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)
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