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Intimate Violations: Women and the Ajusticiamiento of Dictator Rafael Trujillo, 1944-1961

  • Elizabeth Manley (a1)


The foundation of social order, the primary essence and basic nucleus of every political organization, rests in the family, without whose stable and healthy development, the prosperity of the nation is impossible.

On the afternoon of August 10, 1959, several dozen Dominican and Cuban women gathered in the streets of Havana. Dressed in black as though headed to a funeral, they mourned the political situation in the neighboring Dominican Republic. Specifically, they targeted the dictator Rafael Trujillo, calling him the “Jackal of the Caribbean.” As they paraded through the streets carrying placards and visiting newspaper offices, tliey were focusing attention on their specific struggles as women and motliers. Their posters read, “Dominican Women Support the Revolutionary Government”; “We Ask for the Expulsion of Trujillo from the OAS”; and “We Represent the Mourning of the Assassinations Committed by Trujillo.”



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The author wishes to thank the many people who read this article and offered suggestions: Thomas Adams, Guadalupe Garcia, Elizabeth McMahon, Drew Chastain, Jason Bernsten, Elizabeth Hammer, Wendy Gaudin, Leslie Richardson, and Meg Osterbur; the members of the Seminar for Historical Change and Social Theory at Tulane University, especially Justin Wolfe for being such an amazing mentor; my colleagues at Xavier University of Louisiana; the editors and anonymous reviewers of The Americas; and Neici Zeller for helping me to poner un grano de arena for gender history in the Dominican Republic. And, of course, the strong and incredible women of the resistance.

1. El fundamento del orden social, la esencia primera y el núcleo básico de todo organismo político, descansa en la familia, sin cuya estabilidad y sano desarrollo no es posible tampoco la prosperidad de la nación. Excerpted from Bornia, Orestes Herrera, Previsión Social en la República Dominicana (Ciudad Trujillo: Editora Arte y Cine, 1952), p. 7.

2. del Orbe, Justino José, Del exilio político dominicana antitrujillista en Cuba (Santo Domingo: Editora Taller, 1983); pp. 145–152. Del Orbe chronicles the event through a series of clippings and photographs taken from several Cuban newspapers. An Información report noted that participants included Carmen Negret, Petronila Gómez, Altagracia del Orbe (the author’s wife), Lupe Luciano, Olimpia Vera, Carmen de Lara, Maria del Rey, Migdalia Díaz, Yolanda Pulido, Ada Daniel, Elsa Zurita, Elena Quintero, Mercedes Quintero, and Saski Prus. Hoy added Matilde Daniel and Marta Duque to the list of women.

3. Examples range from U.S. journalistic accounts to Dominican histories and participant memoirs. For the former, see Diederich, Bernard, Trujillo: The Death of the Dictator (Princeton: Markus Wiener, 2000); and Martin, John Bartlow, Overtaken by Events: The Dominican Crisis from the Fall of Trujillo to the Civil War (New York: Doubleday, 1966). For Dominican historical accounts of these years, see Cassá, Roberto, Los orígenes del Movimiento 14 de Junio. La izquierda dominicana I (Santo Domingo: Editora Universitaria, 1999); Michel, Emilio Cordero, “Las expediciones de Junio de 1959,” Estudios Sociales 25:88 (April-June 1992), pp. 3563; and Vega, Bernardo, Los Estado Unidos y Trujillo. Los días finales: 1960–1961 (Santo Domingo: Fundación Cultural Dominicana, 1999). For memoirs, see Cruz, Juan J. Segura, Bajo la barbarie. La Juventud Democrática clandestina (1947–1959): testimonio de un protagonista (Santo Domingo: Editora Taller, 1997); and del Orbe, Del exilio político, although the last–cited does include some evidence of female activism on the part of his wife, Altagracia.

4. Ajusticiamiento is directly translated as execution or death penalty, although it also connotes a sense of “bringing to justice” and is used by Dominicans to refer to the assassination of Trujillo.

5. Several important exceptions include Carolina Mainardi Vda. Cuello’s memoir Vivencias (Santo Domingo: Editora Manatí, 2000); and Grey Coiscou Guzmán’s collection of oral testimonies titled Testimonios. La simiente convulsa. Tomo I (Santo Domingo: Editora Buho, 2002) and Testimonios. La gavilla luminosa. Tomo II(Santo Domingo, Editora Buho, 2002). Alfonsina Perozo and Delta Soto have also published memoirs that touch on their roles in the resistance movement: Perozo, , Los Perozo: su extermino por la dictdura de Trujillo (Santo Domingo: Editora Centenario, 2002); and Soto, , Vivencias de una revolucionaria (Santo Domingo: Editora Universitaria, 2004). In addition, several authors have published works that discuss the lives of the important female resistance activists Minerva Mirabal and Carmen Natalia Martínez Bonilla.

