History of International Women's Day: Assasination of the Mirabel Sisters of the Dominican Republic

Publication Date: 
November 25, 2010
The Mirabal Sisters

On December 17, 1999, the United Nations General Assembly designated November 25 (the anniversary of the day of the murder of the Mirabal sisters) as the annual date for the International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women in commemoration of the sisters.

This day also marks the beginning of the 16 Days of Activism against Gender Violence. The end of the 16 Days is December 10, International Human Rights Day.

<--break->Patria Mercedes Mirabal (February 27, 1924 - November 25, 1960), Maria Argentina Minerva Mirabal (March 12, 1926 - November 25, 1960) and Antonia María Teresa Mirabal (October 15, 1935 - November 25, 1960) — were natives of the Dominican Republic who fervently opposed the dictatorship of Rafael Leonidas Trujillo. A fourth sister, Bélgica Adela "Dedé" Mirabal-Reyes was not assassinated the day her sisters were. As of 2007, she currently lives in Salcedo, Dominican Republic. She precedes in the sisters'natal house and works to preserve her sisters'memory through the "Museo Hermanas Mirabal" which is also located in Salcedos de Macoris and was home to the girls for the final ten months of their lives). 

The Mirabal sisters grew up in an upper class, well-cultured environment. All became married, family women. The father of the Mirabal sisters was a successful businessman. When Trujillo came to power, their family lost almost all of their fortune. They believed that Trujillo would send their country into economic chaos. Minerva became particularly passionate about ending the dictatorship of Trujillo after talking extensively with an uncle of hers. Influenced by her uncle, Minerva became more involved in the anti-Trujillo movement. Minerva studied law and became a lawyer, but because she did not allow Trujillo romantic advancements he ordered that she was not to receive her title. Her sisters followed suit, and they eventually formed a group of opponents to the Trujillo regime, known as the Movement of the Fourteenth of June. Inside that group, they were known as "The Butterflies" (Las Mariposas in Spanish). They are known as Las Mariposas because that was the underground name that Minerva was recognized as in the political dealings. Two of the sisters were incarcerated and tortured on several occasions. Three of the sisters' husbands were incarcerated at La Victoria Penitentiary in Santo Domingo. 

Despite these setbacks, they persisted fighting to try to end Trujillo's dictatorship. After the sisters' numerous imprisonments, Trujillo decided to get rid of the sisters. On November 25, 1960, he sent men to intercept the three women after the women visited their husbands in prison. The unarmed sisters were led into a sugarcane field, then beaten and strangled to death. Their car was later thrown off of a mountain known as La Cumbre, between the cities of Santiago  and Puerto Plata.

Trujillo believed at the time that he had removed a significant problem. Having the three sisters killed backfired, however: the deaths of the Mirabal sisters caused a general public outrage in their native country. The resultant publicity of the deaths caused the Dominican public to become more interested in the Mirabal sisters and their cause. This public support and awareness contributed to Trujillo's assassination six months later in 1961.

The Mirabal sisters are buried in Ojo de Agua, an area outside the city of Salcedo in Salcedo Province. They are buried on the property of their second home, where they lived the last ten months of their lives. This home has also been turned into a museum in their honor and is open to the public. There is also a library, bookstore, and souvenir shop located on the property. The three sisters are buried together, and Manolo, Minerva's husband, is also buried with them.

The surviving sister, Dedé, lives near the museum. One of her sons, Jaime David Fernandez Mirabal, served as the vice-president during Leonel Fernandez's  first term as president of the republic between the years of 1996 and 2000. Minou Tavarez Mirabal, the eldest daughter of Minerva Mirabal has served as a Congresswoman since 1998 until 2006, and has recently been reelected for four additional years (until 2010).