On November 25, 1960, the Mirabal sisters, political activists in the Dominican Republic, were assassinated. In 1999, the United Nations General Assembly designated Nov. 25, the anniversary of the death of the Mirabal sisters, as International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women. The day both celebrates the Mirabal sisters and marks the start of a 16-day global activism period against gender violence, ending on Dec. 10, International Human Rights Day.
Today, November 25, is the International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women, an annual awareness date formed to commemorate the Mirabal sisters – Patria, María Argentina Minerva and Antonia María Teresa. At their time of death, Patria was 36, Minerva was 34 and Maria Teresa was 24.
These Dominican women paid with their lives in their quest to restore democracy in Dominican Republic against the brutal regime of Rafael Trujillo, considered one of Latin America’s worst dictators. Despite the leader seizing their property and placing them behind bars, the sisters remained resilient.
The Mirabal sisters, four in total, came from a well-off family in the rural town of Salcedo in the Cibao region of the Dominican Republic. The women were each bright and cultured, with all but one of the hermanas, Bélgica Adela “Dedé” Mirabal, earning college degrees.
The Mirabal sisters – Patria, María Argentina Minerva and Antonia María Teresa helped form a resistance group called the Movement of the Fourteenth of June, which was named after a rebellion attempt to topple Trujillo’s dictatorship. Together, through distributing pamphlets about Trujillo’s abuses and planning revolts, the sisters, nicknamed Las Mariposas of the movement, helped get a large number of young middle-class Dominicans to oppose the leader, a feat that came with repercussions.
Hundreds of the members of the Movement of the Fourteenth of June were arrested, including Minerva and Maria Teresa, the youngest Mirabal sister. Trujillo hoped that mass incarceration would deter dissenters, but his plan failed when the Catholic Church began to condemn the arrests, generating even more anti-Trujillo sentiments across the country. Minerva and Maria Teresa, along with the other women apprehended, were released.
On November 25, 1960, the same year Minerva and Maria Teresa were released from prison, the women and their eldest sister Patria drove home from visiting their husbands, who were still in jail. But their jeep was stopped by Trujillo henchmen, who used a club to bludgeon the sisters and their driver to death.
The vehicle was later thrown over a cliff in an effort to make the crime scene look like an accident, but no one was buying it. The Dominican people knew Trujillo had ordered the fatal attack, marking the start of the end of his regime.
The three Mirabal sisters were survived by their hermana, Belgica Adela, more popularly known as Dedé. While she never played a role like her sisters in the movement to overthrow Trujillo, she spent the rest of her life caring for their children and making sure that their descendants and the rest of the country remembered the Mirabal legacy. Dedé died of pulmonary complications in 2014.
Before Dedé’s death, however, she founded the Mirabal Sisters Museum in 1994, now a major tourist site that sees hundreds of guests each day. Later, in 2009, Dedé gifted the world with “Vivas en su Jardín,” a book about her sisters.
The Mirabal sisters are considered national martyrs in the Dominican Republic, with currency and stamps baring their faces.
In 1994, Dominican-American author Julia Alvarez published “In the Time of the Butterflies,” a novel and fictionalized narrative of the Mirabal sisters, which was later turned into a movie starring Salma Hayek, Edward James Olmos and Marc Anthony.
More recently, Puerto Rican-Dominican actress Michelle Rodriguez co-produced and starred in a movie about the sisters called “Trópico de Sangre.”
The legacy of the Mirabal Sisters extends beyond the Dominican Republic and Latin America and has been immortalized by the United Nations in International Day For The Elimination Of Violence Against Women – The day of their death.