6. Mora, Myrna Herrera, Mujeres dominicanas, 1930–1961: anti-trujillistas y exiliadas en Puerto Rico (San Juan: Isla Negra, 2008). As noted above, there are a number of smaller-scale studies that address Minerva Mirabal and her sisters, as well as Carmen Natalia Martnez Bonilla; however, scholars tend to treat the women as exceptions rather than as part of a larger trend.

7. Lauren Derby refers to the regime’s iconography of women in her recent manuscript. On the one hand were the beautiful young women that Trujillo exploited to demonstrate his sexual prowess, and on the other were the less visible yet highly accomplished political figures like Isabel Mayer or Minerva Bernardino. See The Dictator’s Seduction: Politics and the Popular Imagination in the Era of Trujillo (Durham: Duke University Press, 2009); pp. 109–134. April Mayes refers to the latter as “Hispanic womanhood,” a formulation employed by both regime supporters and dissenters in pursuit of their political ends. See “Why Dominican Feminism Moved to the Right: Class, Colour and Women’s Activism in the Dominican Republic, 1880s to 1940s,” Gender and History 20:8 (August 2008), pp. 349–371.

8. Here, I am following scholars Gordon, Linda, Pitied But Not Entitled: Single Mothers and the History of Welfare, 1890–1935 (New York: Free Press, 1994), p. 55; and Mothers of a New World: Maternalist Politics and the Origins of Welfare States, Seth Koven and Sonya Michel, eds. (New York: Routledge, 1993), pp. 2–4, 30, in their use of ‘maternalism’ to describe a political approach and discourse that both focused on the social needs of women and children and created a space for women to participate in the construction of state programs and policies. For examples of this trend in Latin America, see González-Rivera, Victoria, “From Feminism to Somocismo: Women’s Rights and Right-Wing Politics in Nicaragua, 1821–1979” (Ph.D. diss., Indiana University, 2002); González , Victoria and Kampwirth, Karen, Radical Women in Latin America: Left and Right (University Park: Pennsylvania State University Press, 2001); and Power, Margaret, Right-Wing Women in Chile: Feminine Power and the Struggle against Allende, 1964–1973 (University Park: Pennsylvania State University Press, 2002). This pattern has also been documented extensively in the case of European fascist regimes, as well as within the Ku Klux Klan in the United States. See de Grazia, Victoria, How Fascism Ruled Women: Italy, 1922–1945 (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1992); Koonz, Claudia, Mothers in the Fatherland: Women, the Family, and Nazi Politics (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1993); and Blee, Kathleen, Women of the Klan: Racism and Gender in the 1920s (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1991).

9. For specific work on women and the Trujillo regime, see Manley, Elizabeth, “ Poner un grano de arena: Gender and Women’s Political Participation under Authoritarian Rule in the Dominican Republic, 1928–1978“ (Ph.D. diss., Tulane University, 2008); April Mayes, “Why Dominican Feminism Moved to the Right”; Zeller, Neici M., “El regimen de Trujillo y la fuerza laboral femenina en la República Dominicana, 1945–1951,” in La República Dominicana en el umbral del siglo XXI, Brea, Ramonina, Espinal, Rosario, and Valerio-Holguín, Fernando, eds. (Santo Domingo: Centro Universitario de Estudios Políticos y Sociales, Pontificia Universidad Católica Madre y Maestra, 1999), pp. 429444; and Zeller, Neici, “The Appearance of All, the Reality of Nothing: Politics and Gender in the Dominican Republic, 1880–1961” (Ph.D. diss., University of Illinois-Chicago, 2010). Melissa Madera has a dissertation forthcoming from SUNY-Binghamton on women, public health, and the Trujillato. For a similar assessment of the Somoza regime, see Gonzalez-Rivera, “From Feminism to Somocismo.”

10. I am drawing on recent analyses of the Trujillo dictatorship that reexamine the regime from the perspective of informed consent and exchange rather than simply coercion and violence. See particularly Derby, The Dictator’s Seduction, pp. 3–12; and Turits, Richard, The Foundations of Despotism: Peasants, the Trujillo Regime, and Modernity in Dominican History (Stanford: Stanford University Press, 2003).

