I first read about the sisters Patria, Minerva, and Maria Teresa Maribal in high school when my teacher handed me a copy of In the Time of the Butterflies by Julia Alvarez. Born in the Dominican Republic, these sisters helped topple the dictatorship of Rafael Trujillo.
After Trujillo took control of power in 1930, he built up a secret police force and seized the press and businesses. Anyone who opposed him was killed.
The Mirabal sisters didn’t have to speak out. They were well educated and their parents were prosperous. They also had children of their own. However, these women STEPPED UP.
Minerva went to law school to fight against Trujillo’s injustices, and the other sisters (sister Dede stayed away from the majority of involvement) joined an underground movement that included an assassination attempt against the dictator. Patria, Minerva, and Maria Teresa became known throughout the country as Las Mariposas (the Butterflies).
For their efforts to resist, stand against, and work for freedom, Patria, Minerva, and Maria Teresa were killed by Trujillo’s henchmen in 1960. They were strangled, beaten, and then driven off a cliff to make it look like an accident. Las Mariposas’ deaths served as a catalyst for Trujillo’s assassination 6 months later.
The date of their assassinations (November 25) marks the UN-designated International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women. According to the UN:
The 16 Days of Activism Against Gender Violence came out of the Global Campaign for Women’s Human Rights. In June 1991, the Centre for Women’s Global Leadership (CWGL) with participants of the first Women’s Global Institute on Women, Violence and Human Rights, a forum involving 23 women from 20 countries called for a global campaign of 16 Days of Activism Against Gender Violence. The campaign would highlight the connections between women, violence, and human rights from 25 November to 10 December 1991. The time period encompassed four significant dates: 25 November, the International Day Against Violence Against Women; 1 December, World AIDS Day; 6 December, the anniversary of the Montreal Massacre, when 14 women engineering students were gunned down for being feminists; and 10 December, Human Rights Day.
There are also many commemorative markers, schools, and streets in the Dominican Republic named after the sisters. Check out Alvarez’s book or the Hollywood movie. There is also an excellent entry in the Rejected Princesses book that has been mentioned in previous posts.