(CNN Spanish) – Every November 25, the length and breadth of the planet resound the voices denouncing violence against women. The choice of this date is not accidental. Behind are the Mirabal sisters, three women who stood up to the bloody dictatorship of Rafael Trujillo in the Dominican Republic and were brutally murdered. This is his story.
The mangled bodies of Minerva, María Teresa and Patria Mirabal were found on November 25, 1960 in a jeep at the bottom of a ravine in the northeast of the Dominican Republic.
A squad sent by “El Chivo” —one of the nicknames Trujillo was known by — had intercepted them hours earlier when they returned from seeing their husbands, who were in prison. They were brutally beaten, strangled and killed, as well as Rufino de la Cruz, the driver of the vehicle in which they were traveling.
By that time, the Mirabal sisters, known as “Las Mariposas”, were already a recognized voice of the anti-Trujillo resistance: they had years of strong activism against a regime that was characterized by systematically eliminating its opponents.
So much so that, according to the UN, shortly before his assassination, Trujillo, considered one of the bloodiest tyrants in the history of Latin America, had said he had two problems: the Church and the Mirabal sisters.
His ideas represented “a threat to the dictatorial regime of Rafael Leónidas Trujillo Molina, who had been in power for 30 years and did not tolerate dissident thinking,” explains lawyer and political scientist Geovanny Vicente Romero. “Much less was the political participation of those people tolerated that the social restrictions and the time itself did not see with good eyes that they ‘wear pants’, literally speaking: the Dominican woman, who as in other countries, was a victim of the objectification that fostered the prevailing system and they were relegated to household duties, unpaid work, “he says.
Minerva, the middle sister, was the one who stood out the most of the three. From a young age, “The boss”, another of Trujillo’s various nicknames, laid eyes on her. According to a review by the National Autonomous University of Mexico, the Mirabal family, originally from a town called Ojo de Agua, was invited to a reception by the dictator in 1949. There Trujillo noticed Minerva and tried an approach, but without success.
“In addition to snubbing him,” explains UNAM, the young woman demanded that he end the judicial harassment against one of the founders of the Popular Socialist Party, Pericles Franco, a friend of hers who had been sent to prison on more than one occasion.
Trujillo had the family closely watched and ordered the arrest of his father, who was imprisoned on several occasions in the following years. Minerva was also behind bars.
In 1954, the young woman met who a year later would be her husband: Manolo Tavares. This law student and opponent of the Trujillo dictatorship was the first president of the Agrupación 14 de Junio, a movement against the regime in which the sisters played a prominent role. Tavares, like many other members, ended up in jail.
Patria and María Teresa, the youngest of the three, also played a leading role in the resistance against the dictatorship. And for that very reason they were killed. “The Mirabal sisters were brutally murdered for being women and activists. His only crime was having fought for his rights against the Dominican dictator Rafael Leónidas Trujillo ”, says UNESCO.
His murder, far from silencing dissenting voices, increased pressure against the Trujillo regime. Less than a year later, on May 30, 1961, a group of dissidents ambushed him and he was assassinated.
A fourth sister, who had not been so actively involved in the struggle, Belgium Adela (Dedé), survived to honor her memory.
In 1999, the UN General Assembly proclaimed November 25 as the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women.
“If they kill me, I will take my arms out of the grave and I will be stronger” is one of the phrases attributed to Minerva Mirabal. More than half a century later, her story continues to inspire generations of people who are fighting to end violence against women.