11. Scholarship on the historical origins of Dominican feminism is beginning to grow. See Candelario, Ginetta, “El eco de su voz allende a los mares: la primera etapa en el pensamiento feminista dominicano,” in Miradas desencadenantes, Candelario, Ginetta, ed. (Santo Domingo: Centro de Estudios de Género, INTEC Universidad, 2005); Dubois, Ellen and Derby, Lauren, “;The Strange Case of Minerva Bernardino: Pan American and United Nations Women’s Rights Activist,” Women’s Studies International Forum 32 (2009) pp. 4350; Manley, “Poner un grano de arena”; Martinez, Luisitania, “Abigail Mejía y los inicios del movimiento feminista dominicano,” in Política, identidad y pensamiento social en la República Dominicana, siglos XIX y XX, González, Raymundo, Baud, Michiel, San Miguel, Pedro L., and Cassá, Roberto, eds. (Madrid: Ediciones Doce Calles, 1999); Mayes, , “How Dominican Feminism Moved to the Right”; Valentina Peguero, “La participación de la mujer en la historia dominicana,” Eme Eme: Estudios Dominicanos 10:58 (1982), pp. 2149; and Zeller, “The Appearance of All, the Reality of Nothing.”

12. For a comprehensive evaluation of the regime’s clientalistic nature, see Turits, Foundations of Despotism.

13. de Galíndez, Jesús, The Era of Trujillo: Dominican Dictator (Tucson: University of Arizona Press, 1973), p. 96.

14. See particularly the essays in Right-Wing Women: From Conservatives to Extremists Around the World, Paola Bachetta and Margaret Power, eds. (London: Routledge, 2002).

15. Two studies that focus nearly exclusively on the terror imposed by the regime are Galíndez, The Era of Trujillo; and Crassweller, Robert D., Trujillo: The Life and Times of a Caribbean Dictator (New York: Macmillan, 1966).

16. While the generational shift of the resistance movement is significant and has been touched upon by Roberto Cassá, it is beyond the scope of this article. Still, it is worth noting that Alfonsina Perozo, who lived through the period, commented in her memoirs that by the last decade of the regime, “[l]os sectores de la sociedad dominicana, especialmente la juventud, no podían soportar más la opresión del regimen (all sectors of Dominican society, particularly the youth, could no longer endure the oppression of the regime).”Future studies are needed to address the gender component of this shift, as well as the motivations of these new actors in choosing to protest a violent dictatorship. See Perozo, , Los Perozo, p. 146; and Cassá, , Los orígenes, pp. 4146. For similar references to the role of generation in mobilization, see Foweraker, Joe, Theorizing Social Movements (Boulder: Pluto Press, 1995), p. 53; and Grazia, De, How Fascism Puled Women, p. 13.

17. Alvarez, Virtudes, Mujeres del 16 (Santo Domingo: Mediabyte, 2005); Peguero, Valentina, The Militarization of Culture in the Dominican Republic, from the Captains General to General Trujillo (Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 2004), pp. 3132; and Neici Zeller, ‘“To Live the Modern Life!’ Imperialism, Modernization, and the Gender War in the Dominican Republic, 1916–1924,” unpubl. conference paper, Tenth Berkshire Conference on the History of Women, 1996.

18. Dore, Elizabeth and Molyneux, Maxine, Hidden Histories of Gender and the State in Latin America (Durham: Duke University Press, 2000), p. 63.

19. Taylor, Diana, “Performing Gender: Las Madres de la Plaza de Mayo,” in Negotiating Performance: Gender, Sexuality, and Theatricality in Latin America, Taylor, Diana and Villegas, Juan, eds. (Durham: Duke University Press, 1994), pp. 275305.

20. Friedman, Elisabeth, Women and the Gendered Development of Democracy in Venezuela, 1936–1996 (University Park: Pennsylvania State University Press, 2000), p. 106.

21. Friedman, , Women and the Gendered Development of Democracy, p. 111.

22. Stokes goes on to argue that “[t]he Peruvian state’s insistence on the self–reliance of poor communities over the years may ironically have helped lay the groundwork for a more assertive and demanding popular culture.” Stokes, Susan, Cultures in Conflict: Social Movements and the State in Peru (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1995); pp. 8, 127.

