Historical Context- Dominican Republic

  • Pesos with three Mirabal Sisters across the front; Minerva, Patria and Maria
    Pesos with three Mirabal Sisters across the front; Minerva, Patria and Maria

The 20th & 21st Century

1916-1924 — During the United States’ occupation of the Dominican Republic, Trujillo joins the Constabulary Guard and is trained by U.S. Marines.
1924 — Patria Mirabal is born on February 27.
1925 Dedé Mirabel is born on March 1.
 1926 — Minerva Mirabal is born on March 12.
1927 — Trujillo moves up the military ranks and is named commander in chief of the National Army.
1930 — Trujillo exercises his military power, and names himself a presidential candidate during a period of political turmoil in the Dominican Republic.

    • He creates the Servicio de Inteligencia Militar (SIM). The SIM is the secret police force which includes a widespread network of spies who work to censor the press and threaten the public against questioning Trujillo’s ideals. The SIM threatens, expels, tortures, and kills dissenters in orchestrated accidents or “suicides.”
    • Using intimidation and fear tactics, Trujillo wins the election and becomes the next president.
1935 — María Teresa Mirabal is born on October 15.
1938 Patria, Dedé, and Minerva attend the Immaculada Concepción where they begin to see that Trujillo is not the idol they once believed. 

    • The sisters join the fight in the movement against Trujillo.
1959 — The three sisters establish 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 is to oppose the Trujillo regime.
    • Their activities include distributing pamphlets that contain the names of the people killed by Trujillo, along with obtaining materials for constructing guns and bombs in case of an open revolt.
    • The sisters adopt the code name “Las Mariposas,” (The Butterflies).
    • Their husbands aid their efforts as well.
 1960 María Teresa, Minerva, Patria, and their husbands are jailed for being public figures in the opposition against Trujillo.

    • In November the three sisters are released from prison.
    • On November 25th, the sisters are stopped by Trujillo’s secret police on their drive home from visiting their husbands in prison. They are then beaten and strangled, but the secret police try to frame it as an accident by pushing their car off of a cliff. It is soon discovered that the sisters had in fact been murdered.
 1961 — On May 30th, Rafael Trujillo is ambushed while traveling home in his car and gunned down by seven assassins, some of whom are members of his own armed forces.
1965 — With the help of the U. S government, the Dominican Republic adopts a democratic government. For their efforts, the woman known as “Las Mariposas” become symbols of feminism and human rights worldwide. Without their influence, the Dominican Republic may not have seen liberation.
 2014 — The last of the Mirabal sisters, Dedé, dies on February 1, 2014.

November 25th is now the International Day for the elimination of the violence against women.

1930-1961 — Summary of Trujillo’s dictatorship

    • Trujillo only places his own personnel in office to maintain his power. Under Trujillo, quality of life improves for the average Dominican. Poverty persists, but the economy expands.
    • Foreign debt disappears, the currency remains stable, and the middle class expands.
    • Public works projects enhance the road systems and improve port facilities. Airports and public buildings multiply. The public education system becomes stronger, with decreased illiteracy.
    • Trujillo maintains control over the officer corps through fear, patronage, and the frequent rotation of assignments. This inhibits the development of strong personal followings.
    • Trujillo believes women are inferior to him and that he is entitled to any woman he desires. He often threatens or manipulates girls to get what he wants.
    • Throughout his regime, Trujillo is ultimately responsible for the deaths of over 50,000 people.

In the Time of the Butterflies Homepage

Madison Kinsey & Todd Morton, 2018

Revised and expanded by Lillian Goldman Muller, Olivia Bowman, Jenny Evans & Jordan Tauber, 2019

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