Mirabal sisters

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The Hermanas Mirabal (Spanish pronunciation: [erˈmanas miɾaˈβal], Mirabal Sisters) refers to 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.[1]


NameCommon NameBirthdayDate of Death
Patria Mercedes MirabalPatriaFebruary 27, 1924November 25, 1960
Bélgica Adela Mirabal-ReyesDedéMarch 1, 1925N/A[2]
María Argentina Minerva MirabalMinervaMarch 12, 1926November 25, 1960
Antonia María Teresa MirabalMaría TeresaOctober 15, 1935November 25, 1960


The Mirabals were farmers in the Dominican Republic. Their daughters grew up in a middle-class, cultured environment. Their father's name was Enrique Mirabal Fernandez and their mother's name was Mercedes Reyes Camilo.[3] 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,[4][5] 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.[how?] 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 Mirabals called themselves Las Mariposas (The Butterflies), after Minerva's underground name.

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.[why?] Despite these setbacks, they persisted in fighting to end Trujillo's leadership.[how?] 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.[4] 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."[4]

The house in which the Mirabal sisters lived for the last 10 months of their lives, now a museum. Salcedo, Dominican Republic.
The old house of the Mirabal family and current residence of Dede Mirabal.

On November 25, 1960, Patria, Minerva, 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.[4]

After Trujillo was assassinated in May 1961, General Pupo Roman admitted to have personal knowledge that the sisters were killed by 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.[6] 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."[7]

Dedé Mirabal has lived to tell the stories of the death of her sisters. As of 2012, Dedé lives in Salcedo in the house where the sisters were born. She works to preserve her sisters' memory through the Museo Hermanas Mirabal which is also located in Salcedo and was home to the women for the final ten months of their lives.[8] She published a book, Vivas en su Jardín, on August 25, 2009.[9]


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.[1] 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.[10][11][12][13]

The Mirabal sisters are also commemorated on the 200 Dominican pesos bill. They are seen as heroes in the Dominican Republic, as Trujillo's empire crumbled after their death.

In popular culture[edit]

The story of the Mirabal sisters has been told in books and in films.

In 1994, Dominican-American author Julia Álvarez published her novel In the Time of the Butterflies, a fictionalized account of the lives of the Mirabal sisters. The novel was adapted into the 2001 movie of the same name. The movie starred Salma Hayek as Minerva, Edward James Olmos as Trujillo, and singer Marc Anthony in a supporting role.

The sisters are mentioned in The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao, a 2007 novel by Dominican-American writer Junot Díaz.

The story is fictionalized in the children's book How the Butterflies Grew Their Wings by Jacob Kushner.

Chilean filmmaker Cecilia Domeyko produced Code Name: Butterflies, a documentary that tells the real-life story of the Mirabal sisters. It contains interviews with Dedé Mirabal, and Dominican members of the Mirabal family.

Actress Michelle Rodriguez co-produced the film Trópico de Sangre which recounts the lives of the sisters. She also stars in the film as Minerva. Dedé Mirabal also participated in the development of the film.[14]

Mario Vargas Llosa's novel, The Feast of the Goat, published in 2000, portrays the assassination of Trujillo and its effect on the lives of Dominicans. It refers often to the Mirabal sisters.


  1. ^ a b "International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women". United Nations. Retrieved 2010-12-23. 
  2. ^ "El Bohio Dominicano: "Dedé Mirabal" ~ Las Hermanas Mirabal - The Mirabal Sisters". El-bohio.com. 1925-02-29. Retrieved 16 June 2012. 
  3. ^ http://www.therealdr.com/dominican-republic-history/mirabal-sisters-of-the-dominican-republic.html#.Um1zplrD_cs
  4. ^ a b c d "The Mirabal Sisters". LearnToQuestion.com. Retrieved 15 June 2012. 
  5. ^ Ferullo, Giovanna (26 August 2011). "Violencia y discriminación de la mujer, un problema muy grave en R.Dominicana". MSN Noticias (in Spanish) (Panamá). EFE. Retrieved 10 June 2013. "(...) Once años antes del triple asesinato, 'había habido una intención del dictador de sumar a mi madre a la lista de mujeres que le pertenecían, como las vacas de sus fincas', algo a lo que Minerva se negó, contó Tavárez Mirabal.
    A partir de allí nació la 'obsesión' de Trujillo contra la familia Mirabal, que empeoró cuando se percató de que una mujer, Minerva, era la 'organizadora del movimiento de oposición más importante que tuvo que enfrentar en 30 años de dictadura', añadió."
  6. ^ "Mirabal Sisters of The Dominic Republic". TheRealDR.com. Retrieved 16 June 2012. 
  7. ^ La era de Trujillo. Narraciones de Don Cucho, page 151.
  8. ^ PaginasAmarillas.com.do. "Museo Hermanas Mirabal". Retrieved 23 December 2010. 
  9. ^ Amazon. "Vivas en el Jardin". ASIN 0307474534. 
  10. ^ Camara de Diputados. "Proyecto de Ley mediante el cual se modifica el nombre de la provincia Salcedo a provincia Hermanas Mirabal" (in Spanish). Retrieved 2010-12-23. 
  11. ^ Diario Libre. "Provincia Salcedo pasa a llamarse "Hermanas Mirabal"" (in Spanish). Retrieved 2010-12-23. 
  12. ^ El Tiempo. "La historia de las hermanas Mirabal" (in Spanish). Retrieved 2010-12-23. 
  13. ^ Educando. "Las hermanas Mirabal en otra dimensión" (in Spanish). Retrieved 2010-12-23. 
  14. ^ ""Michelle Rodriguez Producing and Starring in Historical Feature"; March 25, 2008". Michelle-rodriguez.com. Retrieved 16 June 2012.