A blog by Amanda Alcantara

Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Las Hermanas Mirabal: History that we live and breath

Last year, I was offered a very brief reminder that in every corner of the Dominican Republic, there’s a bit of history that often goes untold. Una historia que vive en el mismo silencio impuesto por la represión. It happened on our way back from a trip to the beach. El chofer showed us the place where the Mirabal sisters were murdered.

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From Santiago de los Caballeros to Puerto Plata beaches, there are two roads: la carretera or las curvas. I remember that whenever we’d go to the beach from Santiago--where I grew up-- we'd all get in back of my uncle’s red van and almost always choose “las curvas”. Las curvas were a road that could barely fit two cars and edged mountains and lomas. Despite the danger and deaths that occurred and that we all heard of by way of word of mouth, porque allá todo se sabe, it was the fastest way...and also the most beautiful.





This was during my childhood and my early-to-mid teenage years growing up en El Cibao. I came to this country at the end of fifteen, and have visited the Dominican Republic about three times since then. The gap between the second and last time was the longest, it took me about 4 years before going back, and things had changed including myself. Yet things also remained very much the same...except that the curvas weren’t really a thing anymore. At least I thought that they weren’t. During my last weekend there, in one of mami’s work trips, we went to the beach (talk about having a fun job!). We went through las curvas, and even my mom who lives out there, was surprised that people still used that road. “Yo pensé que la gente ya no iba por ahí”, my mom said. Apparently, some people did. The driver, who was an older Dominicano, knew the road. I was excited to go on this journey that reminded me so much of my childhood.


On our way back from a relaxing day in Playa Dorada, before passing by a side street, he goes “Por aquí fue donde mataron las hermanas Mirabal”. I was so intrigued and also shocked. El lo dijo como si na. Como si eso fuera lo mas sencillo. Matter of factly he stated that this was were the Mirabal sisters had been killed. I remembered having been told this story before too. Nosotros pasabamos por ahí every time we returned from the beach. Though we weren’t reminded of that every single time. He slowed down as we passed by the side road.


“Si mira, las llevaron para allá y la mataron a golpes, y despues las tiraron por ahí”, he added as he pointed past the side road.


In the area, there’s no monumento, no highly visible memorial. There’s only the oral history that still roams the consciousness of many Dominicans of older generations. A legacy that those of new generations, myself included, carry with us and must continue to remember but also heal from. I wonder, as less people use las curvas, which is probably a good thing since they're so dangerous to drive, will this dark place be remembered by anyone else but those who live in the area?


Las Hermanas Mirabal, Patria, Minerva and Maria Teresa, are a symbol of resistance against the dictatorship of Rafael L. Trujillo. They organized to take him down, and were horribly murdered by his men. It is said that their death brought about the end of the Trujillo regime. This is possible since they had become symbols at the time. As the daughters of wealthy farmers, their story unlike that of many others, did not go unnoticed. And yet we must not reduce their importance at the time as being attached to just wealth, but as rather something that occurred because they represented women’s resistance also by virtue of their efforts. That the dominican people can point to some women is and has been powerful. As a teenager, I dressed up as Maria Teresa once with a braid to the side for a school function. For some reason, I could always relate to her. Probably because in pictures she seems to be the one with the closest skin complexion to mine.


At the same time, like the stories of Las Mirabal lives in our culture, that of other women like la Dra. Evangelina Rodriguez who was the first woman to become a doctor in the DR (a gynecologist), must be remembered. Dr. Rodriguez was assassinated by the regime for opposing Trujillo’s dictatorship. Mamá Tingó, a woman who fought for farmer’s rights, must also be remembered--she too was murdered, not by Trujillo, but by the Joaquin Balaguer regime which followed in Trujillo’s footsteps.


My family and I once went to visit el Museo de Las Hermanas Mirabal. We saw where they lived and some reliquias that are being preserved.



The Mirabal home (Wikimedia Commons)


The nicest part of the day though was when my stepdad said that we should see if Dedé was around. We went to a house that was close by, and she actually was there. Dedé Mirabal is the fourth sister, who I was always told stayed home to care for all the children while her sisters were out fighting. She served us coffee (or at least my parents and sis, yo estaba joven), and she took us to her giant backyard where she handed us a fruit from the cacao tree. This fruit is delicious, once you open it, it has balls inside that are soft and have a soggy paste, almost like limoncillos. As a child, this was the most vivid memory of the day for me. As an adult, the most vivid memory of the day when I visited the beach last year, was passing by the place where they were murdered.



Inside a cacao fruit (Wikimedia Commons)



After Dedé's death last year, I also remembered that day and the mechón blanco that she always had in her hair. My step-dad told me about it before he saw her. She was a bad-ass y’all.


Belgica Adela "Dedé" Mirabal (pchonorsiii.blogspot.com)


I visited Buenos Aires recently, and met with a feminist organizing collective, their name was Las Mariposas, named after Las Mirabal. Indeed, they have spoken beyond the Dominican Republic and have inspired women across the globe so much so that today, Día Internacional Contra La Violencia de Género, exists to mark the reminder of the day when they were murdered and to remember that the fight against la violencia de género must continue.

For us, the new generation of Dominican women and activists, the legacy of Las Mirabal and other women who preceded us lives and it must live and continue to be celebrated.

Minerva Mirabal is quoted as saying, “Si me matan, sacaré los brazos de la tumba y seré mas fuerte”. Indeed Minerva, yours and the resistance of your sisters Maria Teresa, Patria, and Dedé lives.


Las Hermanas Mirabal (jmarcano.com)




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