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En el Tiempo de las Mariposas

Dominican Republic, Trujillo & The Mirabel Sisters

Jennifer Ledford

on 24 April 2012

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Transcript of En el Tiempo de las Mariposas

En el Tiempo de las Mariposas
the dominican republic
1492 - Christopher Columbus visits the island, which he names Hispaniola, or "Little Spain".
1496 - Spaniards set up first Spanish colony in Western hemisphere at Santo Domingo, which subsequently serves as capital of all Spanish colonies in America.
1697 - Treaty of Ryswick gives western part of Hispaniola Island (Haiti) to France and eastern part (Santo Domingo - the present Dominican Republic) to Spain.
1795 - Spain cedes its portion of Hispaniola Island to France.
1808 - Spain retakes Santo Domingo following revolt by Spanish Creoles.
1821 - Uprising against Spanish rules is followed by brief period of independence.
1822 - Haitian President Jean-Pierre Boyer marches his troops into Santo Domingo and annexes it.
1844 - Republic is born
Boyer overthrown; Santo Domingo declares its independence and becomes the Dominican Republic.
1861-63 - President Pedro Santana returns the Dominican Republic to Spanish rule.
1863-64 - Spain withdraws from, and annuls its annexation of, the Dominican Republic following a popular revolt.
1865 - The second Dominican Republic proclaimed.
1906 - Dominican Republic and US sign 50-year treaty according to which the US takes over the republic's customs department in return for buying its debts.
1916-24 - US forces occupy the Dominican Republic following internal disorder.
1924 - Constitutional government assumes control; US forces withdraw.
1930 - General Rafael Leonidas Trujillo Molina establishes personal dictatorship following the overthrow of President Horacio Vazquez. This begins the Dictatorship of Rafael Trujillo.
In 1916, when the U.S. occupied the island, the occupying force soon established a Dominican army to restore order. Seeing opportunity, Trujillo impressed the recruiters and was soon promoted to the rank of general.
1930 - A rebellion against President Horacio Vásquez broke out in Santiago, and the rebels marched toward Santo Domingo. Trujillo was ordered to subdue the rebellion, but they encountered no resistance.
Vásquez resigned and rebel leader Rafael Estrella was proclaimed as acting president.
Trujillo became the nominee of the newly-formed Dominican Party in the 1930 presidential election.
He won on May 16, officially registering 95% of the vote. A judge actually declared the election fraudulent, but was forced to flee the country. It later surfaced that Trujillo received thousands more votes than there were actual voters.
On August 16, the 38-year-old general
took office,
wearing a sash with the motto, "Dios y Trujillo" (God & Trujillo).
He immediately assumed dictatorial powers.
On August 16, 1931, the first anniversary of his inauguration, Trujillo made the Dominican Party the sole legal political party.
There was strong pressure on adult citizens to join the party. Party members were required to carry a membership card, the "palmita," and a person could be arrested for vagrancy without the card. Those who did not contribute, or join the party, did so at their own risk. Opponents of the regime were mysteriously killed.
There was considerable economic growth during Trujillo's long and iron-fisted regime, although a great deal of the wealth was taken by the dictator. He made the country debt-free in 1947, a proud achievement for Dominicans for decades to come.
This was accompanied by absolute repression and the copious use of murder, torture, and terrorist methods against the opposition. Moreover, Trujillo's megalomania was on display in his renaming after himself the capital city Santo Domingo to "Ciudad Trujillo"
Trujillo ruled the country
for 30 years.
The Parsley Massacre
In 1937 Trujillo in an event known as the Parsley Massacre ordered the Army to kill Haitians living on the Dominican side of the border.
The Army killed an estimated
17,000 to 35,000
Haitians over six days.
The soldiers interrogated anyone with dark skin, using
the perejil (parsley) to tell Haitians from Dominicans. The 'r' of perejil was of difficult pronunciation for Haitians.
As a result of the massacre, the Dominican Republic
agreed to pay Haiti
$750,000, later reduced to $525,000.
For a long time, the US supported the Trujillo government,
as did the Catholic Church and the Dominican elite.
This support persisted despite the assassinations of political opposition, the massacre of Haitians, and Trujillo's plots against other countries.
