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Remembering the Butterflies

by Jennifer Turano

November 25th was the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women. The day was chosen to pay homage to the Mirabal sisters – political activists from the Dominican Republic, who were killed on that day in 1960, on what is believed to be the orders of dictator Rafael Trujillo.


Las Mariposas (the Butterflies), as they are called, actually refer to 3 out of 4 sisters – Patria, Minerva and Maria Theresa. They, along with their sister Dede, were born in Ojo de Agua, Salcedo—what is now known as Hermanas Mirabal Province.

Minerva and Maria Theresa became political activists and were involved in the anti-Trujillo movement Movimiento Revolucionario 14 de junio, causing them and their families to be persecuted by the state. The two sisters were imprisoned several times, where they were tortured and raped repeatedly. Their sister Patria encouraged the sisters’ activism and even lent them her house as a safe place and somewhere for the movement to hide their weapons. She was the last to join the movement, and was subsequently imprisoned. None of this would stop the Butterflies in their struggles for a Dominican Republic free from dictatorship and tyranny.

On November 25th, 1960, after the three sisters had visited their husbands in a prison in Puerto Plata (their husbands were also repeatedly imprisoned), they were intercepted on the highway by five of Trujillo’s men. They were forced out of their car at gun point, and were – along with their driver; Rufino de la Cruz – brutally beaten with sticks and strangled to death. Their bodies were then put back into the car, and thrown off a cliff.

Trujillo might have thought that killing the sisters would lead them to be forgotten, but it couldn’t be further from the truth: The sisters, their courage and their struggles for human rights are very much alive in our memories and our hearts – ¡y nunca las vamos a olvidar!


Dede – who wasn’t involved – is still alive, living in the house where she and her sisters were born. She keeps the memory of her sisters alive, partly by running a museum – Museo de las Hermanas Mirabal – and has recently written a book about them: Vivas en Su Jardin.

Other movies and novels:

In the Time of the Butterflies by Julia Alvarez (novel)

In the Time of the Butterflies (movie)

Tropico de Sangre (movie)

Related blogs:

Protect the Victims


To learn more about Jennifer,
visit Chennifer.


Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article are solely those of the author and should not be understood to be shared by Being Latino, Inc.


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About Adriana Villavicencio

Dr. Adriana Villavicencio is the youngest child of Ecuadorian immigrants. She has moved 29 times in her life, taking her on a journey from California to Bangalore, India, and New York City, where she recently earned a Ph.D. in Education Leadership and works as a Research Associate at New York University. An avid traveler, Adriana has collected experiences in four different continents and 16 different countries. But as a former high school English teacher, some of her fondest memories are those of her brilliant and brilliantly funny students in Brooklyn and Oakland. Adriana has contributed to several publications including the Daily News and, and is a managing editor for the Journal of Equity in Education. She earned a B.A. in English and an M.A. in English Education at Columbia University, and currently serves on the board of Columbia’s Latino Alumni Association (LAACU). She enjoys scary movies with red vines, Sauvignon Blanc, and her Maltese dog, Napoleon.

To learn more about Adriana’s education consulting company, please visit

Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article are solely those of the author and should not be understood to be shared by Being Latino, Inc.


  1. k. Cedano says:

    End violence against all!!! It’s disturbing to hear stories about women [and men] being physically abused.

    I read “In The Time of The Butterflies”.. Really nice book.

    I also read about these girls a few years back and I’m glad to have such activists as part of my DOminican heritage. Dios, Patria Y Libertad always!!

    Quisqueya La Bella ;)

    Thanks for this post.

  2. In The Time Of The Butterflies- Julia Alvarez

    I would definitely appreciate if anyone knows the name of another book in English or Spanish on this period.

  3. k. Cedano says:


    His daughter, Angelita Trujillo, wrote a book that was originally banned in DR, “Trujillo: My Padre”,

    Also, google “El Ministerio de Cultura”, they are on their way to release more than 20 books that never got published from peole living under the Trujillo regime. IF they are anything like Juan Bosch’s books, you’ll be hooked and gain a better understanding of our culture and history without the need for complicated political observation.

    Although the content is heavy when put into context, the reading is super light.

    Hope you find what you like!

  4. k. Cedano says:


  5. AJ – there’s another book mentioned in the blog by Dede herself – Vivas en Su Jardin. Mario Vargas Llosa wrote a book about Trujillo called La Fiesta del Chivo/Fiest of the Goat – personally I don’t like it, but maybe you will.

    Those are the ones I know of…

  6. k. Cedano says:

    I’m so sillt, I almost forgot the best writer of all time- in my opinion of course- Juan Bosch… anything by him!!

  7. Eileen Rivera-de la Hoz says:

    A sad period of history in Latin America. So glad that las mariposas will never be forgotten.

  8. Awesome blog! They were great women and their story needs to be kept alive. Thank you for helping to do so Jen!

  9. Gracias Mo – they are à great inspiration to us all!

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