23. Foweraker, , Theorizing Social Movements, pp. 74, 110.

24. Hernández, Angela, Emergencia del silencio. La mujer dominicana en la educación formal (Santo Domingo: Editora Universitaria, 1986), pp. 122126.

25. Vega, Bernardo, Un interludio de tolerancia: el acuerdo de Trujillo con los comunistas en 1946 (Santo Domingo: Fundación Cultural Dominicana, 1987).

26. Guzmán, Grey Coiscou, Testimonios. La gavilla luminosa. Tomo II (Santo Domingo, Editora Buhó, 2002).

27. Ibid., p. 4.

28. Cassá, , Los orígenes, p. 78.

29. The Partido Dominicano, run by Virgilio Alvarez Pina, was the nation’s only legal party.

30. Personal correspondence with Josefina Padilla, October 2004.

31. This period coincides with female suffrage and in many ways demonstrates the regime’s larger international show of democracy and transparency.

32. For more on the origins of what Richard Turits calls a “brief wave of liberal idealism,” see Turits, , Foundations of Despotism, p. 236; and Roorda, Eric, The Dictator Next Door: The Good Neighbor Policy and the Trujillo Regime in the Dominican Republic, 1930–1945 (Durham: Duke University Press, 2006). For a global perspective, see Borgwardt, Elizabeth, A New Deal for the World: America’s Vision for Human Rights (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 2005), p. 172.

33. Included, among others, were Gilda Pérez, Brunilda Soñé (who was head of her group in La Vega), Sobeya Mercedes Almonte, Edna Moore, Leila Pantaleón, and Dinorah and Ligia Echevarría.

34. Homes and local communities were essential to the movement in both phases and they provided a platform for female participation. For example, Ligia Echevarría Hernández and her sister Dinorah became involved in the movement through the activities of their brother Vinicio. According to memorialist Juan J. Cruz Segura, the home of the Echevarrias served as a sort of “center of the diffusion of revolutionary ideas.” See Segura, Cruz, Bajo la barbarie, p. 29. Similar examples include Josefina Padilla’s sister Silvia, as well as Carmen Natalia Martínez Bonilla and her sister Carmen Julia who also lived in a home of opposition activities. In addition, women who hailed from the same hometown often found that ties of friendship drew them into the movement. Violetica Martínez, Ruth Fernández, and Lourdes Pichardo, all from the small but affluent town of Moca, formed a cell of the Juventud Democrática with Federico Pichardo. This connection of women is noted in an interview with Violetica Martinez in Sang’s, Mu–Kien Adriana ¡Yo soy Minerva! Confesiones más allá de la vida y la muerte (Santo Domingo: Amigo del Hogar, 2003), p. 53. Gilda Pérez y Pérez became part of the organizing committee in Santiago through several male friends. See de los, Fundación de Constanza, Héroes, Hondo, Maimón y Estero, Memorias de la lucha contra la tiranía (Santo Domingo: Fundación de los Héroes de Constanza, Maimón y Estero Hondo, 1982), p. 38. Another large contingent of active women can be traced through connections they made at the Colegio Inmaculada Concepción in La Vega. Brunilda Soñé Pérez, Tomasina Cabrai, Dulce Tejada, and Emma Rodríguez all shared connections through either the region generally or their school. Memorias de la lucha contra la tiranía, p. 48.

35. Activist Rafael Rodríguez Méndez heaps praise on the work of Josefina Padilla and Carmen Natalia Martínez Bonilla. In discussing an early Juventud Democrática meeting, another activist, Virgilio Díaz Grullón, mentioned Martínez Bonilla’s constant work, adding that it “was not possible to imagine what we would have done without her” or without her permanent example of commitment, values, and self–denial. Activist Juan Bautista Ducoudray Mansfield, attests that “while the JD was legal, there was one person who played an important role, from 1946 to 1947, and that person was Carmen Natalia Martínez Bonilla.” See Guzmán, Coiscou, Testimonios. La gavilla luminosa, pp. 106107. In another article, Díaz Grullón called Martínez Bonilla “el alma presente” of the Juventud Democrática and argues that she was in the “center of it all,” offering her enthusiasm, constant work, and her “fe en el futuro democrático de nuestro pueblo (faith in the democratic future of our people).” The article appeared in a magazine dedicated entirely to Carmen Natalia Martínez Bonilla. Centro de Solaridad Para el Desarrollo de La Mujer, Inc. Ambar 7: Revista de Mujeres 3:6–7 (November 1991–April 1992), p. 83.