The US believed Trujillo was the lesser of two or more evils (communism).
The U.S. finally broke with Trujillo in 1960, after Trujillo's agents attempted to assassinate the Venezuelan president, Rómulo Betancourt.
Las Hermanas Mirabal
Patria Mirabal (February 27, 1924 - November 25, 1960),
"Dedé" Mirabal-Reyes (March 1, 1925 - February 1, 2014),
Minerva Mirabal (March 12, 1926 - November 25, 1960) and
María Teresa Mirabal (October 15, 1935 - November 25, 1960)
were citizens of the Dominican Republic who opposed the dictatorship of Rafael Trujillo.
For 30 years, dictator Rafael Trujillo ruled the Dominican Republic. An estimated 50,000 people died under his reign from 1930 to 1961.
It was in this setting
that four upper-class sisters,
the Mirabal sisters, joined
the resistance to
Trujillo's dictatorship.
For their dissent, the Mirabal sisters endured years of harassment and persecution.
The Mirabal family was a prosperous family from a town in Salcedo, D.R. called Ojo de Agua.
In 1923, Enrique Mirabal Fernandez married Mercedes Reyes Camilo. A year later their eldest daughter Patria was born.
Don Enrique was a farmer and merchant. He owned his own farm, shop, coffee mill, meat market, and rice factory. Doña Chea was also from a middle-class family in Ojo de Agua.
As is customary in Dominican society, the four Mirabal sisters were raised not only in their nuclear family, but in the extended family as well.
Patria was born in 1924 on the anniversary of the Dominican Republic's independence. For this reason she was given the name "Patria" which means "fatherland."
Patria had an affinity for painting and art. She was sent to Colegio Inmaculada Concepción, a Catholic boarding school in La Vega, at the age of fourteen, along with her sisters Dedé and Minerva.
At seventeen, Patria married Pedro Gonzalez, a farmer. They had four children.
For their part in the attempts to overthrow Trujillo, the ever-religious Patria and the anti-trujillista Pedro had their property and home seized by the government.
Nonetheless, Patria supported her sister Minerva in her anti-government efforts, and opposed Trujillo because she was concerned for the future of the country's children.
"We cannot allow our children to grow up in this corrupt and tyrannical regime, we have to fight against it, and I am willing to give up everything, including my life if necessary."
Patria Mercedes Mirabal
Minerva, born on March 12, 1926, showed signs of intelligence even at a young age. By the time she was seven years old, she could recite the verses of French poets.
She was sent to the Catholic secondary school Inmaculada Concepción at the age of twelve with her sisters Patria and Dedé. She graduated in 1946, having studied Letters and Philosophy.
She enjoyed writing and reading poetry, especially that of Juan Pablo Neruda. Like Patria, she also liked art, especially that of Pablo Picasso.
In December of 1949 she was taken to the capital and placed under house arrest with Doña Chea while Don Enrique was being held in Fortaleza Ozama.
She attended the University of Santo Domingo, where she met Manuel (Manolo) Tavarez Justo. The two married on November 20, 1955, and moved to Montecristi. They had two children.
Minerva's political influences included changes occurring in other Latin American countries - the Luperion Invasion and the revolution in Cuba. She admired the up and coming leftist revolutionary Fidel Castro, and would recite his famous words, "Condemn me, it does not matter; history will absolve me!"
"…...it is a source of happiness to do whatever can be done for our country that suffers so many anguishes, it is sad to stay with one's arms crossed…"
Minerva Argentina Mirabal
Maria Teresa
Maria Teresa, the youngest of the Mirabal sisters, was born on October 15, 1935. She attended Inmaculada Concepción after the rest of her sisters.
In 1954 she graduated from the Liceo de San Francisco de Macorís in Mathematics, and then went to the University of Santo Domingo to study math.
On February 14, 1958, she married the engineer Leandro Guzmán, and on February 17, 1959, gave birth to their daughter.
Maria Teresa followed and admired Minerva, and became involved in her sisters' political activities. On January 20, 1960 she was detained at a military base in Salcedo and freed the same day.
Two days later, on January 22, she and Minerva were arrested and taken to La Cuarenta, the infamous torture prison, and then transferred to La Victoria. They were freed on February 7, 1960.
