugar producing region populated by Taino natives and enslaved Africans, experienced much political and military upheaval during the mid-late 1800s in its efforts to achieve independence. Yet, the beautiful island’s ideal weather made it a popular area to visit and was conducive for baseball. When Cuban emigrants and American sailors brought baseball to the island in the late 1800s through early 1900s, it became very popular among various ethnic groups in the country. Amateur teams and leagues thrived and were joined by professional teams for play during the winter months. In this competitive baseball environment, the mid-1930s served as the most significant period of baseball cultural exchanges with the United States.
During this time, the controversial Dominican Republic President Rafael Trujillo began actively recruiting African American star players from the Negro Leagues to compete for his sponsored team representing Ciudad Trujillo. Satchel Paige was paid to recruit numerous Black stars for the team, including James “Cool Papa” Bell and Josh Gibson. The Águilas Cibaeñas and Estrellas Orientales baseball teams also had many African American and Cuban players with experience in the Negro Leagues at great expense to the emerging Dominican professional league. The games brought great excitement and victory for President Trujillo, but the team would soon collapse because of financial pressures and his fall from power. By the 1940s, Negro Leagues players were heading to Mexico and Cuba to compete and soon to the integrated Major Leagues. The Dominican Leagues regained standing in the 1950s with many aspiring Black ballplayers returning to compete for opportunities of full-season play.