Dr. Ramón ‘Arturo’ Victoriano unveils lost Dominican voices

Dr. Ramón “Arturo” Victoriano has been teaching at the university level for 30 years.

“I’m a recovering lawyer,” he joked.

He used to teach criminal law theory in the early ‘90s in the Dominican Republic at the Universidad Católica Santo Domingo. Then, in 2001, he moved to Canada.

Victoriano decided to switch careers because after moving to Canada he would have to restart his schooling almost from scratch if he wanted to practice law, he said.

“I always wanted to teach literature,” said Victoriano. “It was an easy decision [to shift careers]. It was a somewhat easy transition. It took me years to learn how to write as an academic, and not as a lawyer.”

As a professor, Victoriano is interested in meeting Dominican students to build up the Dominican community at UBC.

“Come to my office, we’ll have coffee,” said Victoriano. “I would love to meet Dominican students. There are not many of us here.”

Victoriano’s research interests lie in the literatures and cultures of the Hispanic Caribbean with an emphasis on race, gender, national belonging and the diaspora. At UBC, he teaches about Spanish and Latin American pop culture.

Currently, Victoriano is teaching Spanish language courses in addition to a Latin American literature in translation course. But his favourite course to teach is on short stories of the Hispanic Caribbean.

“I like to teach that course a lot … it allows me to teach Dominican literature, Cuban literature … we have a lot of fun with that class,” said Victoriano.

Victoriano’s day-to-day has him teaching and researching. After his classes, he does “some grunt work” for his current project — a book about Dominican literary works that have been lost and muted in history.

“That’s why my eyes are glassy, [I was] staring at a PDF looking for pieces on Dominican literature criticism,” Victoriano said.

Dominican storytelling isn’t just what Victoriano teaches, but also what he researches.

After the American invasion in 1965, the authoritarian government terrorized and dictated the Dominican Republic by administering war against the left political party, said Victoriano. This disruption has neglected the analysis of Dominican literature leaving decades unaccounted for.

“I’m working on ... a very, very violent compulsive period in Dominican history,” said Victoriano.

Victoriano’s research looks at Dominican magazines, novels, novels, poems, short stories and cultural essays that haven’t been analyzed because of tumultuous periods of Dominican history.

“I’m trying [to] make sense of this big thing that I have … and I’m trying to find something that connects them right at the beginning,” said Victoriano.

When drafting his project, Victoriano follows a plan he has spread across his office wall, working toward tackling different sub-categories in each chapter. In particular, he is keen on showing the similarities between different works through political context.

“I’m trying to find what brings these works together,” said Victoriano. “I think it’s resistance towards the political situation that is happening.”

Victoriano is devoted to unveiling the isolated Dominican narrative of the ‘60s, recovering and analyzing lost artifacts from a preserved time capsule-like state.

“The message that I’m trying to get across?” asked Victoriano. “Dominican literature is worth reading.”