On March 18, 1960, she and Minerva were once again taken to La Cuarenta, having been sentenced to five years for threatening the security of the state (this sentence was reduced to three years on appeal). The two sisters were freed on August 18, 1960.
"...perhaps what we have most near is death, but that idea does not frighten me, we shall continue to fight for that which is just."
Maria Teresa Mirabal
In 1938, the oldest three of the sisters — Patria, Dedé, and Minerva— were sent to Inmaculada Concepción, a Catholic secondary school in La Vega.
Minerva Mirabal was the first of the sisters to become involved in the underground movements to overthrow the government. She made friends at Inmaculada whose relatives had been arrested, tortured, and killed by Trujillo's men.
Even as a young girl, Minerva was very rebellious, and based her actions on her own judgements of right versus wrong. Minerva, a patriotic liberal, understood politics and aspired to study law.
In the 1940's, she met Pericles Franco Ornes, the founder of the Popular Socialist Party. He was a known anti-trujillista and had been jailed various times for his political activities.
Other influences on Minerva's growing anti-trujillo sentiments included leftist literature and the illegally intercepted radio stations from Cuba and Venezuela that objectively discussed the political situation in the Dominican Republic.
On October 12, 1949, Trujillo held a party in his mansion in San Cristóbal. It was to commemorate Columbus' discovery of the Americas and honor the people of the D.R.
The Mirabals' invitation was taken to them personally. The celebration was attended by Don Enrique Mirabal, Patria, Patria's husband Pedro Gonzalez, Minerva, Dedé, and Dedé's husband Jaime Fernandez. The outdoor party was soon interrupted by a storm. Amidst the chaos of the downpour, the Mirabals took the opportunity to make their exit.
Trujillo was angered by this "lack of respect" (nobody was supposed to leave a party of Trujillo's before El Jefe himself) and he had one of his men call a military post and order that the Mirabals' vehicle be stopped. It was too late, however; Don Enrique's party of six had already passed the post.
It was suggested that Enrique send a letter of apology to the dictator. Don Enrique obliged, but this didn't appease Trujillo. The next day, Don Enrique was jailed inSanto Domingo (Ciudad Trujillo) Minerva and Doña Chea were both arrested a day after Don Enrique.
They were held in the Hotel Nacional. Minerva was taken to the Fortaleza Ozama every day to be interrogated about her political activities while Doña Chea remained in the hotel.
The interrogations were conducted by two of Trujillo's men. Minerva was accused of being a communist and was told to write a letter of apology to Trujillo. She refused.
Some friends of Minerva's —were detained a few days later. Being a well-to-do family, the Mirabals had their connections and were soon released.
The Road to Resistance...
Their freedom was shortlived. Two years later, all three were detained again. The reason given for the arrest was that Enrique had failed to buy a book about Trujillo. The three prisoners were freed a few weeks later.
The constant fear and frequent arrests proved to be too much for the Mirabal sisters' aging father. Don Enrique became sick, and his health continued to deteriorate until his death on December 14, 1953.
Soon after, Minerva began attending the University of Santo Domingo. Trujillo ordered that she be barred from attending the university, due to her thesis paper in which she suported basic human rights and made suggestions for changes in the government. Minerva later returned to the university and graduated in 1957.
The 14th of June Movement
On June 14, 1959, troops from the Dominican Liberation Movement attempted to topple the dictatorship. They were halted by Trujillo's army and air force, but managed to plant a seed of rebellion in the Dominican people.
This was the inspiration for the name of the resistance: The 14th of June Movement. Manolo was the president of this group. A short time after the failed invasion, the Dominican Liberation Movement organized another conspiracy which continued in the 1960's. On January 10, 1960, they met on a farm to discuss the plans. Trujillo's regime apparently knew of this meeting because all who attended were arrested.
Trujillo had evidence of the resistance and proceeded to arrest all members. More than 100 members of the 14th of June Movement were arrested. The majority were taken to La Cuarenta - the torture prison. These arrests generated anti-government feelings. They were condemned by the Catholic Church.
Trujillo's regime was obviously facing increasing criticism, as people both inside and outside the Dominican Republic denounced the dictator's government. One of the more vocal Trujillo critics was Rómulo Betancourt-the president of Venezuela. Trujillo ordered two failed attempts to assasinate Betancourt.
