Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Remembering the Mirabal Sisters

The International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women was commemorated this past November 25th in order to raise awareness of the abuse faced by women worldwide.  Thus, Friday’s posts will examine several instances of aggression and exploitation against women in the Americas.  

The International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women was created via a resolution approved by the United Nations General Assembly in 1999.  The draft resolution for the date was introduced by the representative of the Dominican Republic, which was no coincidence since November 25th represents a dark day against women’s rights in that Caribbean country.

The Mirabal sisters (Patria, Dedé, Minerva and Maria Teresa) were four political dissidents opposed to the authoritarian rule of strongman Rafael Trujillo. They were known as Las Mariposas (The Butterfly Sisters), a nickname that came about due to their efforts for freedom and democracy in their country.  Despite dangers such as harassment from the police and the imprisonment of three of their husbands the sisters forged ahead and became symbols of the Dominican resistance movement.   

The Trujillo regime’s campaign to silence the Mirabal sisters came to a climax on November 25, 1960.  On their way home after visiting their incarcerated husbands, three of the sisters were intercepted by a group of soldiers. Patria, Minerva, Maria Teresa and their driver were choked and beaten to death.  The assassins brazenly tried to cover up the murder as an auto accident.

The plan to murder the Mirabal sisters backfired for the government and became a rallying cry against the Trujillo dictatorship.  Support for Trujillo decreased as more people defied the repression and spoke out in opposition to his rule.   Approximately six months after the Mirabal sisters were murdered Trujillo was ambushed and killed.

The spirit of the Mirabal sisters has lived on in popular culture through novels such as In the Time of the Butterflies by Julia Álvarez and films like 2010’s Trópico de Sangre.  The surviving Mirabal sister, Dedé, helped create a museum in memory of her slain sisters and has campaigned for the rights of Dominican women.  This week, for instance, Dedé and Álvarez lent their names to a petition criticizing a proposed Penal Code reform that will allegedly infringe the rights of women and children.

The video after the page break examines the legacy of the Mirabal Sisters and includes comments from Dedé on her courageous siblings:

Video Source – YouTube via user AARPenEspanol

Online Sources – United Nations, El Bohio Dominicano,

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