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De Galindez was a committed anti-facist and Basque nationalist who ran afoul of dictator Francisco Franco's regime in his native Spain during the 1930s. In 1939, he emigrated to the Dominican Republic as a refugee. There he became Secretary of the Dominican Minimum Wage Committee and legal adviser to the National Department of Labor, but he was fired after he expressed sympathy for striking workers. De Galindez then moved to New York City, where he became one of the most active leaders against Generalissimo Rafael Leonidas Trujillo's dictatorship in the Dominican Republic.
While in New York, De Galindez taught political science at Columbia University while working towards his Ph.D. He wrote a political column that was syndicated in newspapers throughout Latin America, and also authored The Era of Trujillo, a book-length exposure of the brutality of Trujillo's rule. He feared for his life, as Trujillo's agents had killed other activists on American soil and one of his own friends was killed in Manhattan in 1952. Two days after his friend's murder, De Galindez wrote a letter stating if he were to be murdered or to vanish, Trujillo's agents must be responsible. He left the letter in his personal files, to be opened in the event of his death or disappearance.
De Galindez was last seen on March 12, 1956. At 9:20 p.m., he finished teaching a class at Hamilton Hall on the Columbia University campus. He accepted a ride from one of his students, who dropped him off at the entrance to the subway at 7th Avenue and 57th Street. De Galindez was last seen walking towards the subway, carrying his dark brown briefcase. He was reported missing five days later. All his clothing, personal belongings, money and papers were found in his apartment on Fifth Avenue. In June 1956, Columbia University awarded De Galindez his Ph.D in absentia.
A couple of months after De Galindez vanished, an informant told police he had been thrown alive into the boiler of the Dominican freighter Fundacion, which was then anchored in New York City's harbor. The ship left United States waters on March 17, and didn't return until June. Authorities then questioned the crew and searched the ship, but couldn't find any evidence to corroborate the story.
Life Magazine investigated De Galindez's disappearance and revealed their findings in a 1957 article. The magazine stated De Galindez was abducted by Trujillo's agents, drugged, put aboard a plane and flown to the city of Monte Cristi in the Dominican Republic. Another flight took him to Ciudad Trujillo (the capital city, now called Santo Domingo), and De Galindez was then killed in the presence of Trujillo himself, and his body was buried in an unmarked grave. The pilots said to be involved in the kidnapping were Gerald Lester "Gerry" Murphy, an American from Eugene, Oregon, and Octavio Antonio de la Maza, a Dominican. Photos of both of them are posted below this case summary.
In response to the allegations about De Galindez's disappearance, Trujillo hired a New York lawyer, Morris Ernst, to investigate the case. After a ten-month investigation, Ernst released a 95-page statement saying De Galindez was alive and well and had left of his own accord. Supposedly, he had accumulated over a million dollars to assist Basque nationalists in Spain and was a double agent working to overthrow Franco. Trujillo was assassinated in 1961; one of those involved in the plot to kill him was De la Maza's brother. The Era of Trujillo, which was unpublished at the time of De Galindez's disappearance, was eventually published in Chile and became a bestseller throughout Latin America.
Foul play is suspected in De Galindez's disappearance due to the circumstances involved. No one has ever been charged in his case.
Left: Gerald Murphy;
Right: Octavio de la Maza
by Jay Robert Nash