Las Hermanas Mirables/ The Mirabal Sisters. Four Dominican women, daughters and mothers from Salcedo named Ojo de Agua (as of Nov. 2007 the province is officially named Hermanas Mirabal), Dominican Republic. Daughters of Enrique Mirabal Fernández and Mercedes "Chea" Reyes Camilo.
These women followed their convictions with bravery and selflessness to fight for what they believed. To fight against a dictator's rule they felt was wrong. Three of them - Patria, Minerva, and Maria Teresa - gave their lives for their cause. Some henchmen following the Dictator Rafael Leónidas Trujillo orders killed them savagely. The four sisters and the group they were involved in were a threat to this commanding dictator. They were involved with trying to over throw his cruel, ruthless and fascist government. The remaining sister DeDe is preserving their memories.
The families' first real run in with Trujillo was at a party to which they were invited. Trujillo had his eye on Minerva so he had the family invited to another party. All but Chea, the mother, went as they were afraid to refuse the "request". Trujillo was very enamored with Minerva and danced and engaged her in conversation. When she refused his advances the family abruptly left the party. This infuriated Trujillo so he had the father, Don Enrique arrested (no one was permitted to leave a party before Trujillo) and incarcerated in the Fortelaza Ozama in Santo Domingo. Minerva and Dońa Chea along with Minervas friends Brunilda Sońé, Enma Rodríguez, Violeta Martínez (from Moca) and Violeta Martínez (from San Francisco) were arrested the following day.
Every day Minerva was taken to the Fortaleza Ozama and interrogated by Trujillo's men. She refused to write a letter of apology to Trujillo. Since the family was well connected, they knew the right people. They got the brother of Trujillo, with whom they were acquainted, to intercede for them and have the family members that were imprisoned released.
They were always in fear of Trujillos men and again were arrested a few years later. This constant fear and stress led to Don Enrique, the girls' father, death on December 14, 1953.
In 1956 their mother Chea moved to a new home she had built as she just felt too lonely in the old family home after the death of her husband. This home, after the mothers death on January 20, 1981, was converted into the Museo de las Hermanas Mirabal / Mirabal Sisters Museum.
The Mirabal girls married went to school, had children living in what appeared to be normal lives. When things just were too much they decided this was it and had a meeting with their friends to find some way to stop Trujillo and his reign of terror over the Dominican people. The group the Mirabal sisters helped form that fought against the Trujillo regimen was known as al Movimiento 14 de Junio/ The Movement of the Fourteenth of June. The sisters were known as Las Mariposas/ The Butterflies.
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Original founders and first committee of the Revolutionary Movement 14 of July/ Movimento Revolucionario 14 de Julio
The young people of the Movimento Revolucionario de 14 de Julio held secret meetings working against the dictator. But, there was a trator among them and within a few weeks most all the group of young people, mostly upper middle class, had been arrested and taken into custody. At the end of that month, more than a hundred members of 14 de Julio were caught. Most of them were subject to indescribable torture at the prison "La 40" and a few were killed.
Finally, under pressure from the Catholic Church, Trujillo permitted the women to go free on parole and later some of the mens freedom followed. Many of the important leaders were kept in prison still including Manolo Tavares and Leandro Guzmán, husbands of Maria Teresa and Minerva. The dictator kept the men imprisoned hoping that it would make the ladies shut up and stop their activities, but it did not.
On November 25, 1960 Trujillo decided he had enough of the sisters trouble making and decided it was time to get rid of them. He sent his men to intercept the three women on their return home from visiting their incarcerated husbands. The women had an idea that something was up and hired a strong jeep and driver to help insure their safety to no avail. The sisters' car was stopped around 7:30PM. They were led into a sugarcane field. Here they were mercilessly beaten and strangled to death along with their driver. Then their car was taken to a mountain known as La Cumbre, between Santiago and Puerto Plata, and thrown off.
Trujillo thought he was finally free of "the problem". But what happened was just the opposite of what he had hoped. The plan failed. The people of Dominican Republic, along with the Catholic Church, were outraged. These ladies lives were cut short because of their convictions. Trujillo, with this action, brought more attention to the rebellion. Instead of eliminating the people working to over throw his dictatorship he brought its downfall. This contributed to his assassination on May 30, 1961, only six months later. (more on Trujillo)
Patria Mercedes (the eldest sister, was born on February 27, 1924). She was leaning towards being a nun when she met and married Pedro Gonzalez (they had 4 children).
Minerva Argentina (the second sister, was born on March 12, 1926) is the one that initially got involved with the underground movement to overthrow the government. While she was away at school she found that she had friends whose families had been tortured by Trujillos men. With this her eyes were opened. She was always a bit of a rebel and hated when someone or something was wronged. Minerva went to University in Santo Domingo (which at that time was called Ciudad Trujillo) and was granted the right to study to become a lawyer. She did complete her studies to become a lawyer, the first woman accepted to study this profession, but she was denied the right to practice law and was never granted her diploma. She had a keen interest in politics which is what led her to meet the leader of the Popular Socialist Party and start her fight for freedom of the country. This was the perfect cause for her. She married Manolo (Manuel Tavarez and had 2 children), who was also anti-Trujillo.
Maria Teresa (Maté) (the youngest sister, was born on October 15,1936) was seeing Leandro Guzmán (they had 1 child) who was also involved in the anti-Trujillo movement. They worked together for the over throw of Trujillo's government.
Dedé, her given name is Bélgica, was born February 29, 1925 (her birth was filed on March 1st so this is her legal birthday). She is the sister that was not with the rest of the sisters on that tragic day. She has since dedicated her life to preserving her sisters memory. She has 9 children, one of which is Jaime David Fernandez Mirabal. He served as the vice-president during Leonel Fernández's first term as president between the years of 1996 and 2000.
(top) A 10 cent Dominican Republic stamp from 1985 to commemorate the death of the Hermanas Mirabal
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(bottom) This butterfly is one of the many located throughout the gardens at the Hermanas Mirabal Museo
The International Day Against Violence Towards Women was accepted on December 1999. At the 54th session of the United Nations General Assembly was adopted Resolution 54/134. This resolution declared November 25th the International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women. This day was chosen because on November 25th, 1960 is when the three Mirabal sisters, Patria, Minerva, and Maria Teresa, from Dominican Republic were violently assassinated for their political activism. The sisters, known as the "Unforgettable Butterflies," became a symbol of the crisis of violence against women in Latin America. This date was chosen to commemorate their lives and promote global recognition of gender violence, and has been observed in Latin America since the 1980s. "When you mistreat a woman you stop being a man" / "Cuando maltratas a una mujer dejas de ser un hombre"
Becoming The Butterflies "The Political Participation of the Mirabal Sisters" This is the account of Minerva Mirabal who was the first of the sisters to become involved in the underground movements to overthrow the government. This is a must read.
The story about the The Mirabal sisters, In the Time of the Butterflies (made into a movie in 2001). Other books and reviews of the books go to our book section. This is the trailer of the movie In The Time of the Butterflies with Salma Hayek.
Video - Documental Las Mariposas: Las Hermanas Mirabal "The death of the Mirabal sisters marked the modern history of the Dominican Republic. In turn, the ideals of those who died have been an example and inspiration to the world."