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  • Celebrating Our Latina Feminist Foremothers:A Response to Elisabeth Schüssler Fiorenza
  • Nancy Pineda-Madrid (bio)

Far too often Latina feminist theology has been identified as a discourse emergent in response to Latin American Liberation theology, Euro-American Feminist theology and U.S. Latino theology. Undoubtedly, each of these has influenced Latina feminist theological discourse significantly. But this reading alone is too simple and shortsighted, a point I have previously argued.1 When Elisabeth Schüssler Fiorenza calls for a celebration of the birthdays of eminent feminists not as a "private event" but as "public acknowledgments of feminist work and public investments in a feminist future" (98), she directs our attention toward the missing piece. Latina feminist theology stands on the shoulders of Latina foremothers, whose leadership and efforts long ago forged a consciousness that we today identify as feminist. If Latina feminist theologians understand our feminist consciousness as the fruit of only the last forty some years, we not only do so in error but we also undermine the critical, liberatory goal of our work.

Our foremothers possessed and worked from a critical recognition of the lived experience of gender, culture, race, and class inequalities. If Latina feminist theology is to continue to be a critical, emancipatory discourse then we must engage in "a revolutionary act of historiography" (104). We need to identify and celebrate our feminist foremothers. We need to draw on their intellectual contributions and wisdom, acknowledging them as our "legitimating and authorizing figures" (104). For the most part, Latina feminist theologians have yet to lay claim in any substantial way to our enormous birthright. Notably, through her work on Sor Juana Inés de la Cruz, Michelle González has wisely moved Latina feminist discourse in this direction.2 Indeed, Sor Juana is a preeminent example. But we need to lay claim to many more foremothers. I can think of no better way to take seriously the celebration of our foremothers than to identify a few more of them and their birthdays as well as to offer a brief reflection on their contribution. [End Page 110]

The Mirabal Sisters

Patria Mirabal de González (February 27, 1924-November 25, 1960)

Dedé Mirabal de Reyes (March 1, 1925-present)

Minerva Mirabal de Tavárez (March 12, 1926-November 25, 1960)

María Teresa Mirabal de Guzmán (October 15, 1935-November 25, 1960)

The Mirabal sisters, upper-class citizens of the Dominican Republic, enjoyed a privileged education and the best of cultural offerings. In 1930, while they were young children, Rafael Trujillo, known as El Jefe (the Boss), became the brutal dictator of the Dominican Republic, which he ruled until his assassination in 1961. At his direction, tens of thousands of people were tortured and brutally killed including all who opposed his policies. He sought to eliminate the black race from the island of Hispañola, ordering the murder of countless thousands of Haitians. His era was one of the bloodiest in the American history. Minerva Mirabal decided, when she was a young adult, to oppose Trujillo's rule. Having had several discussions with one of her uncles, Minerva and her sisters joined forces with other political dissidents forming an underground movement called the Fourteenth of June. In the meantime, Minerva earned a law degree but was denied a license to practice law because she had refused Trujillo's sexual advances. The Maribal sisters' opposition to Trujillo initially meant repeated incarceration and torture for Minerva and María Teresa. However, on November 25, 1960, Minerva, Patria, and María Teresa visited their imprisoned husbands. Upon their return, Trujillo's men intercepted their car. These men beat the three sisters and their driver to death. Their car was thrown down the mountain to make their deaths appear as an accident. In December 1999, the United Nations General Assembly declared November 25, the day that three of the Mirabal sisters were murdered, a day of observation as International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women.3

Celebrating the lives and witness of the Mirabal sisters holds Latina feminist theologians accountable. The Mirabal sisters point us toward all instances in the world where the lives of women and people...


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