because the woman's place is wherever the woman is...

Friday, June 15, 2012

The Mirabal Sisters

In the 1950's, nobody in the Dominican Republic dared deny Rafael Trujillo (the country's dictator) anything. Except Minerva Mirabal who told him to take a hike when the notorious womanizer showed his "interest" in the beautiful and intelligent young woman thirty-five years his junior. His continued advances put great pressure on Mirabal's family and, as a further attempt to force her hand, when she became a lawyer, he saw to it that she wouldn't be able to get a license to practice her profession.

Mirabal's in-your-face response? She joined the movement to overthrow Trujillo, who had been in power for nearly thirty years -- most of it by military might and the moral will to kill as many as 50,000 people to maintain his position. She was hardly alone in hating him. Even two of her sisters, Patria and Maria Teresa, stood with her against "El Jefe" ("The Chief").

Despite the fact that the sisters eventually married and had children, Minerva and Maria Teresa went to prison and were tortured several times. In fact, because of the sisters' aggressive political activism, their families -- once quite wealthy -- lost everything: land, houses, and property. Nevertheless, they and their husbands helped to form the 14th of June Movement, named for the 1959 organized uprising against the Trujillo regime. And because Minerva's underground name was "Mariposa" (meaning "Butterfly") the revolutionary sisters became known affectionately and with great respect as "La Mariposas" and seen as the soul of the resistance.

When popular opinion and pressure from the Organization of American States and even the Catholic Church brought increased pressure on Trujillo to step down, "El Jefe" began to imagine that, if he could just get rid of "La Mariposas," his problems would go away. So, on a rainy night on November 25, 1960, as the Mirabal sisters returned from visiting their husbands in prison, they were stopped, taken into a sugar cane field by a team of Trujillo's most trusted henchmen and clubbed and strangled to death. They were thirty-six (Patria), thirty-four (Minerva) and twenty-four (Maria Teresa) at the time. Six months later, Trujillo was ambushed and shot to death on a public road just outside the capital. His body was riddled with bullets and had to be buried in Europe to keep it safe. In-your-face women follow their enemies to the grave.


  1. Another extraordinary woman: Rafaela Herrera from Nicaragua, defender of the Immaculate Conception Fortress on the San Juan River. She defeated the British during this battle. Among the officers in the British force there was a young officer named Horatio Nelson. Yes, you're right. The same guy on Trafalgar Square.

  2. Thank you, Ralph. I'm well into my second list of 366 in-your-face women and Rafaela Herrera definitely belongs on the list. There is good information readily available about her, which is not always the case, so I'm looking forward to reading more about her.