In 1981, November 25th was designated as the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women. The date was chosen to commemorate the death of three dominican women who fought against the bloody dictatorship of Rafael Trujillo: the Mirabal sisters.
Minerva, Patria and Maria Teresa Mirabal were three of four sisters in a well-off family living in Salcedo. Minerva, the third daughter, petitioned the dictator to be allowed to study law in Santo Domingo, as was customary during the Regime. After refusing several times, he finally allowed her to enroll, only to withhold her professional license after graduation, preventing her from exercising her profession. While in university, Minerva got acquainted with anti-Trujillo activists and the man who would become her future husband.
Together, and later with the help of her sisters Patria and Maria Teresa, Minerva and her husband joined the resistance against the Regime. The sisters and their husbands were incarcerated in 1960; the sisters were freed after several months but their husbands remained in prison. Though they were moved to prison in a different town, the sisters drove to visit them every week–until November 25th, 1960, when, as they returned home from their visit, they were stopped by the dictator’s henchmen and beaten to death. Their bodies were placed back in their Jeep in order to make their assassination look like an accident.
Word of the assassination spread, however, and their death was the final push dominicans needed to depose of the tyrant, who was killed in march of 1961. The Mirabal sisters’ memory lives on in the Dominican Republic as well as the countless activists who have since then joined in the fight against violence towards women.
Read more about the Mirabal sisters in the Mirabal Sisters Cultural and Community Center website and in this 1997 New York Times article.
The Mirabals’ story was depicted in “In The Time of the Butterflies” by Julia Alvarez, which is also a motion picture starring Salma Hayek and Marc Anthony, and in the awesome “Rejected Pricesses” by Jason Porath.
Another internationally acclaimed novel about the Trujillo regime is “The Feast of the Goat” by Mario Vargas Llosa.
For more information about November 25th, please visit the Violence Against Women page of the UNESCO website.