Las Hermanas Mirabal Community School Dedication October 2022
On June 14, 2022, the Yonkers Board of Education adopted a resolution to rename School 13, Las Hermanas Mirabal Community School to honor the significant and far-reaching contributions of the Mirabal Sisters. The Board of Education has a long history of naming and renaming schools after individuals who are outstanding role models to inspire our students. The Mirabal Sisters championed human rights for every individual. They underscored the importance of speaking up against repression and violence against women.
Patria, Minerva, and María Teresa Mirabal—three sisters from a middle-class family, all married with children—may not have seemed the most likely revolutionaries. However, living under the Dominican Republic’s brutal dictator Rafael Trujillo in the late 1950s, the Mirabal sisters risked their lives to work in the resistance. During Trujillo’s 31 years in power, the regime violently repressed civil liberties and dissent. The Mirabal sisters helped to organize and grow the underground movement challenging the regime, and were repeatedly arrested for their activities.
As middle-class women, wives and mothers, the Mirabal sisters were not obvious revolutionaries. Patria, Minerva and María Teresa, along with their sister Ded , grew up in the town of Ojo de Agua, Salcedo Province, where their parents owned and operated a successful farm, along with a coffee mill and general store. After attending the Colegio Inmaculada Concepci n, a Catholic boarding school in the city of La Vega, Minerva headed to college in Santo Domingo, the capital, to study law. At the University Minerva met fellow activist Manolo Tav rez Justo, and they married in 1955. Minerva became increasingly aware of the injustices that existed in the Dominican Republic during the Dictator Rafael Trujillo era.
Known as “El Jefe” (“the Boss”) or “el Chivo” (“the Goat”), Trujillo was the commander in chief of the army before he seized power in 1930. The prosperity, modernization and stability his regime brought to the country came at a high price: Trujillo took over the country’s economy, including production of such goods as salt, meat, tobacco and rice, and channeled the profits to his own family and supporters. Civil and political liberties disappeared, and only one political party, the Dominican Party, was allowed to exist.
Trujillo’s fearsome secret police rooted out dissenters, using tactics of intimidation, imprisonment, torture, kidnapping, rape of women, and murder. His regime would ultimately be responsible for tens of thousands of deaths, including the massacre of an estimated 20,000 Haitians living near the border.
Resistance was still building against Trujillo’s regime, both among exiled groups of Dominicans abroad, and at home. The majority of those involved were men, but many women also joined the movement, led by the Mirabal sisters. By the end of 1949, Minerva had been arrested for suspected opposition activities; she also reportedly angered Trujillo by rejecting his sexual advances.
Minerva and her husband Manolo became resistance leaders. They were soon joined by Patria and her husband Pedro Gonz lez and Mar a Teresa and her husband Leandro Guzm n. In early 1960, they helped form the 14th of June Movement, named for the date of a failed insurrection against Trujillo led by a group of exiled Dominicans with the support of the Cuban government the previous year.
The assassinations of the three Mirabal sisters sparked a public outrage, which in part led to the assassination in 1961 of Rafael Trujillo by former allies. The Mirabal sisters became symbols of the democratic and feminist resistance. They became known as ‘Las Mariposas’ which translates to ‘The Butterflies’ and instantly became martyrs to the revolutionary cause, helping solidify resistance to Trujillo both at home and abroad.
The fame of the Mirabal sisters, fueled by Julia Alvarez’s historical novel In the Time of the Butterflies (1994), spread worldwide. In 1999, the United Nations designated November 25, the anniversary of their deaths, as the International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women. Ded Mirabal also ensured her sisters’ legacy, managing a museum out of their childhood home, the Casa Museo Hermanas Mirabal.