On November 25, 1960 Las Mariposas wings were clipped…
They were three of the four Mirabal sisters, of the Dominican Republic. It was the Era of Trujillo, a time when the self-proclaimed ‘El Jefe’ was in power of the country. Many were under his spell. The few that weren’t, ‘the politicos’, were imprisoned or murdered. For thirty one years Rafael Leonidas Trujillo put fear into the country.
There were those who laid their lives on the line to end his regime. Minerva Mirabal was just a young girl when she first heard whispers of the revolution that was to come. As she grew and attended law school, perhaps the only womyn at that time, she became involved in the underground revolution to overthrow the evil dictator. Her baby sister, Maria Teresa, ‘Mate’ as they called her, soon followed.
Nicknamed ‘Las Mariposas’, or ‘The Butterflies’, the Mirabal sisters were imprisoned and tortured. Though the light faded from their eyes, they never lost the spark that ignited the revolution. On November 25, 1960 the sisters Minerva, Mate, and Patria Mercedes, along with their driver Ruffino, were on their way home from visiting the sister’s husbands in a prison many miles away. Their Jeep was ambushed by Trujillo’s henchmen.
The Butterflies were taken to a field. They were clubbed to death, then placed back into the Jeep. The murderers then put the car on and shoved it over a cliff. The story was a car accident, though the people of the Dominican Republic knew the truth. Trujillo was assassinated six months after the deaths of the Butterflies.
In many Latin America countries, the date of their deaths has become known as the International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women.
The surviving sister Dede Mirabal has kept her sister’s spirits alive in their native Dominican Republic by turning their childhood home into the Mirabal Musuem. The Butterflies wings may have been clipped, but they fly in the hearts of all womyn who have the courage to face brutality head on.
Dominican/American author Julia Alvarez fled with her family to the States three months before the murders. Many years later Alvarez composed a novel told in the voices of the four sisters, from the time of their youth to the murders. It’s a tale of strength and honor, one in which the reader envisions themselves standing beside the Mirabal sisters through the years.
After the murders, Dede Mirabal and her mother took in the orphaned children and raised them. The children themselves became very important political members of the Dominican Republic.
It’s been forty years since that tragic day. The world lost more than just three mothers. We lost a light that has not been seen in the eye’s of womyn since. But we gained so much more. Their deaths brought about the end of the Trujillo Regime.
And gave many womyn the strength to stretch their wings.
For Patria and Minerva and Mate, and Ruffino. You live on in the hearts of your Latina daughters all over the world.