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


Minerva was influenced by her uncle when she got involved in the political movement against Trujillo, the dictator who ruled the Dominican Republic from 1930 until his assassination in May 1961. Maria Teresa was the first to join her sister in her activities, and later Patria also got involved, after witnessing a massacre by some of Trujillo’s men while on a religious retreat. Their sister Dede didn’t join them, not only because she didn’t share their comportment, but mostly because of her husband, Jaimito, who was against the idea.

So the three sisters established the group known as the “Movement of the Fourteenth of June,” named after the date of the massacre which Patria witnessed. The primary goal of the group was to oppose the Trujillo regime.


Chassis of the Jeep in which the Sisters Mirabal traveled, next to Rufino of the Cross in Ojo de Agua, Salcedo  Photo credit

Their activities included distributing pamphlets which contained the names of the people killed by Trujillo and also obtaining materials for constructing guns and bombs in case of an open revolt. The sisters adopted the name “Las Mariposas,” which was Minerva’s underground name, and that’s how they called themselves.

Although they were arrested, Maria Teresa and Minerva weren’t tortured, thanks to the growing international opposition to Trujillo and his regime. All three sisters’ husbands who were also part of the group  “Movement of the Fourteenth of June” were incarcerated at La Victoria Penitentiary in Santo Domingo. When Trujillo’s actions got condemned by the Organization of American States in 1960, Maria Teresa and Minerva were released, but their husbands remained in jail.


Mirabal mausoleum Photo credit

So, on the 25th of November 1960, the butterflies went to the prison to visit their husbands along with their driver, Rufino de la Cruz. After the visit, on their way home, they were stopped by henchmen sent by Trujillo. Patria, Minerva, Maria Teresa, and de la Cruz were clubbed to death. Their bodies were gathered back in their Jeep, which was run off the mountain road so that their deaths would look like an accident.

Six months later, when Trujilloassassinatedsined, Genral Pupo Roman finally admited that the sisters were killed and pointed to the people who did it. They were all member of Trujillo’s secret police force, Emilio Estrada Malleta, Alfonso Cruz Valeria, Ramon Emilio Rojas, Ciriaco de la Rosa, and The Chief’s right-hand man, Victor Alicinio Peña Rivera.

Dede Maribal, sister of the murdered Mirabal sisters. Founder and director of the Mirabal Museum Photo credit


Dede Mirabal conversing with journalists at the Mirabal Museum  Photo credit

In 1999, the United Nations General Assembly designated 25th November as the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women, in honour of the sisters.

Read another story from us: The Trung sisters: The national heroines of Vietnam, who successfully repelled a Chinese invasion for three years

On a remembrance website for the butterflies, “Learn to Question”, the author writes, “No matter how many times Trujillo jailed them, no matter how much of their property and possessions he seized, Minerva, Patria and María Teresa refused to give up on their mission to restore democracy and civil liberties to the island nation.”