36. Martínez Bonilla’s extensive lifework is honored in the memoirs of many participants of the resistance, including Juan J. Cruz Segura in Bajo la barbarie. A selection of her letters is reproduced in Pensantes, Angela Hernández, ed. (New York: Ediciones Caliope, 2004), pp. 111–118; there is a short article about her life and literary work by Vicioso, Sherezada (ed.), “Carmen Natalia: ‘De la Soledad al Compromiso,’” in Algo que decir: ensayos sobre literature femenina, 1981–1991 (Santo Domingo: Editora Búho, 1991), pp. 4350. Following the end of the regime, Martínez Bonilla also became involved with the OAS Inter–American Commission of Women and served as the organization’s president, adding to her reputation as an accomplished member of the left concerned with the rights of women.

37. Cited in Mora, Herrera, Mujeres dominicanas, p. 77.

38. Ibid., p. 78.

39. Ibid., p. 80.

40. The transition had much to do with international pressures and the rise of a Cold War mentality that would support a brutal dictator rather than admit the possibility of communism. See Roorda, , The Dictator Next Door, pp. 230231.

41. Exile groups published reports of the actions of the Dominican government widely. See the Frances R. Grant Collection (hereafter FRGC), Boxes 34, 37, 38, 43, and 61, Rutgers University.

42. All of the letters, minus the final one to the Mexican Embassy, can be found in a compiliation of primary documents by Angela Hernandez. Martínez, Carmen Natalia, “Coraje y dignidad,” in Hernández, Pensantes, pp. 111118; The final letter, signed by the entire family, is in Herrera, , Mujeres dominicanas, pp. 218221.

43. During this time all passports were held by the Dominican government and individuals and families had to request them for travel.

44. Herrera, , Mujeres dominicanas, pp. 218221.

45. Pina, Virgilio Alvarez, “Partido Dominicano: advertenciaLa Nación (October 19, 1946), p. 1. Cited in Herrera, , Mujeres dominicanas, pp. 8182.

46. Hernández, Emergendo del silencio; Manley, “Poner un grano de arena”; and Zeller, “The Appearance of All.”

47. Quisqueya Libre 1:7 (September 1944), p. 4.

48. Ibid., p. 7.

49. “Trujillo es repudiado también por las mujeres,” Quisqueya Libre 3:1 (January-February 1936), p. 3.

50. Del Orbe, Del exilio politico.

51. Centro de Investigación para la Acción Femenina (CIPAF), “Quehaceres: We were Ready to Go,” Connexions 36 (1991), pp. 19–20; original in English.

52. Orbe, Del, Del exilio politico, pp. 6575. The meeting minutes reproduced in del Orbe’s book span from early January 1959 to late February of the same year.

53. Although they might be distant from the island itself, political exiles were not completely safe. The Trujillo regime was known to have disappeared and murdered several vocal male exiles with the help of notorious regime henchman Félix Bernardino. Moreover, the existence of several military regimes throughout Latin America made organizing an exile liberation movement a difficult task. See Orbe, Del, Del exilio político, pp. 18, 132.

54. Carolina Mainardi Reyna, who had joined the Partido Revolucionario Dominicano (PRD) with her husband when it formed in Puerto Rico in 1942, recalled picketing the Dominican consulate in 1958 on the fourth anniversary of the disappearance of Jesús de Galíndez, a vocal opponent of the regime who had been living in New York City. Known for her oratorical skills, Maricusa Ornes was invited often by the Vanguardia Revolucionario Dominicana (VRD) to be the voice of its weekly radio program in the capital.

55. Mora, Herrera, Mujeres dominicanas, p. 224.

56. Boletín 2:6 (June-July 1950), p. 1. As in the earlier resistance movement on the island, writing was one of the most accessible tools available to female activists in exile. Both Carolina Mainardi and Carmen Natalia Martinez Bonilla served as administrator or editor during the run of Exilio, the monthly paper of the Frente Undido Dominicano (FUD), and Martínez Bonilla also served as the secretary of public relations for the Unión Patriótica Dominicana (UPD) at various points. Altagracia del Orbe was similarly involved in writing campaigns in Cuba. See Del Orbe, Del exilio político; and Herrera Moya, Mujeres dominicanas.

