Wednesday, February 5, 2014

"Dedé Mirabal: The Essence of Historical Elegance"

Note: The elegant Dedé Mirabal passed away last week. I wish to repost this blog I wrote about a year ago when we had the privilege of visiting with her at her home. It was, indeed, an incredible experience.

"Dedé Mirabal: The Essence of Historical Elegance"

          Sometimes we meet someone who leaves a great impression. That happened Wednesday. Elder and Sister Haws, Jenny Jacobs, and we went on a journey to visit the Museo Hermanas Mirabal (the Mirabal Sisters Museum). The events that percolated out of that one single event made the entire trip and may be one of the most eventful happenings of our mission so far.

          The Mirabal Sisters—Patria, Dedé, Minerva, and María Teresa—are extremely famous here in the Dominican Republic. They were part of the revolution that ultimately brought down the Trujillo regime. Unfortunately, three of them— Patria, Minerva, and María Teresa—were assassinated in a sugar field on November 25, 1960. Their story has been depicted in the movie: In the Time of the Butterflies, starring Salma Hayek as Minerva, Edward James Olmos as Trujillo.

          Perhaps, the best part of the trip was having the privilege of sitting down with Dedé Mirabal, the surviving sister. 

Dedé Mirabal

She met us on her back veranda. She was already seated in a white chair, a warm smile and a shock of gray hair lying gracefully in a long lock on the left side of her head. Dressed in a blue and white pattern blouse with a string of pearls hanging from her neck, she greeted us with the typical Dominican greeting, a kiss on the cheek for the hermanas, and a graceful extended hand to us, her eyes glistening with joy and love. She beckoned us to sit. I sat beside her, cognizant of who I was sitting by. I wanted to breathe in her aura, capture every word she said.

                She shared with us salient parts of the story. One important part was the fact she raised her three children and the six children left behind by her sisters’ death, which she called “a tragedy.” She currently lives in the home, now painted yellow with white shutters, where she and her sisters were raised. 

Museo Hermanas Mirabal
She talked about her experiences with the Museo Hermanas Mirabal, which the family foundation runs. She said thousands of students come to visit the Museo, and she has the opportunity to visit with them. They like to ask lots of questions. They ask about the tragedy, but they also ask about her age and how she feels and what it is like to live now. 

Orchids in in the gardens
For an 87-year-old, she looks incredible. Plus, she said, “I feel great!” Each morning, she walks through the gardens, thinking and pondering her life and often the past, checking to see which mariposas (butterflies) have landed on her many flowers, including the stunning orchids in the entryway. 

                She was so gracious in receiving us and allowed us to take pictures of her. When I took a close up, she commented how close the picture was. She wanted to see it; so, I showed it to her. She was pleased with the photo.

Dedé Mirabal and los Hammon

                Soon, we felt it was time to go. She had given us many precious moments of her time and her life. She signed her book for the Haws and Sister Jacobs. Reluctantly, we rose from our chairs. We wanted to linger even longer than we did. We could have sat for hours and listened to her. 

                As we bade her good bye, we couldn’t help but feel we had just been with someone whose history seeps into the free thought of every Dominican. As we walked to the car, we asked ourselves what one word described her. Just one word came to mind: elegance. She was elegant—is elegant. 

Orchids in the garden
                 Walking into the street in front of her home, I personally felt a bit of air rush from my body. Perhaps, it was a sense of greatness swelling within in. We had just been with someone who played a starring role in the great history of the Dominican Republic. She allowed us in, actually took us in, bathed us with her stories, her energy, her love, her kindness, her memories of a time past, yet still very present in the community of Ojo de Agua (Eye of Water). 

                We climbed into the Toyota Forerunner and sat for just a moment, trying to hoard the moment, trying to comprehend what we had just experienced. We spent precious time with la hermana sobreviviente (the living sister), Dedé Mirabal. Los Dominicanos all know about the Mirabal Sisters; now, we know about them, too, or at least a mere slice. We knew we had been some of the privileged ones to see her, talk with her, and feel of her presence. 

Jenny Jacobs, los Haws, Dedé Mirabal, los Hammon on the veranda

Thank you, Doña Dedé Mirabal.