Happy birthday, Maria Teresa Mirabal!
Las Hermanas Mirabal were four Dominican political dissidents who opposed the dictatorship of Rafael Trujillo. On November 25, 1960, three of the sisters were assassinated. In 1999, the sisters received recognition by the United Nations General Assembly, who designated November 25 as the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women in their honor.
The Mirabals were farmers in the Dominican Republic. Their daughters grew up in a relatively upper class, cultured environment. The four sisters married and raised families.
Influenced by her uncle, Minerva became involved in the political movement against Trujillo, who had been the president of the country from 1930 to 1938 and from 1942 to 1952, and afterwards, became its dictator. Minerva studied law and became a lawyer, but because she declined Trujillo’s romantic advances in 1949, she was only allowed to earn a degree, but not have a license to practice law. Her sisters followed suit, first Maria Teresa, who joined after staying with Minerva and learning about their activities, and then Patria, who joined after witnessing a massacre by some of Trujillo’s men while on a religious retreat. Dedé joined later, due to having been held back by her husband Jaimito. They eventually formed a group called the Movement of the Fourteenth of June (named after the date of the massacre Patria witnessed), to oppose the Trujillo regime. They distributed pamphlets about the many people who Trujillo had killed, and obtained materials for guns and bombs to use when they finally openly revolted. Within the group, the Mirabels called themselves Las Mariposas (The Butterflies), after Minerva’s underground name.
Two of the sisters, Minerva and Maria Teresa, were incarcerated and tortured on several occasions. Three of the sisters’ husbands (who were also involved in the underground activities) were incarcerated at La Victoria Penitentiary in Santo Domingo. Despite these setbacks, they persisted in fighting to end Trujillo’s leadership. In 1960, the Organization of American States condemned Trujillo’s actions and sent observers. Minerva and Maria Teresa were freed, but their husbands remained in prison. On their remembrance website, Learn to Question, the author writes, “No matter how many times Trujillo jailed them, no matter how much of their property and possessions he seized, Minerva, Patria and Maria Teresa refused to give up on their mission to restore democracy and civil liberties to the island nation.”
On November 25, 1960, three of the sisters, Patria, Minerva, and Maria Teresa, and driver Rufino de la Cruz, were visiting Patria and Minerva’s incarcerated husbands. On the way home, they were stopped by Trujillo’s henchmen. The sisters and the driver were separated and were clubbed to death. The bodies were then gathered and put in their Jeep where it was run off the mountain road to look like an accident.
After Trujillo was assassinated in May 1961, General Pupo Roman admitted to have personal knowledge that the sisters were killed by two men, Victor Alicinio and Peña Rivera, who were Trujillo’s right hand men. Ciriaco de la Rosa, Ramon Emilio Rojas, Alfonso Cruz Vlaeria and Emilio Estrada Malleta were all members of his secret police force. The question of whether Trujillo ordered the secret police or whether they acted on their own is unconfirmed. Virgilio Pina Chevalier (Don Cucho), Trujillo’s family member and intimate collaborator, wrote in his 2008 book, La era de Trujillo. Narraciones de Don Cucho, that Trujillo refers to the Mirabal assassinations as being far from anything to do with him. “But we know orders of this nature could not come from any authority lower than national sovereignty. That was none other than Trujillo himself; still less could it have taken place without his assent.”
On December 17, 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. The day also marks the beginning of a 16 day period of Activism against Gender Violence. The end of the 16 Days, on December 10, is noted as International Human Rights Day.
On November 21, 2007, the Salcedo Province was renamed Hermanas Mirabal Province.
The Mirabal sisters are also commemorated by appearing on the 200 Dominican pesos bill. The Mirabal sisters are seen as heros for most in Dominican Republic, because after their death Trujillos empire crumbled.