57. Reprinted in Mora, Herrera, Mujeres dominicanas, p. 248. The other activist was Mercedes Borei.

58. Orbe, Del, Del exilio politico, p. 47. For more information on the invasions at Constanza, Maimón y Estero Hondo see Del Orbe, Del exilio politico, as well as the information that appears on the website of the Fundación de los Héroes de Constanza, Maimón y Estero Hondo at http://museodelaresistencia. org/museo/federaciones/cmh.html (accessed July 13, 2010) and the Museo de la Resistencia main site at (accessed April 29, 2012). The expedition began on June 14,1959, and lasted under a week. Word of the movement reached Trujillo in time for him to mobilize a counterattack, and the expeditionaries never received the support they thought they might in the countryside. Nearly all who had headed out from Cuba (one boat had to turn back) were killed, or arrested and then killed. The resistance movement that grew in Santo Domingo subsequent to the failed attempt took the name of the July 14th movement in honor of the effort.

59. Orbe, Del, Del exilio politico, pp. 145152.

60. Hoy, September 1959 (Havana), cited in Orbe, Del, Del exilio politico, pp. 9394.

61. Justino del Orbe mentions briefly the Congreso Latinoamericano de Mujeres that was held from October 9–12, 1959, and includes a letter signed by attendees. Although he gives little background on the event, the appeal to “hermanas de América Latina” written by event attendees and reproduced in his book was signed by several active female Dominican exiles, including Altagracia del Orbe and Gracida Heureaux. del Orbe, Justino, Del exilio político, pp. 9496, 153–154. The appeal to brothers and sisters in Latin American was not a technique used exclusively by women. Del Orbe notes the March 1960 Semana de Solidaridad in which activists from various Latin American countries gathered to protest the oppressive conditions existing in their native lands. Orbe, Del, Del exilio politico, pp. 98101, 133.

62. FRGC, Box 43, Folder 27. She identifies herself as the wife of Movimiento de Liberación Dominicano leader Alfonso Canto.

63. “8 Trujillo Foes Reported Killed,” New York Times, January 31, 1960, p. 9.

64. Ibid.

65. Landestoy, Carmita , ¡Yo también acuso! (Havana: Impresora Editorial, 1946).

66. Ibid., p. 130.

67. Orbe, Del, Del exilio politico, pp. 9394, 111–112.

68. Ibid., pp. 112, 132.

69. Mora, Herrera, Mujeres dominicanas, p. 244.

70. Orbe, Del, Del exilio político, p. 148.

71. One woman served as a spy for the opposition movement, while another prepared to join the revolutionary forces. Others worked clandestinely to shuttle information, goods, and even weapons, making dangerous trips to transport funds to exiled family members. Irma Hernández Santana, an exile in New York and member of the Movimiento de Liberación Dominicana, was sent by fellow activist-exile Alfonso Canto to conduct research back in the Dominican Republic. As historian Roberto Cassá relates, her assignment was to make a “reconnaissance of the conditions.” Clearly, the more visible and active male exiles would have been quickly jailed for such actions while women were, up to that time, better protected from imprisonment and torture. At a time when the various exile groups were attempting to coordinate their activities with each other and with the movement underway in their native land, such diligences could often be completed only by women. Cassá, , Los origenes, p. 130; Mora, Herrera, Mujeres dominicanas, p. 107.

72. Some women, however, were hamstrung by their previous involvement in the resistance. Josefina Padilla, for example, was allowed to return to the university after her year of house arrest only because of a family friend’s intervention and was forced to sign an agreement promising her total lack of involvement in any political activities. She termed herself “marcada” by the regime but argued that if the regime had made any other demands placed on her—for example, to serve as a spy on the regime’s behalf—she would not have complied. Personal correspondence with Josefina Padilla, October 20, 2004.

73. They included, among others, Brunilda Soñé, Violeta Martínez Bosch, and Emma Rodriguez. William Galván argues that it was particularly the friendship between Mirabal, Martínez, and Rodriguez in 1944 that galvanized the women’s political engagement. Minerva Mirabal. Historia de una heroina (Santo Domingo: Editora de la Universidad Autónoma de Santo Domingo, 1982), p. 107.

74. Ibid., p. 160. Brunilda Soñé, Violeta Martínez and Emma Rodríguez were the others.

75. In July 1951, Mirabal and her mother were confined to the Hotel Presidente in Santo Domingo while the girls’ father, Enrique Mirabal, was imprisoned nearby. Although the regime shordy released the senior Mirabal as well as Minerva and her mother, the confinement was meant to terrorize the entire family into compliance. Nonetheless, the following fall Minerva Mirabal convinced her family to allow her to enroll at the University of Santo Domingo.

