Artes y Oficios
Sadly #OrangetheWorldday awareness is celebrated worldwide on November 25, because of the murder of the three brave Dominican women in 1960 – the Mirabal sisters, Patria, Minerva, and María Teresa. The four of them were beaten to death while traveling from their hometown, Ojo de Agua to Puerto Plata, to visit their husbands who had been imprisoned by dictator Rafael Trujillo.
These terrible murders are one of the painful chapters in our history. It remains judicially unresolved. It was the final straw of a dictatorship that endured 31 years. After that event Dominicans just couldn’t take it anymore. A few months later, dictator Rafael Trujillo was assassinated by a group of brave Dominican men. From that day, 30 May 1961, we, as a nation started a jumpy democratic transition. Surely with some noticeable conquers, but yet with many challenges ahead.
As heinous as it was, the Mirabal sisters’ crime became a driver for the Dominican people recovering their dignity. Las mariposas, Spanish words for the butterflies, was the code name that the three sisters used in their resistance movement called 14 de Junio (1J4), to fight the abusive and criminal regime. In 1999, the United Nations General Assembly designated 25 November as the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women, in honor of the sisters.
This period and its current effects on our political system have been called Trujillismo. I dislike that word and avoid its usage. First of all, because I have dear childhood friends that just because one of their last names was Trujillo and indeed were related to the dictator, they've been bullied since primary school, just for being a Trujillo. These are people born after 1961. And, secondly, because is a misleading word. The correct word to describe what happened in the DR between 1930 and 1961 is fascism. It is still a force that we need to fight against. It still exists in many ways because it is not inherent to a specific family, group or political party. It is misconduct that needs to be eradicated from our hearts and that can spread in any situation – in politics, workplaces or our own families.
It took time, but for subsequent generations –like mine – and others that followed, las mariposas have become the perfect symbol of Dominican feminine grace: kind, smart, and brave. Literature (In the time of the butterflies by Julia Álvarez, The feast of the Goatby Mario Vargas Llosa) and cinema (In times of the butterflies movie trailer) (Tropic of bloodmovie trailer) have raised worldwide awareness about their tragic end. And yet, to be honest with ourselves, for years it has been a hidden historical truth that an asymmetric balance of power has left Dominican women in a fragile – and often, dangerous position.
During high school, I remember reading the short story called Las vírgenes de Galindoby César Nicolás Penson. It is the true story of other Dominican sisters brutally killed during the 19th century. The reader can appreciate that prejudice and impunity are ancient matters (Cosas añejas). Are they, though? Sadly, no. These two misconducts were not left behind in our past. Among many other problems that we have as an developing country, the existing levels of violence against Dominican women today are very high.
Journalists are reporting a scandalous number of domestic abuse cases on a weekly basis. More recently, the Dominican press discovered that the slaying of two women by their partners was supported by illegal decisions made by corrupt authorities who allowed these violent men to avoid prosecution and jail time, leaving victims vulnerable. Ironically, instead of providing protection, judicial actors, including a female prosecutor, were instrumental to the retaliation murders that occurred in 2019. In the end, those women ended up being killed –leaving behind their children, enormous pain and a great deal of social uncertainty.
The Dominican press not only reports the judicial system’s flaws. These journalists are raising awareness and informing society about the root causes and potential prevention measures for stopping the cycle of violence. As a governmental response, the Dominican Ministry of Education is trying to promote an education program to instruct schoolchildren in constructive and equal gender education. Unfortunately, conservative sectors have misconstrued the legal basis for the Executive Branch to undertake preventive steps to stop this madness.
Is not my intention to criticize the moral and religious beliefs of that portion of our society – that includes dear family members and friends. It is their right to live according to their principles, to assemble and to express them peacefully. As part of a more liberal portion of Dominican society, it is my duty to understand that social problems need to be solved through democratic criteria. That is, not based in personal but on constitutional principles.
I understand that those who think like me have to be sensible to the life views that other Dominicans have, to the point where those views don't harm anyone. The democracy-oriented view from either side of the debate, is to reach a higher goal together, in subject/matters where a consensus is urgently needed. I understand our current consensus has two premises and a clear conclusion.
- Major premise. Dominican Republic is a small nation based on great justice standards.
- Minor premise. Violence against women today is alarming in our country.
- Conclusion. We, the Dominican people, desire to stop this phenomenon together.
A current error, that leads to a false debate is that we are constantly pointing at each other, telling others how to think or act. I'm not in the position to impose my ideas on others – not even to my son, for I respect his freedom to choose his own beliefs. Instead, I invite every Dominican to work together in this crystal-clear goal.Any person guided by personal principles, whichever they are, is capable of understanding that this alarming situation will require preventive and sanctioning measures, not only related to criminal policy, but also, civil and social best practices.
We learned from the great educator Eugenio María de Hostos, that the asymmetry in the balance of power in Dominican homes, was (and still is) defective. His books, speeches and actions were spot on in this subject-matter. Education is instrumental to transform women’s role in society – and for that matter, it is necessary not only to provide young girls access to education; but to make sure that children (boys and girls) growing in Dominican homes, understand that females and males are equal.
When you read Hostos, it is perfectly understood that any deviation from that understanding within domestic upbringings, is not only harmful to women, but will define the character of men and women raised in an scenario he considered a dysfunctional context. Hostos is majestic at explaining the causal relationship between the view children have of the domestic female figure and the country’s development level. For him, women's roles are fundamental to improve a nation’s development. To assure these roles, basic liberties must be guaranteed in our favor. That made him the visionary man we celebrate, and maybe one of the first Caribbean philosopher.
To educate on the grounds of equality is not a novelty nor an exclusive speech belonging to liberals. The right of the Dominican State to intervene in the proper balancing of domestic education, is in the foundation of our very worthy Dominican history. I don't think that any Dominican person would dare to diminish Eugenio María de Hostos’ ideas and imprint in our social and political history. I also don't think that we disagree in celebrating his main disciple, teacher Salomé Ureña de Henríquez, the leader he left to start this transformation based on the above referred beliefs. These where our two primary leaders, demanding a reasonable penetration of education standards into home dynamics for a greater good, as now the current and dangerous situation urgently demands.
Why this article is published in English? Because we need to start facing this topic in the Dominican Republic -where my heart also lives, although I'm physically living abroad- the best way we can; learning all the knowledge and experience we can get, in a consultative manner to approach this issue. That won’t hurt our sovereignty in any way.
Sunday, November 24, Dominicans will start again a movement, beautifully described with a slogan that says:The butterfly effect means that the flutter of a butterfly can start a hurricane in another part of the world.This time to avoid the killing of more women. It is called #laMarchadelasMariposas or #theButterfliesmarch to honor the Mirabal sisters.
Some may consider that the Mirabal assassination was a political violence case; different from the domestic violence cases we are dealing with today. Any violence case where there is an asymmetric balance of power that allows illegal conduct, is after all, abuse and has to be stopped, prevented and eradicated. To honor and continue Hostos’ and Ureña de Henríquez’ fight and development goals, it is mandatory to adapt their social philosophy to today's domestic problems.
The Dominican Republic is becoming noticed worldwide for its privileged natural beauty. There is also beauty in our spirits,¡Las mariposas viven. Marcha con nosotros!(Butterflies live. March with us!). Help us end this line written with the names of women who have been heinously killed: Anibel, Emely, Julissa, Andrea, Yesenia, Gisela, Glenys, Miledys, Juana, Luisa, Yoselin, Yarisa and sadly, many more.