The Dominican revolution started long before the events of 1965. 1956 was the epitome of the resistance when farmers and workers poured into the streets, demanding an e aboutnd to foreign interference in the Dominican Republic. The Dominican Republic went through phases of foreign occupation by the French, Spanish, and the American. Communist and capitalist forces were active in the country that saw numerous change of leadership mainly under the direction of the United States.
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The intervention of the US in 1905 marked the beginning of a long US presence in the island and the creation of many puppet governments headed by dictators like Trujillo. Opposition to Trujillo, especially from the Mirabal sisters, led to his decline. Trujillo took power in 1930 under a staged election and went on to rule the Dominican Republic for 30 years under US backing. His anti-communist stance won him the favor of the US, but the oppression he subjected to people worried about his backers.
The US was concerned that the oppressed workers and farmers will start a communist revolution against the Trujillo regime similar to that in Cuba, and so he had to be removed from power. The workers and farmers who poured to the streets in 1965 protesting the occupation of their country were part of the resistance movement whose founders included the Mirabel sisters.
The American forces stationed in the country were held for a while but finally the revolutionaries were defeated. In the period that followed, the American backed government led by General Elías Wessin Wessin faced strikes till it fell on April 1965.
Movement by the Mirabal sisters
Though there were active communist forces in the Dominican Republic, they were not as dominant as the capitalists headed by the United States. The movement by the Mirabel sisters was more of a populist movement motivated by the excesses of the Trujillo regime. Earlier in the attempt to overthrow Trujillo by the exiled Dominicans, the Dominican Liberation Movement had counted on the help of the peasant farmers which they did not get.
The sisters were respected and popular throughout the country, a factor that led to the authorities resulting in an indirect execution (Figueredo 2002, 141). The only communist connection that they had with the Fidelista movement was the sympathy of the middle and lower classes of the population.
The movement by the Mirabal sisters was not entirely modeled on the Fidelista Cuban movement. The fourteenth of June Movement led by the sisters was inspired by the failed attempt to overthrow the Trujillo regime by the exiled members of the Dominican Republic. In part, it resembled the Cuban revolution because of the grand marches by workers and farmers.
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However, industrial action like strikes too did characterize it. Four years after the death of the sisters, soldiers led by Colonel Francisco Caamaño, overthrew the government, an action that prompted the US to react to avert a revolution (Alvarez 1994, 73-76).
The U.S response to this movement
Before the US reacted militarily to Colonel Francisco Camano’s takeover, there were no records implicating it in any intervention on the Mirabal movement. Trujillo did gather intelligence on the group’s activities and could prove their anti-government moves. He imprisoned most of the group’s members, including the sisters’ husbands.
There was growing resistance to the regime, which could have easily culminated to another Cuba style revolution (Alvarez 1994, 34-36). The US had to replace Trujillo with his arch-enemy Juan Bosch in 1962. US imperialism was evident throughout the country’s development, and the assignation and effective removal of Trujillo from office were one of the acts of imperialism.
Also, the US sent in 42,000 troops while blockading the country with warships apparently to try and evacuate Americans. Other South American nations enjoying the backing of the US sent troops to the Dominican Republic and the revolutionary government was finally overthrown.
Important themes in the book
The book brings out numerous themes touching on various aspects. Authoritarianism, women in politics and power and courage are some of the themes dominant in the book.
The setting of the book is during the reign of dictator Trujillo. The modernized Dominican military offered Trujillo the best chance he had to ascend to power. He used the military and American backing to maintain a dictatorial regime for thirty-one years (Roorda 1998, 31).
The Mirabal sister resistance started after the president had ordered the massacre of over twenty thousand immigrants from Haiti. Alvarez revels that the country was crawling with spies targeting especially the Mirabal sisters. It was a show sheer authority as fear gripped the whole country during his rule, and no one could be trusted, not even the neighbors. This authoritarian atmosphere breeds a feeling of entrapment in the country; a situation captured well by the fear that people expressed in their daily lives.
Women in politics and power
The Mirabal sisters witnessed the massacre of twenty thousand Haitians ordered by their president Trujillo. They swore to lead a movement to disrupt the regime or overthrow it all together (Figueredo 2002, 140-141).
Together with their father, they started planning for the formation of a resistance movement. In the first chapters of the book, the sisters express frustration on the perception that women did not belong to public life. The Mirabel sisters led a resistance movement that was opposed to the rule of Trujillo. It was a time in history when women had no say, but the three sister’s leadership stands out. Their sister who survived the assassination explains the book.
Opposing Trujillo and even organizing a resistance movement to overthrow the government required exceptional courage. Perhaps the best demonstration of their courage was the defiance they showed when they learned that Trujillo was about to assassinate them.
They were to be seized on their way to visit their husbands in jail. Though they were aware of the plan, they would not let the authorities intimidate them (Figueredo 2002, 141). Farmers and workers who opposed the tyrant regimes too did show courage which forms a significant part of the book.
Other themes in the book include domination, struggle, and dictatorship. The US forcefully takes over the Dominican Republic and is actively involved in everyday decision making about running the country, including choosing its leaders.
The people of the republic are involved in various struggles both armed and nonarmed. Governments are overthrown as people agitate for better rule and less foreign interference in the country’s affairs. Trujillo is an authoritarian leader whose dictatorship tendencies lead to abuse of human rights and loss of life. The constitution is not respected many times and his word is almost law.
Alvarez, J. 1994. In the Time of the Butterflies. Texas: Algonquin Books of Chapel Hill
Figueredo D. H. 2002.The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Latino History and Culture. US: Marie Butler Knight.
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Roorda, E. 1998. The dictator next door: the good neighbor policy and the Trujillo regime in the Dominican Republican 1930-1945. US: Duke University Press.