76. The most prominent member of the group was a young priest named Daniel Cruz. Roberto Cassá reports that the group included several nuns. See Cassá, , Los origenes, pp. 113121. While the Church hierarchy actively supported the regime until its very last year, more research needs to be conducted on the potentially important role of lay men and women, as well as other grassroots religious groups, in the resistance movement. As has been pointed out in the case of Brazil, regime support from Church hierarchy does not necessarily rule out the possibility of lay activism. See Mainwaring, Scott, The Catholic Church: Politics in Brazil, 1916–1985 (Stanford: Stanford University Press, 1986), pp. 6078. More recently, Jan French argues for the importance of problematizing the notion of the “Church” as a “homogeneous institution.” French, “A Tale of Two Priests and Two Struggles: Liberation Theology from Dictatorship to Democracy in the Brazilian Northeast,” The Americas, 63:3 (January 2007), p. 413.

77. Galván, , Minerva, p. 246. Other biographies of Mirabal have noted Guzmán’s recollection of that initial meeting, although it is likely her sentiment had been developing for some time.

78. Cassá, , Los orígenes, p. 172. Cassá reports that in addition to Morales, members included Aída Arzeno, Ana Valverde Vda. Leroux, Argentina Capobianco, Italia Villalón, Elena Abréu, and Carmen Jane Bogaert de Heinsen.

79. Turits, , Foundations of Despotism, p. 252.

80. Ibid. Turits argues that “the insurgents’ quixotic gesture was nonetheless effective. It inspired the urban resistance and fueled the cycle of intensifying state terror and growing opposition that would create fertile terrain for a coup and lead to the collapse of the regime.” Similarly, Roberto Cassá notes that “a raíz de este hecho [the invasion] sobrevino un vasto sentido de compromiso que tuvo por efecto multiplicar los efectivos de los grupos clandestinos (as a result of the invasion what followed was a vast sense of committment that in effect multiplied the forces of the clandestine groups).” Cassá, , Los orígenes, p. 105. One of the participants in the 14 de Junio movement declared that the invasion “tuvo por efecto conmover la conciencia de todo el pueblo y provocar un impacto psicológico que descongeló a todo el mundo, impulsando como un torrente la organización de la oposición a Trujillo (had the effect of moving the consciousness of the entire nation and provoking a pyschological impact that shocked the entire world, impelling a torrent of organizing in opposition to Trujillo).” Benítez, Rafael Valera, Complot develado (Santo Domingo: Fundación Testimonio, 1982), p. 19.

81. los Héroes, Fundación de, Memorias, p. 195.

82. Vega, , Los Estados Unidos y Trujillo. Los días finales, 1960–61 (Santo Domingo: Fundación Cultural Dominicana, 1999), p. 42.

83. Cassá, , Los orígenes, p. 241. Cassá offers these conclusions based on the testimony of several of the original members. However, he admits to being unable to interview the surviving female participant in the meeting, Dulce Tejada.

84. Ibid., p. 127.

85. The massive wave of arrests began January 17,1960. Former secret police member Clodoveo Ortiz González offered his version of the arrests in a report he submitted to U.S. Ambassador John Bartlow Martin. In it, he stated that some 350 individuals were imprisoned, including five women. Other reports have indicated higher numbers, as well as more females arrested. Vega, , Los Estados Unidos y Trujillo, pp. 4244. As before, the exile community publicized these numbers widely.

86. They included Tomasina Cabrai, Fe Violeta Ortega, Dulce Tejada, Miriam Morales, Asela Morel, and Minerva’s sister Maria Teresa.

87. de los Héroes, Fundación, Memorias, p. 188.

88. de los Héroes, Fundación, Memorias, p. 197.

89. Cabral’s description of the torture was likely softened in her own retelling. While he does not identify her by name, fellow inmate Rafael Valera Benitez offers a significandy more chilling narrative of the actions taken against “una compañera del clandestinaje,” which includes details of the entire macabre scene. Benitez, Valera, Complot develado, pp. 3640.

90. de los Héroes, Fundación, Memorias, p. 189.

91. U.S. Embassy reports include descriptions of the torture of Tomasina Cabrai and Asela Morel that were forwarded to the OAS as part of their investigation of human rights abuses. See Vega, Bernardo, Los Estados Unidos y Trujillo, p. 114.

