Latinas in the U.S. come from a long line of influential, barrier-breaking, rebel Latin American women. Through Remezcla’s Herstory series, we introduce readers to the women warriors and pioneers whose legacies we carry on.
For Women’s History Month, La Galería Magazine has once again launched the #DominicanHerstory social media campaign. The independent magazine that covers all things Dominican started the hashtag to look at the important contributions made by women from the Dominican Republic, but along the way, La Galería found that there is a very narrow representation of Dominican women online.
“Through the creation of this list, we did notice that a Google search of ‘Mujeres Dominicanas’ leads to results that prove just how over-sexualized and objectified we are,” said Amanda Alcantara, the magazine’s editor-in-chief, in a press release. “However, in the creation of these Facebook posts, we also realize that Dominicanas are truly unstoppable human beings who will overcome all barriers, including sexism, to accomplish their goals as well as to celebrate their community.”
In honor of Women’s History Month, here are some of the biggest montras of the past and present:
The Mirabal Sisters
On November 25, 1960, the Mirabal sisters – three sisters involved in a clandestine political movement against brutal Dominican dictator Rafael Trujillo –were assassinated.
Rafael Trujillo’s decades of power were marked by kidnappings, torture, and assassinations. The sisters – Patria, Minerva and María Teresa – were fearless activists who defied the regime, secretly handing out pamphlets detailing Trujillo’s abuses, and mobilizing DR’s middle class against him. The sisters became known as Las Mariposas.
In May 1960, Minerva and María Teresa were sentenced to three years in prison for their dissident activities. Though mounting international pressure forced Trujillo to free them, the sisters were murdered three months after their release.
While Trujillo saw their deaths as a victory, their murders became his downfall. The public outcry that followed catalyzed change, and on May 30, 1961, Trujillo was murdered. Today, many credit the sisters with toppling the regime.
The Mirabals’ life has since been immortalized in Julia Alvarez’s In the Time of the Butterflies, which was later turned into a movie (starring Salma Hayek) in 2001.
Nuria Piera is the daughter of the late journalist Enrique Piera, who was murdered during Joaquín Balaguer’s second term. Nuria has made a name for herself as an investigative journalist. In 1987, she launched Nuria en el 9, a show that began as a lifestyle and social issues program, but eventually focused on investigative journalism.
Recently, Piera uncovered a major scoop relating to Pope Francis’ dismissal of late Polish prelate Józef Wesolowski as the Apostolic Nuncio for the Dominican Republic. Initial reports claimed the dismissal due to a dispute between Wesolowski and archbishop Roberto González Nieves, however Piera uncovered the truth: it was because of child abuse. Nuria also found that well-known Dominican priest Domingo Espinal had sexually abused children.
Throughout her career she has also taken on Cristina Saralegui/Univison and Walter Mercado for presenting lies to Latino audiences. And she revealed that the biggest mafia in the DR was selling expired medicine.
Nuria continues to be passionate about her work, despite the dangers that come with it. She has received death threats in her 28 years of work.
Salomé Ureña was one of the most prominent poets of the 19th Century. Her father introduced her to French and Spanish writers, and she started writing at age 15, according to El Día. Her first poem was published two years later.
Ureña also fought so that women could be afforded the same rights as men. In 1881, she and her husband opened the Instituto de Señoritas, a school for women in the DR.
Mechi Annaís Estévez Cruz
Mechi Annaís Estévez Cruz is a queer afro-indigenous woman who launched Una Vaina Bien Spanish to promote socially responsible travel in the DR. Feeling frustrated by the tourism industry in the DR – where Dominicans are erased in their own home – she started Una Vaina Bien to lessen the negative impacts tourism can have.
“We are obliterated, removed, everything about us is sterilized and tucked out of view to make way for tourism,” she wrote. “Rumors circulate about local people being displaced from their land to build a port for the cruise ships in Maimon; Dominicans are denied access both physically (illegally) and economically to their own beaches and the restaurants or hotels that line them. And through it all, we are told we must be grateful for this erasure and lack of ownership because we owe our livelihoods to it.”
Through UVB, she offers language classes, and socio-cultural and historical information to those visiting Cabarete.
Florinda Muñoz Soriano, aka Mamá Tingó, was an activist for the DR’s rural farming community. She was born in Villa Mella, and became a well-respected figure. In the 1970s, a landowner named Pablo Díaz Hernández claimed ownership of lands that had been occupied for centuries by farmers. Mamá Tingó, who was a member of the Liga Agraria Cristiana, disagreed and fought for her community.
Though she was in her 50s, she didn’t back down from this fight, even landing herself in jail. In November 1974, she and other farmers went to court in Hato Viejo, though Hernández was a no-show. When she returned home, one of Hernández’s workers killed her.
Josefina Baez is an actress, writer, and director from La Romana. In 1986, she founded the Ay Ombe Theatre Troupe, and she has written Dominicanish and Comrade, Bliss Ain’t Playing. Both are performance texts, and the former has been performed all over the world in the last decade.
“Josefina Baez has been breaking open hearts and reordering minds for more years than I care to count,” Junot Díaz said, according to a University of Arkansas article. She is a sword bathed in flame, she’s a marvel.”
Aniana Ondina Vargas Jáquez
Aniana Ondina Vargas Jáquez was an anti-trujillista and environmentalist. She vocally opposed dictator Rafael Trujillo, and she lived in exile in the United States, returning to fight in the Dominican Civil War of 1965.
Known as the Madre de las Aguas, Aniana founded the Federación de Campesinos and worked to preserve the basins of the Yuna and White rivers.
Author Julia Alvarez was born in New York, but spent some of her formative years living in the DR. Before she was a teenager, her family had to return to NY because her father was involved in the anti-Trujillo movement. Her books draw on her own family’s experiences.
Through How the García Girls Lost Their Accent, In the Time of Butterflies and ¡Yo!, she has become of the most celebrated Latina authors.
Andrea Evangelina Rodríguez Perozo
Andrea Evangelina Rodríguez Perozo was born in Higüey in 1879, and in 1902, she went to a women’s school and earned the highest marks in the course. A year later, she went to the Universidad de Santo Domingo’s medical school, and she became the DR’s first woman doctor. She was a gynecologist, obstetrician, and pediatrician. She also pushed for sex ed classes in schools, and was openly critical of Trujillo.
Rita Indiana was an innovator of techno-style merengue, though she has chosen to focus on writing, where she’s also doing big things. Her last book, La mucama de Omicunlé, is one of 11 up for the Premio Bienal de Novela Mario Vargas Llosa. She is one of the youngest authors on the list, and also one of the few women.
Her books draw from her own life, so she explores issues of identity and gender, as well as the Caribbean.