Dominican Heroines and Butterflies
Trip Start Apr 06, 2007
11Trip End Apr 14, 2007
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When I decided to visit my aunt and uncle in the D.R, I knew that I wanted to visit where the Mirabal sisters lived and I had heard that there was a museum dedicated to the Butterflies close to their childhood home
As we continued northwest on the Duarte Highway, we approached the city of La Vega. On the map, it said to turn off the highway at this point and head north to the city of Moca, which would then lead to a road to take us east to Salcedo and the Mirabal museum. Signs in the D.R. can be misleading because we took an exit for the Highway 21, but shortly after, my aunt realized that we weren't on the 21; we were on the 211. The road became gravel and we went through little villages as we headed north on our alternative route. It was a beautiful drive and quite an adventure! We came to a bridge that had been washed out and was now crooked
We arrived in Moca after an hour or so and entered a busy street, full of little scooters darting in and out of traffic. When we finally found the turnoff to Salcedo, we were more relaxed and the road became less hectic. We left the big city and again drove through jungle-like foliage. My uncle, who had to work today, had just visited the museum with his students the month before and had instructed us to pass through the town of Salcedo and just a little bit after exiting, we'd see a sign for the town of Ojo de Agua to our left. That was the way to the Mirabal family's first home and where the only surviving sister, Dede currently lives. If we continued straight, before reaching the next town, we'd see a sign for the museum on our right.
As we left Salcedo, a small town that only took a few minutes to drive though and had a nice church in the towncenter, we began to be on the lookout for a sign to Ojo de Agua. As we saw the first sign, it was too late and we kept driving, wondering if we should turn around. Then my aunt spotted another sign for Ojo de Agua so we followed that
We came to an intersection and weren't sure if we should turn left or right. We decided to turn right and after driving a little ways, we asked a family walking on the road if the little village we were entering was Ojo de Agua. She asked if we were looking for Doña Dede's house and told us to turn around becasue we had passed Ojo de Agua. Shortly after turning around, we saw an elementary school named after the Butterflies and then we saw the plaza. There was a modern-looking monument and also the damaged car frame that was recovered after the Mirabal sisters' tragic death. I started to look around and see the beautiful flowers and giant trees around the plaza. I thought: these trees were probably here when the Butterflies were still alive. It almost moved me to tears. We continued to look around and spotted the beautiful yellow house on the corner and knew right away that it was where Dede lives. We walked up the road next to the house and took some pictures. I didn't feel like knocking on her door because I didn't want to bother her. We noticed that the back gates were opened and decided to ask the guard if we could at least see the amazing garden near the house. He asked us where we were from and my aunt, Gail and I said the U.S. The guard came back after a few moments and said we could walk through the garden. I think he must have asked Doña Dede if we could see her garden and since we had come from far away, she let us.
Ojo de Agua is a very humid place and thus explains why orchids and other tropical flowers thrive here. Dede's garden is incredible! We felt honored to be able to walk through her garden and briefly see her profile, as she was preparing for a lunch visit from her son on the outdoor porch. Gail had already seen Dede and one of her nieces at a talk in Santo Domingo a few months ago and recognized her by her black hair with a white streak. Later that day, my uncle explained that the government provides a guard for Dede because she's considered a national treasure, being the only surviving Mirabal sister.
After visiting Ojo de Agua, we found the main road again and headed east toward the museum. It was fairly easy to find and we only had to pay 60 pesos (a little under $2) I think to enter the museum.