The storied history of the military’s first Black air squadron, the Tuskegee Airmen, has been well documented over the decades. However, a recent discovery has revealed that the famed group also enlisted a Black Dominican Republic native.
Esteban Hotesse, born in the city of Moca in the Dominican Republic, came to America when he was four years old. He enlisted with the squadron in February 1942, joining the 619 squadron of the 447 bombardment, better known as the Tuskegee Airmen.
Hotesse’s most significant contribution wasn’t to the military but in support of civil rights.
He was one of 101 Black officers arrested in what is known as the Freeman Field Mutiny in Indiana. The incident took place in 1945 when the Tuskegee Airmen tried to racially integrate an all-white officers club at an airfield base in the town of Seymour. The officers defied orders and sat inside the club. It took 50 years for their records to be expunged.
Hotesse applied for U.S. citizenship in 1943 alongside his wife, Puerto Rico native Iristella Lind. The pair had two daughters ahead of his enlistment. Hotesse obtained the rank of second lieutenant before he died in 1945 at the age of 26 after a military exercise.
The efforts of 29-year-old part-time research associate, Edward De Jesus, led to this amazing discovery. De Jesus works at the Dominican Studies Institute at CUNY, and had no idea the extent that his fellow Dominicans had been involved in World War II. It took three years to find the Hostesse connection to the Airmen.
A new exhibit opened this week at the City College of New York featuring other Dominicans who fought in the war. Hotesse’s granddaughter, Iris Rivera, donated photos and other material to the Dominican Studies Institute.