At the highest point on the winding highway over the Dominican Republic’s northern mountains, there is a place that is called what it is: La Cumbre, The Summit. In the daytime, in the sunshine, or under a soft tropical rain, it is a beautiful spot, with the impossibly green mountainsides falling away on both sides of the crest. But on the night of November 25, 1960, it was the scene of unutterable horror, witness to an automobile rolling and tumbling down the cliff, with the violated and mutilated corpses of three women inside. They were three of the four sisters of the Mirabal Reyes family, who were murdered for their political involvement: Patria Mercedes (born on February 27, Dominican Independence Day, in 1924, and accordingly named “homeland”), María Argentina Minerva (born March 12, 1926), and Antonia María Teresa (born October 15, 1935). Their driver, Rufino de la Cruz (born November 16, 1923), was murdered with them. The fourth Mirabal sister, Bélgica Adela “Dedé” (March 1, 1925–February 1, 2014) who was not directly involved in her sisters’ opposition activities, survived to be their witness.
The brutal murder of the charismatic Hermanas Mirabal was the most notorious, and the most widely reviled, of the countless crimes committed by the regime of Rafael Trujillo, dictator of the Dominican Republic from 1930 until 1961. The Mirabal Sisters’ demise mobilized international censure of the Trujillo regime and contributed to its downfall, because they were the most charismatic of his victims, and because their kidnapping and murder constituted the most outrageous of the crimes committed during his lengthy dictatorship.
In 1999, the United Nations designated November 25, the date of the Mirabal Sisters’ murder, to be memorialized as International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women, which it has been ever since.