SANTO DOMINGO – A selection of restored clothing sewn and worn by the Mirabal sisters, slain in 1960 under orders of Dominican dictator Rafael Leonidas Trujillo, is bringing the people a closer, more human look at these heroines, symbols of the struggle to eliminate violence against women.
“The Textile Collection of the Mirabal Sisters,” which presents several pieces out of the total of 250 that have been restored after being on show for decades at the Casa Museo, can be viewed starting this Friday at the Memorial Museum of Dominican Resistance.
These dresses, shawls and lingerie that they themselves embroidered “put them in the context of a normal life,” and will help the public understand “what their family lost,” since figures like the Mirabals “tend to become legends and people don’t think of the human beings” behind the images, museum director Luisa de Peña Diaz told EFE.
People who pay a visit the exhibit will find, until next March, that these “were normal women, who embroidered their clothing. They weren’t women who only lived a life of self-sacrifice, but who chose the path of honor and life made them pay the price,” she said.
Known as the “butterflies,” Patria, Minerva and Maria Teresa Mirabal headed an opposition movement against Trujillo (1930-1961), and the date of their murder by the dictator’s Military Intelligence Service has been transformed into the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women.
Presenting the articles of clothing required a long restoration process that began when Belgica (Dede), the Mirabal sister who survived the bloodshed, warned of the deterioration of all the clothes that had been left in her mother’s house, later made into a museum, and where the butterflies lived after being released from prison, until their were killed. Their husbands meanwhile had stayed in jail, where they felt less vulnerable.
The 360 articles of clothing exhibited at the Casa Museo had been exposed to the elements for over 50 years, and were “in a terrible state,” as was confirmed by a textile conservation expert who came expressly from the United States for that purpose, since there was no one in the Dominican Republic specialized in that area.
The one who would undertake the enormous, costly task of conservation was Noris Gonzalez Mirabal, daughter of Patria, who traveled to Guatemala and the United States for training in how to restore the heroines’ clothing, which are her heritage as well as that of the Dominican people and of women the world over.
Every article is a treasure for Noris: “They all have value for me. I was grown up when the sisters were killed and I saw them embroider some of the pieces when I was little.”