Remembering “Las Mariposas”

The Mirabal sisters. (Wikimedia Commons).

This past week marked the International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women. The day was first observed by UN Resolution on November 25, 1999. The date marks the martyrdom of the Mirabal sisters — Patria, Minerva and Maria Teresa — at the hands of the Trujillo regime in the Dominican Republic. This year marked the 60th anniversary of their deaths.

The women, along with a fourth sister, Dede, were the children of Enrique Mirabal Fernández and Mercedes Reyes Camil. They were raised on the family farm in the central part of the Dominican Republic.

The Mirabal sisters as they appear on the 200 peso note from the Dominican Republic.

Minerva became involved in the political movement against the Trujillo regime while she was in college. Trujillo and his minions ruled the Dominican Republic from 1930 until 1961.

Maria Theresa and Patria joined in their sister’s anti-government activities. They joined a group known as the Movement of the Fourteenth of June. They distributed leaflets about the abuses of the Trujillo regime. They also sought weapons to defend themselves against the military and for open revolt.

Minerva’s code name with the Movement was “butterfly” (mariposa in Spanish). After Patria and Maria Teresa joined, they were collectively known as “Las Mariposas”.

Minerva and María Teresa were arrested and imprisoned along with their husbands and Patria’s husband. The women were freed in 1960 but their husbands remained incarcerated.

Monument to the Maribal sisters outside the family home in the Cibao region of the Dominican Republic.

On 25 November 1960, Patria, Minerva and Maria Teresa were visiting Maria Teresa and Minerva’s husbands in prison. On the way home, they were captured by government operatives. The sisters and their driver were strangled and beaten to death. The bodies were placed in a Jeep and run off a mountain road to appear as an accident.

Their nemesis, Rafael Trujillo, met a similar fate when he was assassinated on March 30, 1961.

The surviving sister, Dede, raised her nieces and nephews and spent the rest of her life preserving the memories of her sisters. She lived in their parent’s house until her death in 1988.

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