The Incredible Mirabal Sisters of the Dominican Republic

November 25th is the International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women – historically the date is based on the 1960 assassination of  the Incredible Mirabal Sisters of the Dominican Republic, political activists in the Dominican Republic.  These Dominican women fought tirelessly against the political 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 – Patria, María Argentina Minerva and Antonia María Teresa, remained resilient and continued their mission to restore democracy in their country, a battle that ultimately cost these brave, powerful and feminist women their lives.

Mirabal Sisters, Dominican Republic HeroinesThese much revered ladies are well known here in the DR.  They gave their lives to bring democracy and freedom to their country. School children grow up learning about their sacrifice, and their code name “Las Mariposas” (the butterflies) is a well known symbol around the country.  The Mariposa DR Foundation works to end generational poverty and is founded by members of the Mirabal family and others who work to promote education for girls.  Dominican Republic Properties supports this charity monthly.

To learn more about the sisters, read below, or check out the book and/or movie of the same name: In the Time of the Butterflies” by Julia Alvarez (a founder of the Mariposa DR Foundation).  The movie features Salma Hayek and Mark Anthony.  For another interesting view, you can visit the Mirabal Museum.  Founded by the remaining sister Dede Mirabal, The Mirabal Museo, located on the outskirts of Salcedo, is the second home of the Mirabal family.  The museum displays the family’s personal effects. Alongside Patria’s teacup collection and María Teresa’s embroidery, however, are the artifacts of the sisters’ murder: the shoes, handbags, and papers, as well as the long braid of hair which Dedé cut from María Teresa’s head in the morgue. The juxtaposition of the mundane and the tragic in this museum is very powerful.


Mirabal Sisters, Dominican Republic Heroines

MINERVA MIRABAL: The first sister to join the resistance

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 hermanasBélgica Adela “Dedé” Mirabal, earning college degrees.  Sister Minerva was the first of her sisters to participate in the underground anti-Trujillo movement, she wouldn’t be alone long. The three of them 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.

Dominican Republic heroines the Mirabal SistersHundreds 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.

 Sadly, their freedom wouldn’t last long. During a rainy night in 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 a Trujillo henchman, who used a club to beat the sisters and their driver to death. The vehical 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. At their time of death, Patria was 36, Minerva was 34 and Maria Teresa was 24.
Mirabal Sisters, Dominican Republic Heroines



Since their death, the three Mirabal sisters have been survived by their hermanaBelgica 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.

The Mirabal sisters are considered national martyrs in the Dominican Republic, with currency and stamps baring their faces.  Still, the Mirabals’ legacy extends beyond the Dominican Republic and Latin America. In 1999, the United Nations General Assembly designated Nov. 25, the anniversary of the Mirabal sisters’ death, as the annual date of the International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women. The day both celebrates the sisters and marks the start of a 16-day global activism period against gender violence, ending on Dec. 10, International Human Rights Day. The Incredible Mirabal Sisters of the Dominican Republic.
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