"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."
1027: Patria Mirabal
One of the Famed Las Mariposas
Born: 27 February 1924, Salcedo, Dominican Republic
Died: 25 November 1960, Dominican Republic
Full Name: Patria Mercedes Mirabal Reyes de González
Patria’s name means “Fatherland.” Her parents gave her the name because her birthday, 27 February, is the Dominican Republic’s Independence Day.
Patria was an artist and loved to paint.
She was sent to a Catholic Boarding school at the age of fourteen, alongside her sisters Dede, Maria Teresa, and Minerva. Eventually, Patria went on to earn the equivalent of a bachelor’s degree in Social Studies.
When Patria was sixteen or seventeen (sources differ), she married a farmer. They had four children together (one of whom died at only five months old).
Patria was one of four sisters, all of whom were raised in a small Conservative community. The four sisters, known collectively as Las Mariposas, fought back against their country’s brutal dictator and are seen as feminist icons and activists around the world today. One of the sisters, Dede, stayed home to care for the extended family, while the other three stood on the forefront of opposition politics in the country.
A dictator ruled the Dominican Republic for over thirty years, from 1930 to 1961, during which time thousands were imprisoned and thousands more massacred along the border with Haiti. His rule was described by History thusly:
Known as “El Jefe” (“the Boss”) or “el Chivo” (“the Goat”), T-------* 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: T------- 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.
T-------’s fearsome secret police rooted out dissenters, using tactics of intimidation, imprisonment, torture, kidnapping and 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 between Haiti and the Dominican Republic in 1937.
Because of Patria’s activism against the dictator who controlled her country, her family’s property was seized and their lives harassed. She and her sisters were also arrested multiple times and had their lives threatened. In November of 1960, Patria, Minerva, and Maria Teresa were traveling with a driver when they were ambushed by the dictator’s soldiers. All four were removed from the car, taken to separate locations, and executed. The soldiers then put all four of the victims back in the car and pushed it off a ravine to make it look like an accident. However, no one in the country believed the story, and six months later the dictator himself was assassinated.
Sadly, the Mirabal sisters’ story was continually buried by the government for many years, and the full truth, despite the surviving sister Dede's insistence in the meantime, would not surface until the 1990's.
Today, a middle school in New York City has been named in Patria’s honor (MS 324). In the Dominican Republic, a large monument that once commemorated the dictator who ordered their deaths has been replaced by a mural of the four sisters. Their former home is now a museum dedicated to the sisters’ memory. In 1999, the UN dedicated November 25th as the International Day to Eliminate Violence Against Women, in honor of the Mirabal Sisters.
*The dictator’s name has been redacted by the author of this article. His name is readily available on all the sources listed below, but the author has decided to focus instead on the Mirabal sisters themselves and not the man who murdered them.
Find a Grave Marked
Located In My Personal Library:
Bygone Badass Broads by Mackenzi Lee
Who Knew? Women in History by Sarah Herman
Time Magazine's 100 Women of the Year (Patria appears in the 1960 article, "The Mirabal Sisters”)