Friday, November 25, 2011

International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women

Rafael Trujillo

Patria, Minerva, & Maria Teresa

From "In the Time of the Butterflies," 2001

During this time of political strife between the two major parties in our country, and with both insisting on maintaining a certain state of the status quo, and the development of a new and powerful movement of change personified in Occupy Wall Street, it is important to remember history, and others who acted as agents of change at great risk to themselves, agents that had the courage to speak truth to power, and who were not marginalized by the established power base and media, as happens so often.
Rafael Leónidas Trujillo came to power after he betrayed his boss, President Horacio Vásquez, in 1930, by allowing a rebel army into the capital of the Dominican Republic, Santo Domingo, without resistance. Trujillo was a general at the time and it was his job not to let that happen. After Vasquez was forced to resign and sent into exile, Trujillo became the nominee of the newly-formed Dominican Party. He won, officially registering 95 percent of the vote, a fairly high total rarely seen in the real world without the benefit of massive fraud. He immediately assumed dictatorial powers.
According to Wikipedia during the time Trujillo ruled government employees were required to "donate" 10 percent of their salary to the national treasury, and there was strong pressure on adult citizens to join his party. Members were required to carry a membership card, the "palmita", and a person could be arrested for vagrancy without it. Those who did not contribute, or join the party, did so at their own risk. Opponents of the regime were mysteriously killed.
In 1936 the name of the capital was changed from Santo Domingo to Ciudad Trujillo. The province of San Cristobal was created as "Trujillo", and the nation's highest peak, Pico Duarte, was renamed Pico Trujillo in his honor. Statues of "El Jefe" were mass-produced and erected across the Republic, and bridges and public buildings were named after him. This happens a lot in dictatorships. The public must be reminded at all times who is in charge, and who will persecute them if they get out of line. I'm sure these self indulgences do something for the dictator's egos as well. Saddam Hussein, Mao Zedong, Vladimir Lenin, Big Brother, all had their images splattered throughout the urban landscape. Eventually, even churches were required to post the slogan: "Dios en cielo, Trujillo en tierra" (God in Heaven, Trujillo on Earth).
In 1937, claiming that Haiti was harboring his former Dominican opponents, Trujillo ordered an attack on the border, slaughtering tens of thousands of Haitians as they tried to escape. The number of the dead is still unknown, though it is now calculated between 20,000 and 30,000. Trujillo was hoping war would break out between the two nations, his desire being to control the entire Island of Hispaniola. This did not happen. Under pressure from Washington, Trujillo agreed to a reparation settlement in January of 1938 that involved the payment of $750,000 American. By the next year the amount had been reduced to $525,000 ($ 8,031,279.07 in 2011) $30 per victim, of which only 2 cents were given to survivors, due to corruption in the Haitian bureaucracy. This incident became known as the Parsley Massacre.
In June of 1960 Trujillo attempted to assassinate the President of Venezuela, Rómulo Betancourt, but failed, and world opinion turned against him. After the brutal murder on November 25, 1960, of three Mirabal sisters, Patria, María Teresa and Minerva, who opposed Trujillo's dictatorship, discontent against his rule increased.
The Mirabal women grew up in an upper class, well-cultured environment. Their father was a successful businessman.
Patria Mercedes Mirabal, the eldest sister, wanted to become a nun until she met and married Pedro Gonzalez. They had 4 children.
María Argentina Minerva Mirabal, the second eldest, was the one that initially got involved with the underground movement to overthrow the government. While she was away at school she found that she had friends whose families had been tortured by Trujillo's men. Minerva went to University in Ciudad Trujillo and was granted the right to study to become a lawyer. She did complete her studies, the first woman accepted to study this profession, but she was denied the right to practice law and was never granted her diploma due, it is said, to her resisting the romantic advances of Rafael Trujillo, who was quite the ladies man despite his being married most of the time to various women. Minerva had a keen interest in politics which is what led her to meet the leader of the Popular Socialist Party. She married Manuel Tavarez and had 2 children.
Antonia María Teresa Mirabal, the youngest sister, married Leandro Guzmán, and they had one child together.
Bélgica Adela "Dedé" Mirabal-Reyes, was the sister that was not with the other three on November 25th. She has since dedicated her life to preserving her sisters memory. She has 9 children.
The Mirabal family's first real run in with Trujillo was at a party to which they were invited. The girls left early. Trujillo was angry about this so he had the father, Don Enrique arrested (no one was permitted to leave a party before Trujillo it seems). Minerva was also arrested the following day. Every day she was taken to the Fortaleza Ozama and "interrogated" by two of Trujillo's men. Still she refused to write a letter of apology to him.
Since the family was well connected, they knew the right people. They got Trujillo's brother, with whom they were acquainted, to intercede for them and have the family members that were imprisoned released. They were arrested again a few years later, and released again.
The Mirabal sisters helped form a group that fought against the Trujillo regimen which was known as al Movimiento 14 de Junio, The Movement of the Fourteenth of June. The sisters were known as Las Mariposas, The Butterflies. On November 25, 1960, Trujillo decided he had enough of the sisters constant trouble making and decided it was time to get rid of them. He sent men to intercept three of the sisters who were on their way home from visiting their husbands who he had incarcerated. The sisters car was stopped, and they were taken into a sugarcane field where they were mercilessly beaten and strangled to death.
Trujillo's action backfired on him. Apparently the Mirabal sisters and their cause had become quite popular within the country. The people of the Dominican Republic, along with the Catholic church, were outraged. The deaths of the sisters brought more attention to the rebellion, and instead of eliminating the overthrow of his dictatorship he brought about its downfall.
Six months later, on May 30th 1961, Trujillo's car was ambushed on a road outside of the capital. According to his driver, Trujillo exited the car wounded in order to fire back at his attackers, and was subsequently and quickly riddled with bullets.
It couldn't have happened to a nicer guy.
His remains were interred in the Cimetière du Père Lachaise in Paris, France, and subsequently moved to the El Pardo cemetery near Madrid, Spain. I don't know why.
The Mirabal sisters became a symbol of the crisis of violence against women. Women's activists, especially in Latin America, have marked November 25th as a day to fight against this violence since 1981.
On December 17, 1999, the United Nations General Assembly designated November 25th as the International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women (Resolution 54/134).
The United Nations invited governments, international organizations, and Non Government Organizations (NGOs) to organize activities designated to raise public awareness of the problem as an international observance on that day.
Women around the world are subjected to all forms of unnecessary violence. They are the sisters of men who bring beauty and grace into our ofttimes ugly world. They bring wisdom as well, and they should be protected and cherished for the wonderful individuals that they are. Protected from domestic abuse, rape as an instrument of war, self serving religious convictions, out dated cultural customs, and the basic brutishness of men.
Today, November 25 is the official day according to the UN.
I would hope that the Elimination of Violence Against Women, and Girls, is remembered and practiced everyday.
This needs to happen. The empowerment of women and girls enriches the lives of everyone... men included.
For our world to overcome the many problems we now face, the feminine half of our population needs to stand equal with the other half. Equal in education, in position in society, in everything.
And they certainly need to be free from any and all forms of violence... for their sake, and that of the world.

Yesterday U.S. Rep. Gabrielle "Gabby" Giffords helped serve a Thanksgiving meal to service members and retirees at a military base in Tucson, Arizona, her hometown.
She has been undergoing intensive rehabilitation at TIRR Memorial Hermann in Houston as she recovers from a gunshot wound to the head. She was among 19 people shot January 8th as she met with constituents outside a Tucson supermarket. Six people died.
This marked the first time Rep. Giffords has met with her constituents since the shooting.

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