This only served to increase international criticism. As the world entered this new decade, the Dominican youth had been overtaken by a desire for political change.
In 1960, the Organization of American States condemned the actions of the Dominican government and sent representatives to observe the situation in the Dominican Republic.
Trujillo was aware of the growing anti-regime sentiments and in order to stave off some of the criticism from the international community and the OAS, he freed all the women he had jailed. He later freed some men, but the husbands of the Mirabal sisters remained in jail.
There were quite a few factors that possibly led to the ever-arrogant and self-important Trujillo's decision to have the Mirabal sisters killed:
1. They posed a great threat to his regime, as they had become well-known and admired all over the island.
2. No matter what Trujillo did to them, the sisters refused to give up on their mission to restore democracy and civil liberties to the island nation.
3. The married Trujillo was known to have an inclination for romancing young girls and had his many mistresses housed in mansions scattered all over the island. At the 1949 celebration, he failed to seduce Minerva.
Whatever his reasoning, Trujillo had to be selective in choosing the men willing to commit such a gruesome crime.
The chosen men were Victor Alicinio Peña Rivera - Trujillo's right-hand man - and some members of his secret police force.
November 25, 1960
On November 25, 1960, three of the four Mirabal sisters traveled to visit Patria and Minerva's jailed husbands at La Cuarenta.
When they left the jail, they drove through the rain between the two cities. Their Jeep was stopped suddenly by Trujillo's secret police.
The following is an account of the murders as remembered by one of Trujillo's henchmen:
“After stopping them, we led them to a spot near the chasm where I ordered Rojas to pick up some sticks and take one of the girls, he obeyed the order and took one of them, the one with the long braids [Maria Teresa]."
"Alfonso Cruz chose the tallest one [Minerva] and Malleta [took] the driver, Rufino de la Cruz."
"I ordered each one to go to a sugar cane grove on the edge of the road, each one separated so that the victims wouldn't sense the execution of one another."
"I ordered Perez Terrero to stay and see if anyone was coming who could find out about the situation."
"That's the truth of the situation. I don't want to deceive justice or the state. I tried to prevent the disaster, but I couldn't, because if I had, he [Trujillo] would have killed us all.”
The Mirabal sisters and Rufino de la Cruz were clubbed to death alongside a mountain road. Patria was 36, Minerva was 34, and Maria Teresa was 24.
This horrific act did have consequences for Trujillo. Although the Jeep was pushed over a cliff to make it seem like an accident, everyone knew Trujillo had ordered the killing.
The murder of three defenseless women was the last straw for the Dominican people. This was the beginning of the end of the Trujillo regime.
The End of Trujillo
The Betancourt incident inflamed world opinion against Trujillo. Outraged OAS members voted unanimously to sever diplomatic relations with Trujillo's government and impose economic sanctions on the Dominican Republic.
The brutal murder on November 25, 1960 of the three Mirabal sisters further increased discontent against his repressive rule. The relationship with the dictator had become an embarrassment to the United States and became fractured after the Betancourt incident.
On the night of Tuesday,
May 30, 1961, Trujillo was shot & killed in Santo Domingo.
He was the victim of an ambush plotted by several Dominicans that was rumored to have been supported by the U.S. CIA.
CIA officials claimed that the agency had "no active part" in the assassination and only a "faint connection" with the groups that planned the killing. However, an internal CIA memo states that there was "quite extensive Agency involvement with the plotters." G. Pope Atkins writes that "the CIA arranged, planned and executed the assassination."
Trujillo's family tried to flee with his body, but they were forced to return to the D.R.
His funeral was that of a statesman with the long procession ending in his hometown of San Cristóbal, where his body was first buried.
Later, the people of the D.R. voted for the Trujillo family to leave the country. Trujillo's son, Ramfis Trujillo, came back to relocate his father's body. Trujillo was buried in Paris at the request of his relatives.
The Legacy of the Butterflies
November 25th has been declared the International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women
Many monuments and the Museum serve as reminders and inspiration for the people of the D.R.
Many of the children left behind by the sisters became actively involved in the government. They work to carry on the message of their parents.
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