Las Mariposas: The Women We Need Today

Sydney A. Brobbey

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In observance of Women’s History Month, it is of grand importance that society recognizes three integral women who paved the way for Dominican Republican women to enter politics: Patria Mirabal, Minerva Mirabal, and Maria Teresa Mirabal, otherwise known as Las Mariposas(the butterflies).

These three women were sisters who lived under the brutal dictatorship of Rafael Trujillo in the Dominican Republic, and as the feminists and political activists they were, they worked towards making the Dominican Republic a safe place for both women and men to voice their opinions about the unbearable situations they endured.

Prior to understanding the motives of the sisters, it is important to understand the political environment they lived in. Under the dictatorship of Rafael Trujillo, between the years of 1930 and 1952, many citizens were assassinated for any foul speech or action made against Trujillo, and he would order his soldiers to commit the dirty crimes that his hands could not. Trujillo was deemed a god to the Dominican Republic: he virtually eradicated illiteracy and increased living wages for the citizens. However, he made it a point to require each citizen to have a picture of him in their households. When they were found not complying with Trujillo’s order, they were subject to brutal treatment. Many of the people who lived under the rule of Rafael Trujillo were forced to succumb to Trujillo’s grimy manners, but they did not know how to speak out against him without being harmed. However, three fearless women gathered the courage to rebel against Trujillo’s regime, and these women were the Mirabals.

Minerva Mirabal, the most notorious out of her sisters, aspired to become a lawyer so that she could advocate for human rights– more specifically, women’s rights. Women were virtually prohibited from practicing in any field of work, and she made it her purpose to change that under Trujillo’s regime. As she grew, Rafael Trujillo became attracted to her and desired to have relations with her, but she declined. She believed that the Trujillo regime was horribly corrupt and unjust, and she sought to fight against that with her law degree. She attended the University of Santo Domingo to receive her law degree. Here, she met her husband, and together, underground, they fought to overthrow Trujillo’s regime. Although she expected to be able to receive her license to practice law upon graduation, because she had declined Trujillo’s advances, she was denied the opportunity to receive her license to practice. As a result, her efforts, along with her husband’s, were stronger to overthrow Trujillo’s corrupt dictatorship.

Maria Teresa and Patria Mirabal, at first, were not as courageous to rebel against the Trujillo regime, but they joined Minerva Mirabal in an effort to achieve their goal. As women in their time, they were criticized for rebelling against the social norm of women staying silent and not speaking up against violence, but they did not allow the criticism to affect them: they were fighting for justice.

Each sister has a notable quote that she made before her fight came to an end. Primarily, Patria is known to have said, “We cannot allow our children to grow up in this corrupt and tyrannical regime. We have to fight against it, and I am willing to give up everything, even my life if necessary.” Secondly, Minerva: “It is a source of happiness to do whatever can be done for our country that suffers so many anguishes. It is sad to stay with one’s arms crossed.” Lastly, Maria Teresa: “Perhaps what we have most near is death, but that idea does not frighten me. We shall continue to fight for that which is just.

On November 25,1960, their notable fight to overthrow the Trujillo regime came to an end when Rafael Trujillo had them assassinated on a winding road visit from seeing their husbands in jail(they were imprisoned for trying to overthrow the government as well). Each sister died a brutal death, but their fight was one of recognition. Today, as a result of the United Nations, November 25 is observed as International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women because of what they, and many other women, endured.