SLIDESHOW: Commemorating The Memory Of The Mirabal Sisters


Patria, Minerva and Maria Teresa

Women For Action honors the Mirabal sisters, a group of women freedom fighters who sacrificed their lives to set the Dominican Republic free from a brutal regime. In the heart of the 1950s, the Mirabal Sisters ignited a grassroots coalition composed of men and women which educated the public and further exposed the efforts of Rafael Trujillo’s regime. The sisters adopted the name Las Mariposas ("The Butterflies"). Butterfly was an underground  name given to Minerva Mirabal who was the second of the sisters, for her leadership and resistance.

Minerva was a young woman who had dreams of becoming a lawyer. Upon being invited to a special celebration by her suitor, the General himself, she disclosed her bright ambitions. General Trujillo granted her the opportunity to attend law school. Yet she only obtained a degree (which was put off by a few years by the General) and was never able to retrieve a license, due to Trujillo's bitterness towards her unreturned admiration. Minerva’s perception of Trujillo had already been shaping, due to her uncle's influence and those of her peers, who had faced family tragedies, falling prey to the bully regime. 

Minerva and her sisters had plans to overthrow the regime, forming a group called the Movement of the Fourteenth of June.  Yet their activities got back to Trujillo, who soon imprisoned two of the sisters (Minerva and her sister Maria Teresa), all the Butterflies’ husbands and many other participants. Due to the pressures from the international community, Trujillo released the two women. He eventually freed the rest of the parties involved, except for the Butterflies’ husbands. 

On November 25 1960, after the Mirabal sisters visited their husbands in prison (Their sister Dedé also known as Bélgica Adela stayed behind to watch over their children), they were pulled over in their jeeps and beaten to death. Their deaths incited outrage and disapproval from the Dominican people who quickly suspected Trujillo as the conspirator.  This led to his assassination the following year. The death of the Mirabal sisters had a great impact on the Dominican society, though it had not been officially acknowledged until the 1990s, when the country recognized Patria Mercede, Minerva Argentina and Antonia Maria Teresa as national martyrs, and incorporated them in history lessons.

Their sister Dede devoted her life and work to honor her sisters’ legacy. In 1992, she founded the Mirabal Sisters Foundation and in 1994, the Mirabal Sisters Museum in her hometown Salcedo. A Dominican-American author by the name of Julia Alvarez published a novel titled, In the Time of the Butterflies to commemorate their stories.

I was born in New York City during my parents' first and failed stay in the United States. When I was three months old, my parents, both native Dominicans, decided to return to their homeland, preferring the dictatorship of Trujillo to the U.S.A. of the early 50s. Once again, my father got involved in the underground and soon my family was in deep trouble. We left hurriedly in 1960, four months before the founders of that underground, the Mirabal sisters, were brutally murdered by the dictatorship,” said Julia Alvarez.

The novel turned movie in 2001, was directed by Spanish film director and screenwriter Mariano Barroso. The film brought the lives of these brave women to the center-stage and starred Mexican and American film actress Salma Hayek as Minerva, a stark opponent of violence used against women. In 1999, the United Nations General Assembly designated November 25 as the annual date of the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women in commemoration of the sisters.

This year on February 1, Dede died at the age of 88, leaving behind their legacy and story. We recognize these women as heroines who have become an international symbol of equality, freedom and human rights for all human beings.


Photo Sources:

  1. Mirabal Sisters’ sculpture (Photo via)
  2. Photo of Patria, Minerva and Maria Teresa (Photo via)
  3. Commemoration stamp of Patria, Minerva and Maria Teresa (Photo via)
  4. Dedé (Photo via)
  5. Mirabal sisters on the $200 peso bill (Photo via)
  6. Dedé on cover of Panorama Latino (Photo via)
  7. Rafael Trujillo (Photo via)
  8. Rafael Trujillo (Photo via)
  9. Julia Alvarez (Photo via)
  10. The book, In The Time of The Butterflies (Photo via)
  11. The film, In The Time of The Butterflies (Photo via)
  12. Salma Hayek, Bring Back Our Girls (Photo via)

Julene Allen Julene Allen Author


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