Lisa Krause: Who were Las Mariposas, and why were they murdered?

Recorded atMarch 08, 2021
Duration (min:sec)05:51
Video TypeTED-Ed Original
Words per minute144.45 very slow
Readability (FK)37.37 very difficult
SpeakerLisa Krause

Official TED page for this talk


For over 30 years, thousands of people were imprisoned, tortured, and murdered under Rafael Trujillo's dictatorship in the Dominican Republic. Three sisters would go on to lead an underground revolution. But while their courage inspired many, it threatened the man in power, and their lives would come to a tragic early end. Who were these brave women? Lisa Krause tells the story of Las Mariposas. [Directed by Tomás Pichardo-Espaillat, narrated by Safia Elhillo, music by Cem Misirlioglu and Sergio Sayeg].

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100:07 From 1930 to 1961, thousands of people were imprisoned, tortured, and murdered under Rafael Trujillo’s dictatorship in the Dominican Republic.
200:20 Three sisters would go on to lead an underground revolution.
300:24 But while their courage inspired many, it threatened the man in power, and their lives would come to a tragic early end.
400:33 Trujillo rose through the military ranks during the United States’ occupation of the Dominican Republic.
500:40 He assumed power in 1930 through a coup and rigged election and created a system that enriched himself and his allies.
600:51 Trujillo’s family alone controlled three-fifths of the country’s gross domestic product, including monopolies over salt, beef, and newspapers.
701:01 He renamed the country's capital after himself and expected his portrait to be displayed in every household.
801:09 And he committed atrocities, including the massacre of thousands of Haitians.
901:14 All the while, a secret police force maintained his power by targeting opponents at home and abroad.
1001:22 The Mirabal sisters grew up in a middle class family in the countryside.
1101:27 Their parents sent the four sisters— Patria, Dedé, Minerva, and María Teresa— to one of the country’s best boarding schools.
1201:37 There, Minerva met a classmate whose relative was killed on Trujillo's orders.
1301:44 She began seeking out strong voices of opposition and discussing issues of oppression and justice with her sisters.
1401:51 While Dedé stayed out of politics, Minerva, Patria, and María Teresa became invested in changing their country.
1502:00 However, the Mirabal family’s safe standing soon collapsed.
1602:04 In 1949, they were invited to one of Trujillo’s parties, which served as his personal hunting grounds for young women.
1702:13 Declining the invitation was not an option.
1802:16 Despite Minerva’s attempts to avoid him at the reception, she eventually danced with Trujillo but rejected his advances.
1902:24 The Mirabal family left the party early, which was seldom done and considered disrespectful to the dictator.
2002:31 Their father, Enrique, was imprisoned and family property was confiscated.
2102:38 Minerva graduated with highest honors as one of the first women in the country to receive a law degree.
2202:45 But she was denied state authorization to practice— a process Trujillo oversaw.
2302:51 While studying, Minerva met Manolo Tavárez Justo.
2402:56 He shared her political convictions and the two married in 1955.
2503:01 They watched as armed revolutions launched throughout Latin America.
2603:05 After Trujillo crushed an attempt to overthrow him in 1959, they began to prepare a revolution of their own.
2703:13 The Mirabal sisters and their husbands formed the June 14th movement along with many others from the middle class.
2803:21 Codenamed Las Mariposas, or the Butterflies, the three sisters organized and attended clandestine meetings and distributed pamphlets detailing Trujillo’s violations.
2903:34 In January of 1960, they called representatives together from all over the country to establish the movement’s structure and prepare an uprising.
3003:45 But it was not to be.
3103:46 Trujillo had spies everywhere.
3203:49 Soon, many revolutionaries, including Minerva and María Teresa, were arrested.
3303:56 During this time, Patria found creative ways of transmitting information to and from imprisoned rebels.
3404:04 Fearful of losing the support of the U.S. and the Church, which had recently begun to criticize him, Trujillo released the sisters while leaving their husbands imprisoned.
3504:15 But they continued to threaten his regime’s stability— and his ego.
3604:19 On November 25th, as the three sisters were returning from visiting two of their imprisoned husbands, Trujillo’s men stopped their car.
3704:28 The sisters, along with their driver, Rufino de la Cruz, were asphyxiated and beaten to death.
3804:35 The men rolled the Jeep off a hill to frame the murder as a car accident.
3904:40 Patria was 36, Minerva was 33, and María Teresa was 25.
4004:47 But Trujillo's plan to silence the Mirabal sisters and stabilize his regime backfired.
4104:53 Much of the public wasn’t fooled by the flimsy coverup.
4204:57 The international community condemned the assassination.
4305:01 And the U.S. closed its Dominican embassy and secretly invested in the anti-Trujillo movement.
4405:08 Months later, former members of the Dominican military killed the dictator, bringing his violent, 31-year reign to an end.
4505:17 Thanks to their family, especially their surviving sister, Dedé, the legacy of the Mirabal sisters would surpass the clutches of Trujillo’s tyranny even long after their deaths.
4605:29 Today, the Mirabal sisters are national heroes with monuments and honors commemorating their struggle.
4705:37 In 1999, the United Nations declared November 25th, the anniversary of their deaths, the International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women.
4805:47 Their courageous fight for justice has inspired generations.