The Mirabel Sisters


The “Butterflies” was the code name of three sisters, Patria, Maria Teresa and Minerva Mirabel from Salcedo, Dominican Republic. They fought for political freedom and were brutally assassinated on November 25th, 1960.

The Mirabel sisters became symbols of popular feminist resistance in Latin American countries. They had been part of the underground resistance movement against President Trujillo’s oppressive dictatorship.

The day of the Mirabel sisters assassinations was declared “International Day Against Violence Against Women” at the first Latin American and Caribbean Feminist Meeting in Columbia, November 25, 1981. It was under the dictatorship of Rafael Leonidas Trujillo that the Mirabel Sisters were ordered to be killed. They used the name “the Butterflies” as their underground name as they engaged themselves in the resistance to Trujillo’s regime. Although the sisters and their husbands had been arrested several times over the period of their involvement, they continued until Trujillo declared the sisters a threat. He ordered their brutal killings.

An arranged car trip to visit their husbands in jail by the regime proved to be not a car accident but the day of their brutal killings in a sugar cane field. They were handcuffed and clubbed to death. Rafael Leonidas Trujillo Molina (1891 to 1961) was elected president of Dominican public in the 1930’s and became a dictator for more than 30 years. His organized party, the Partido Dominicano, controlled the governing party as he became the general of the army.

Under Trujillo’s control the people were not allowed political freedom but they did live in an economically stable country. However, after three decades Trujillo began to lose the loyalty of his followers and felt the world wanted him dead. After the killings of the Mirabal sisters and an assassination attempt of the president of Venezuela, Romulo Betancourt, this created an anti-Trujillo movement that ended his dictatorship with his own assassination in 1961 by military leaders.

The Mirabel sisters were given recognition in Dominican textbooks as national martyrs. Referred to as the “Unforgettable Butterflies” (Inolvidables Mariposas), they have become a symbol against victimization of women. Commemorated in books, songs and poems. They also inspired the film In Time of the Butterflies.


Telgen, D., Kamp, J., Latinas! Women of Achievement, Visable Ink Press, 1996.

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