Last of the Mirabal Sisters Passes Away

The last of the four Mirabal sisters known as the butterflies, Bélgica Adela Mirabal, died Saturday, February, 1, 2014 of pulmonary complications at a hospital in Santo Domingo. She was 88. Known as Doña Dede in the Dominican Republic, she and her sisters fought to overthrow one of the most notorious dictators in Latin America, Rafael Leonidas Trujillo. The assassination of three of the Mirabal sisters on November 25, 1960 created an uproar in the country and ultimately led to the assassination of the dictator in May 30, 1961.

The story of these sisters has been told countless times, most notably by the American-Dominican author, Julia Alvarez in her 1994 best-selling book, In the Time of the Butterflies. The book was later made into a 2001 movie of the same name, starring Salma Hayek, Edward James Olmos, and Marc Anthony. Other works included the 2010 film, Tropico de Sangre, starring Michelle Rodriguez and the 2009 Chilean documentary by Cecilia Domeyko.

In 1999, the sisters received recognition by the United Nations General Assembly, who designated November 25, the day the sisters were killed, as the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women. The province of Salcedo in the Dominican Republic, where the sisters were born and lived until they died, has been renamed Hermanas Mirabal, in honor of the sisters.

Born on February 29, 1925 to a middle class family in the small province of Salcedo, in the Dominican Republic, Doña Dede was the second of four sisters. Unlike her sisters, she never attended college, and took instead a more traditional homemaker role, including helping to run the family business in agriculture and cattle. She married and had three children.

Doña Dede devoted her life to the legacy of her sisters, becoming a mother to her sisters’ six children and traveling the world to tell her sisters’ story. In 1992, she founded the Mirabal Sisters Foundation and subsequently the Mirabal Sisters Museum in 1994, in her native city of Salcedo. As the last surviving Mirabal sister, she was often asked how she survived and she would respond, «so I could tell their story!»