The Mirabal Sisters: The three “butterflies” who were killed because of their activities against the dictatorship of Rafael Trujillo

The Mirabal sisters

Ever since their assassinations, the Mirabal Sisters have become the “symbols of popular and feminist resistance.” The Dominican sisters got involved in clandestine activities against the dictatorship of Rafael Trujillo (The Chief). The three of them, Patria Mercedes Mirabal Reyes, María Argentina Minerva Mirabal Reyes, and Antonia María Teresa Mirabal Reyes, were assassinated on the 25t November 1960.

These three sisters, also known as “Las Mariposas” (“The Butterflies”), had another sister, Dede Mirabal. They were born in a family of farmers and grew up in a middle-class environment, raised by their parents. They were all bright women who fairly took their piece of education at a time when it wasn’t affordable for women. Except for Dede, the other three (the assassinated) earned college degrees. She remained at home, taking care of the household.

Rafael Trujillo

The oldest sister, Patria, was born in 1924. When she was 14, her parents sent her to a Catholic boarding school, Colegio Inmaculada Concepción in La Vega. Three years later, she left the school to marry a farmer, Pedro Gonzales, who later aided and supported her in challenging the Trujillo regime. Patria 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.” – “Mirabal Sisters History,” “Mirabal Sisters Cultural and Community Center,” 7th March 2016.

Minerva was the third daughter of the Reyes, born in 1926. When she was twelve, she went to the Colegio Inmaculada Concepción with her sister Patria. After the graduation, Minerva got enrolled at the University of Santo Domingo where she studied law. In 1949, she was denied her license to practice law because she had declined the romantic advances of The Chief. When President Trujillo asked Minerva, “What if I send my subjects to conquer you?”, she responded, “And what if I conquer your subjects?”


The old house of the Mirabal family and current residence of Dede Mirabal  Photo credit


María Teresa Mirabal  Photo credit

She met her husband, Manuel Tavarez Justo, at university and later he supported and helped her in the fight against the regime. Minerva was the most active and radical among her sisters, and she was the first one opposing Trujillo. Her sisters joined her after they’ve witnessed his tyranny and the number of deaths caused by his regime.

On multiple occasions, Trujillo gave orders for the arrest and harassment of Minerva. She said, “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 arms crossed.” – “Mirabal Sisters History,” “Mirabal Sisters Cultural and Community Center,” 7th March 2016.

María Teresa was the youngest sister, born in 1935. Just like her sisters, she also attended the Colegio Inmaculada Concepción and graduated from the Liceo de San Francisco de Macorís in 1954. Later, Maria Teresa enrolled at the University of Santo Domingo where she studied mathematics. When she completed her education, the youngest butterfly married Leandro Guzman. Maria Teresa always admired her sister Minerva and started to share her political comportment passionately.


The house where the Mirabal sisters lived in for the last ten months of their lives. Now a museum. Salcedo, Dominican Republic Photo credit

She also didn’t manage to escape Trujillo’s direct orders for her arrest and harassment. She once said, “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.” – “Mirabal Sisters History,” “Mirabal Sisters Cultural and Community Center,” 7th March 2016.

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