Monday, November 4, 2013

The Mirabal Sisters - Code Butterfly

Code “Butterfly”  Post #4

I grew up hearing stories about journalists who were silenced because they attempted, through their writings, to bring "Alternative News Coverage"; although at that time the term had not yet been coined. There is the College Professor and Journalist Narciso Gonzalez (Narcisazo) who simply "disappeared" one day because he opposed corruption and stood for the truth.  And Orlando Martinez, a left wing Journalist and a member of the Communist Party whose sin was to go against the grain denouncing all sorts of cruelty and crimes against humanity.

Since Women and Media centers around "stories about courageous women" who themselves rely on alternative media for support , I cannot let this post pass by without re-telling the story of three remarkable women born in the Dominican Republic who were perhaps the first real feminists of that country.  Allow me to introduce to you Patria, Maria Teresa and Minerva Mirabal, “Las Hermanas Mirabal,” The Mirabal Sisters.

The Mirabal Sisters lived during the regime of one of the cruelest dictator that ever ruled, Rafael Leonidas Trujillo.  For thirty years this man used and abused the land, the people, the resources and the dignity of the men and women of the Dominican Republic.  There are horrible tales of women being taken from their homes to satiate his sexual desires and then setting them up in a house to visit them at his wish.  Many Dominican families had to actually hide their daughters who were virgins because if Trujillo directed his "male gaze" at them, or one of his sons for that matter, they would soon become the next mistress.   People just disappeared into the Caribbean Sea, thrown to the sharks. Families lived in constant fear relegated to mere servants of the government.  The Mirabal Sisters knowing about the atrocities and the many rapes and killings Trujillo committed resisted the politics of the regime and in Miverva’s case, the advances of Trujillo during a dance at the Palace.  She  instantly became an open enemy of the dictator as well as her entire family.  The sisters went to jail and the other prisoners named them "Las Mariposas" The Butterflies; this was also their code name when they did underground work against the government.  Trujillo allowed Minerva to go to college and become a lawyer; but to further destroy her dream, after graduation, she was not allowed to practice law.  They were constantly monitored by those loyal to the Trujillo family and they lived in constant fear.  Although it meant being in danger every single day of their lives, the sisters fought back along with their husbands through an underground movement called "El 14 de Junio."  Minerva's husband, Manolo Tavarez, was the president of the movement which made many attempts to denounce government abuse and injustice.

On November 25, 1960, after a visit to the jail where Trujillo held their husbands captive, while driving back to their home, Patria, Minerva, Maria Teresa and their driver were violently killed by a group of thugs.  It is said that they were attacked with bats and clubs and that they were raped before they were killed.  The death of these three women was responsible for the downfall of the Trujillo family and his regime of shame.  After it became evident that the women were assassinated on his orders the people of the Dominican Republic took action to put an end to the corrupted government in power.  

The United Nations Honors the Butterflies:
After their death the United Nations declared November 25th as the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women.  The official document states the following "The date was chosen to commemorate the lives of the Mirabal sisters. It originally marked the day that the three Mirabal sisters from the Dominican Republic were violently assassinated in 1960 during the Trujillo dictatorship (Rafael Trujillo 1930-1961). The day was used to pay tribute to the Mirabal sisters, as well as global recognition of gender violence.  The sisters, referred to as the "Inolvidables Mariposas", the "Unforgettable Butterflies" have become a symbol against victimization of women. They have become the symbol of both popular and feminist resistance. They have been commemorated in poems, songs and books. The memory of the Mirabal sisters and their struggle for freedom and respect for human rights for all has transformed them into symbols of dignity and inspiration. They are symbols against prejudice and stereotypes, and their lives raised the spirits of all those they encountered and later, after their death, not only those in the Dominican Republic but others around the world."

Originally there were four sisters, the fourth one is Dede Mirabal in the picture below pointing to one of the many places erected to honor the memory of her beloved sisters.  There is also a museum in the Dominican Republic which is visited daily by people from all over the world.  The remaining sister, Minerva's daughter Minou Tavarez and the rest of the  Mirabal family, are making sure the legacy of these three courageous women is never forgotten. 

This is a documentary on their lives

Many movies have been made on the death of the three sisters but as Bell Hooks states in the readings “They give the reimagined, reinvented version of the real.”  With the exception of Julia Alvarez's book "In the Time of The Butterflies" the true essence of these women has yet to be capture by movie makers and the media. It is my intention to also attempt to tell their story through film in order to further their legacy.  This is why my alternative media is Film Festivals and Documentaries.  These stories are best told if there is no allegiance to Hollywood or any type of commerce that would compromise the real truth from being exposed.  Festivals like The Other Israel Film Festival , The Tribeca Film Festival, , and the Documentary Festival held in New York City , and an organization which represents Independent Film makers from around the world and which offers support to film makers in the business.  I follow these and specially the documentary makers because most times they are able to work independent of influential conglomerates.  I also follow Lu Ann Cahn's blog , she is a Journalist and Author who decided to do something new every day to reboot her life.  She is very inspiring and a woman who is not afraid to tell it like it is.  She has a new book called "I Dare Me" which is a great tool for those of us struggling with work, school and family and trying to survive in our patriarchal society.’s_ghost_haunts_the_Dominican...‎

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