SANCHEZ RAMIREZ.

Geographic Location.

The Cotuí municipality is located on the southeast of the Eastern Cibao region, in the middle of the Juan Sánchez Ramírez province. It borders the Pimentel province to the north, the Yamasá municipality to the south, the Cevicos municipality to the east and the Fantino and Bonao municipalities to the west.

History.

Its name comes from the Taino leader Cacique Cotuí, a subordinate of Cacique Guarionex from the Maguá cacicazgo, one of the five divisions of the island at the time of the Spanish arrival. Cotuí is the head community of the Sánchez Ramírez province and was founded in 1505 by Spanish conquistador Rodrigo Mejía de Trillo, by orders of governor Fray Nicolás de Ovando. It was made into a Spanish community in the same place as the indigenous community of Cotuí, in a mountain rich in gold and silver, which was the main motive for establishing the settlement.

This province owes its name to Juan Sánchez Ramírez, The name Sanchez Ramírez was derived to the hero of the reconquest who was born in this place and grew up here.

The region and its principle town of Cotui are the rice-heartland of a nation where most people say if they haven’t eaten rice that day, they haven’t eaten—rice is the most important part of “la bandera,” the Dominican meal of lots of rice, a bit of meat, and a bit of vegetable that is so typical it’s called “the flag.” Wherever there is flat land here, you see the brilliant green of rice stalks and the towers of rice “factories” where rice is cleaned, sorted, and bagged for sale.

The people also grow lots of plantains and bananas here, and tomatoes in the north. There is an incredibly vast and beautiful freshwater lake formed by the Hatillo Dam at the border of the Sánchez Ramírez and Monseńor Nouel provinces, and many caves with Taíno drawings and stone sculptures, including the Guácara del Comedero and Hoyo de Sanabe.

Alongside the dam is a fish hatchery where tilapia are raised to be released into the lake. In the past, most of the region’s income came from its gold and silver mines, which are still producing, but not as much as in earlier eras.

The mines were abandoned by the Spanish conquerors and by the people of Cotuí and they went in search of a better life in the savannah near the mighty Yuna River, where the city of Cotuí is currently located. Cotuí becomes a Sánchez Ramírez province on August 16, 1952 in order to honor the memory of Brigadier Juan Sánchez Ramírez, a Cotuí native, who led the armed movement that defeated the French in the Battle of Palo Hincado in 1808.

The French had installed a slave regiment in the eastern part of the island, similar to the one that dominated Haiti in the 18th century. Sánchez Ramírez recovered the colony in the name of Spain, since there was a Hispanic loyalty that had been deeply rooted for over 300 years. However, this event caused a sense of patriotism to stir in the collective conscience of the island dwellers. Some of the most important relics of that period include the so-called "guácaras" or caverns that contain pictures and figures sculpted by the aboriginal population.

The Hernando Alonzo cavern, which is located in the Cotuí municipality, is the largest deposit of archeological wealth in the island and is of great importance due to its symbolic, almost sumptuous, ornamentation. This cavern depicts a figure of a woman surrounded by serpents and feathers.

The cavern is located at the foot of a buttress at the Cordillera Central (or Central Mountain Region), some 75 meters above the valley and 95 meters above sea level. There is an excellent view of the landscape from its entrance. Because of its sculpted rock figures and indecipherable symbols this archeological monument is of imponderable value, since it offers silent testimony of the Taino culture and civilization. From its ceiling hangs a large limestone that is similar to the shape of a colossal rhomboid. A sculpture of a women appears chiseled in the rock and measures one meter and ten centimeters in height. Its mantle is made up by bas-reliefs, which are mixed with crosses and other symbols similar to those in the Aypé stone, in Tequila and in the "Piedra del Sol" (Sun Stone) hieroglyphics.

The Aguacate cavern, located in the region of the same name, is considered by many explorers as the largest in the territory. Valuable utensils and small sculptures made by the aboriginal population have been found in its surroundings. The patron saint festivities in Cotuí are celebrated on September 8 in honor of "Nuestra Seńora de la Inmaculada Concepción" (Our Lady of the Immaculate Conception). These festivities last for nine days, which are initiated by artistic and sportive activities.

When the mass is done, the festivities begin with fire works. The queen of the patron saint festivities is crowned on the first day of the celebrations. These festivities were made official in the 1940s. Since the beginning of the 20th century, the people of Cotuí enjoy the outings of the "mácaros", people dressed in costumes made out of any type of paper, commonly sheets of newspaper. These "mácaros" are celled "papeluses" because the paper sheets are stuck in fringes on both their pants and shirts.

According to Fradique Lizardo, the origin of these "papeluses" is based on the miserable state of Cotuí at the beginning of the 20th century, when young people could not afford fabric for their costumes and resorted to fringed paper instead. The "papeluses" cover their faces with a mask made by the different people of Cotuí. The people first make a figure out of compacted mud, the mold is sealed with cartons and papers until it dries in the sun. Starch is used to stick the papers together.

Cotuí is characterized by its preparation of different types of masks: pig's mouth, devil faces, parrot beaks, rooster crests, women's faces and clown faces. These masks brought fame to a native of Cotuí nicknamed "Patón", now deceased. The "mácaros" usually come out on February 27 to celebrate National Independence Day; but their main day is Ash Wednesday, when the very old tradition of cooking and eating "habichuelas con dulce" (sweetened beans) is carried out. The Cotuí "mácaros" go out in groups, during the afternoon hours, howling like wolves and hitting people with leather balloons.

Sometimes they are accompanied by a percussion group or merengue trio. The Holy Ghost stick festivities ("fiestas de palo") is a very old tradition of unknown origins. These festivities are celebrated in honor of the third element of the Holy Trinity, the Holy Ghost.

The celebration is organized by a series of people headed by a king and queen and takes place during Easter week, 50 days after Passover. "La Altagracia Day" is celebrated with "stick festivities" and begins nine nights before January 21. People pray during each of those nights. On the day preceding the 21st of January the people play sticks until dawn and then everyone goes in search of the kings of the festivities. When they are found all kneel and deliver the image of the virgin. Then they return to their homes where parties take place after a ceremony.

Production

There are various agricultural companies in the municipality, such as: Cítricos Rica, that during the last ten years has produced oranges for exportation; Dole Dominicana, which possesses pineapple crops in Cotuí and whose production is dedicated to marmalade and juice processing for exportation; and Domes, a company that has been working since 1980 and has various lands dedicated to exportation and local market production.

The municipality produces pepper for exportation, thanks to an agreement between the Dominican and Japanese governments, and passion fruit for the local market. There are 18 rice factories and multiple "mini-factories". There are also 25 wholesale businesses and some 200 retail stores, which are mainly dedicated to selling food supplies. There are 12 hardware stores and 15 cement block factories, as well as various mosaic factories. Likewise, there are furniture factories and eight banking institutions.

The Cotuí territory is a mining zone whose subsoil is abundant in gold, silver, iron, kaolin, magnesium, zinc, copper and lime. The Rosario Dominicana company exploits the gold and silver deposits in a mine located in the town of Los Cacaos (formerly Pueblo Viejo). The other mineral resource are not being exploited; some marble is used informally by the construction industry and kaolin by the arts industry.