92. According to Cassá, several groups gathered at the trials began spontaneously singing the national anthem, and Cabrai affirms this in her own testimony. Cassá goes on to argue that “[l]os juicios tuvieron repercusión nacional, pues algunos de los procesados denunciaron la dictadura y sus sistema legal, como hizo Tomasina Cabrai (the trials had national repercussions, as some of the defendants, including Tomasina Cabrai, condemned the dictator and the legal system).” Cassá, , Los orígenes, p. 274. Although Cabrai does not narrate her words before the court, she certainly affirms the fact that the valiant performance of the audience offered incomparable solidarity. As she recalls, “[p]or primera vez en nuestras vidas fuimos testigos de algo nunca visto en muchos años. El público que presencio el juicio entonó el Himno Nacional y prácticamente empujaron a los guardias que con fusiles y en número muy crecido nos custodiaban. La presión fue tan fuerte, que suspendieron la entrega de alimentos por familiares negociada por el Fiscal con los guardias (for the first time in our lives, we were witness to something that had not been seen in many years. The public who witnessed the trials sang the National Anthem and practically pushed the armed guards, of whom there were many. The pressure was so intense that they stopped the provision of food from our familias that had previously been negotiated between the district attorney and the guards).“ de los Héroes, Fundación, Memorias, p. 198.

93. Vega, , Los Estados Unidos y Trujillo, pp. 5558; Cassá, , Los orígenes, pp. 260270. The letter is reproduced in its entirety in Benitez, Rafael Valera, Complot develado, pp. 156160.

94. Richard Turits argues for the importance of the pastoral letter at the local level, although undoubtedly it was extremely important in urban areas as well. He writes that among peasants, the pastoral letter “presented an open repudiation of official discourse by an alternative source of authority, thus exposing the limitations of the regime’s hegemony.” Turits, , Foundations of Despotism, p. 256.

95. Benitez, Valera, Complot develado, p. 43. The investigation was requested by Venezuela.

96. Vega, , Los Estados Unidos y Trujillo, pp. 63165.

97. Referenced in Vega, , Los Estados Unidos y Trujillo, pp. 54, 110.

98. Dra. Dulce Ma. Sánchez de Rubio to the Secretario de Estado de Interior y Cultos, Interior y Policía, Depósito 4, Legajo 5204, Archivo General de la Nación (hereafter AGN), Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic.

99. For more on the Movimiento Popular Dominicano, their return from exile in June 1960, and their publication Libertad, see Cassá, , Los orígenes, pp. 293316.

100. Ibid.

101. Galvan reports that he made this statement during a visit to Villa Tapia, a town close to the women’s hometown of Salcedo. Galván, , Minerva Mirabal, p. 317. Bernard Diedrich makes a similar assertion. Diedrich, Trujillo, p. 69. Court records from the subsequent trial of the Mirabal assassins indicate that the statement was made at the home of José Quezada on November 2, 1960. See Benitez, Valera, Complot develado, p. 126.

102. Turits, , Foundations of Despotism, p. 257.

103. El Caribe, April 23, 1961; cited in Vega, , Los Estados Unidos y Trujillo, pp. 610611. Cassá also makes reference to the presence of prostitutes in the church in La Vega. Cassá, , Los orígenes, p. 283.

104. “Wives of 3 Foes of Trujillo Dead,” New York Times, November 30, 1960, p. 5.

105. “100 Here Protest 3 Dominican Deaths,” New York Times, December 4, 1960, p. 50.

106. Benitez, Valera, Complot develado, pp. 139143; Fundación de los Héroes, Memorias.

107. Benitez, Valera, Complot develado, p. 9. Journalist Bernard Diederich expresses a similar conclusion. He argues that the “cowardly killing of three beautiful women in such a manner had greater effect on Dominicans than most of Trujillo’s other crimes. It did something to their machismo. They could never forgive Trujillo this crime. More than Trujillo’s fight with the Church or the United States, or the fact that he was being isolated by the world as a political leper, the Mirabais’ murder tempered the resolution of the conspirators plotting his end.” Diederich, , Trujillo, pp. 7172.

108. FRGC, Box 43, Folder 21.

Intimate Violations: Women and the Ajusticiamiento of Dictator Rafael Trujillo, 1944-1961

  • Elizabeth Manley (a1)


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