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The Mirabal Sisters (Spanish pronunciation: [erˈmanas miɾaˈβal], Hermanas Mirabal) are the four Dominican sisters who opposed the dictatorship of Rafael Trujillo, three of whom were assassinated on 25 November 1960. The assassinations turned the sisters into "symbols of both popular and feminist resistance".
In 1999, the sisters received recognition by the United Nations General Assembly, who designated 25 November as the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women in their honor.
|Name||Common Name||Birthday||Date of Death|
|Patria Mercedes Mirabal Reyes||Patria||27 February 1924||25 November 1960|
|Bélgica Adela Mirabal Reyes||Dedé||29 February 1925||1 February 2014|
|María Argentina Minerva Mirabal Reyes||Minerva||12 March 1926||25 November 1960|
|Antonia María Teresa Mirabal Reyes||María Teresa||15 October 1935||25 November 1960|
The Mirabals were farmers in the Dominican Republic. Their daughters grew up in a middle-class, cultured environment raised by Enrique Mirabal Fernandez and Mercedes Reyes Camilo. The four sisters married and raised families. Unlike her sisters, Dedé never attended college, and instead worked as a homemaker and helped out with running the family business in agriculture and cattle.
Influenced by her uncle, Minerva became involved in the political movement against Trujillo, who served as the country's official president from 1930 to 1938 and from 1942 to 1952, but ruled from behind the scenes as a dictator from 1930 to his assassination in 1961. 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.[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 whom 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 María Teresa were incarcerated but were never tortured due to mounting international opposition to Trujillo's regime. 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 María 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 María Teresa refused to give up on their mission to restore democracy and civil liberties to the island nation."
On 25 November 1960, Patria, Minerva and María Teresa, and their 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 Román admitted to having 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 Valeria and Emilio Estrada Malleta were all members of his secret police force. Whether Trujillo ordered the secret police to kill them or whether they acted on their own is unknown. Virgilio Pina Chevalier (Don Cucho), a Trujillo family member, wrote in his 2008 book, La era de Trujillo. Narraciones de Don Cucho, that Trujillo said that the Mirabal assassinations had nothing to do with him. However, as Chevalier notes, "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."
According to historian Bernard Diederich, the sisters' assassinations "had greater effect on Dominicans than most of Trujillo's other crimes", noting that "it did something to their machismo" and paved the way for Trujillo's own assassination six months later.
However, the details of the Mirabal sisters' assassinations were "treated gingerly at the official level" until 1996, when Joaquín Balaguer was finally pressured to step down from his six terms of presidency over the course of 22 years. Balaguer had been Trujillo's protégé and was the president at the time of the assassinations in 1960 (though at the time he "distanced himself from General Trujillo and initially carved out a more moderate political stance"). A review of the history curriculum in public schools in 1997 recognized the Mirabals as national martyrs. The post-Balaguer era has seen a marked increase in homages to the Mirabal sisters, including an exhibition of their belongings at the National Museum of History and Geography and the transformation of Trujillo's obelisk into a mural dedicated in their honor.
After the assassinations of her sisters, Dedé devoted her life to the legacy of her sisters. She raised her sisters' six children, including Minou Tavárez Mirabal, Minerva's daughter, who served as deputy for the National District in the lower House since 2002 and served as deputy foreign minister from 1996 to 2000. Of her own three children, Jaime David Fernández Mirabal, is the current Minister for Environment and Natural Resources and former vice president of the Dominican Republic. In 1992, she founded the Mirabal Sisters Foundation and in 1994 the Mirabal Sisters Museum in her hometown Salcedo. She published a book, Vivas en su Jardín, on 25 August 2009. She lived in the house where the sisters were born in Salcedo until her death in 2014, aged 88.
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(...) 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.