The four Mirabel sisters were born into a family of farmers in the 1920s and 30s in the Dominican Republic. All four girls were all well-educated, an exception for the time, and three of the four received college degrees.
The sisters grew alarmed at events they were witnessing in their country under the shadow rule of Rafael Trujillo. Minerva, the third sister, was personally targeted by the dictator, allegedly for refusing his sexual advances. On several occasions Trujillo gave orders for Minerva’s arrest and harassment. She was barred from attending her 2nd year law school classes until she publicly praised the dictator and upon graduation she was denied a license to practice law. Their father was arrested and thrown into jail and the family’s finances ruined. Patria, the oldest Mirabel, witnessed a brutal massacre by Trujillo’s men while on a religious retreat, and joined her sister’s active resistance against the regime. Youngest sister Maria Teresa joined her older sisters in their resistance efforts.
Together the sisters led The Movement of the Fourteenth of June. They distributed pamphlets, gathered weapons, and even made makeshift bombs out of firecrackers around Minerva’s kitchen table.
The sisters became known by Minerva’s underground code name: Las Mariposas.
After an assassination plot against Trujillo became known, Las Mariposas were thrown into jail. However, due to pressure from the Catholic Church, the trio were spared torture and released after a short time. Their husbands, who joined the women in their political resistance, remained jailed.
On November 25, 1960, Patria, Minerva, and Maria Teresa, on their way either to or from visiting their husbands in jail, were ambushed by Trujillo’s secret police. The sisters, along with their driver, were dragged out of their jeep, separated, strangled and beaten with clubs. Their bodies were put back into their car which was pushed over a cliff.
Patria was 36, Minerva, 34 and Maria Teresa, 24.
In death, the sisters proved iconic, becoming “symbols of both popular and feminist resistance.” Rather than ending his problems, murdering Las Mariposas contributed to the dictator’s own demise. In 1961 Trujillo was assassinated by military leaders.
The fourth Mirabel sister, Dede, who was not an active part of the Mirabel resistance efforts, raised the six children her sisters left behind. She kept her sisters’contributions to the country’s history alive until her death in 2014.
In 1984, the United Nations named Nov. 25 the “Day of Non-Violence Against Women” in honor of The Butterflies.
In 1994, Dominican author, poet and essayist Julia Alvarez published In the Time of the Butterflies, a fictionalized account of Las Mariposas.
Of the Mirabel sisters Alvarez has said the three are “a reminder that we [Latinas] have our revolutionary heroines, our Che Guevaras, too.”
Las Mariposas: Badass resisters.
Read more about Las Mariposas here.
Happy Women’s History Month!