Guest Speaker Champions Human Rights

NASH students gather to meet noted Dominican Republic politician Minou Tavárez Mirabal


photo by Ashley Boehmke

After reading In the Time of the Butterflies in their Spanish classes, students had the unique opportunity to meet the daughter of one of the book's central characters.

Samantha Solenday, Assignments Editor

It’s not uncommon for students to congregate in the MPR to listen to a guest speaker. But Friday’s presentation by Minou Tavárez Mirabal, however, was hardly common.

At 11:30am, students filled the MPR to hear Mirabal’s talk. The daughter of a Dominican national hero and martyr who plays a central role in the bestselling novel In the Time of the Butterflies, Mirabal forged a unique connection with her student audience, as they had recently finished studying the novel in the Spanish classes.

A professor, author, politician, and former presidential nominee in the 2016 Dominican Republic general election, Mirabal focused her talk on her family’s struggle against the dictatorship in the Dominican Republic, specifically the instances documented in Julia Alvarez’s novel, In the Time of the Butterflies. Mirabal also took special note of the fact that Friday was International Women’s Day and emphasized to her young audience the significance of women’s rights to her family and to the world at large. 

“Having Minou Tavárez Mirabal was a refreshing experience for our entire community,” said Spanish teacher Mr. DiBacco, one of the event’s organizers. “She reminded us of the importance of fighting for democracy and human rights and equal rights for women, especially because today is International Women’s Day. It marked the event very nicely, and we hope to have influential speakers such as Minou again in the future.”

In the 1950s and 60s, Mirabal’s mother and aunts were revolutionaries who worked to overthrow the Dominican dictator Rafael Trujillo and served as symbols of hope for the country. Tragically, all but one of the four women were murdered by the dictatorship.

photo by Ashley Boehmke Mirabal’s personal connection to the fight for human rights brought a special poignancy to her Friday talk in the MPR.

After a short presentation detailing her mother’s and aunts’ family lives before their assassinations, Mirabal answered student questions. Conversation flowed back and forth in both English and Spanish, with DiBacco occasionally acting as a translator, and many students were able to ask and respond to questions in Spanish, even when they had the option of speaking English.

Having read the Alvarez book in class before attending the presentation, students were eager to make a real-world connection. It was a rare occasion in the course of the school year to meet a person who has intimate knowledge about the characters studies in the classroom.

“The presentation was such a valuable experience because it made the people in the book come to life” said senior Rachel Allen, who read In the Time of Butterflies in DiBacco’s AP Spanish class.

For co-organizer Mrs. Lombardi, the event was particularly poignant.

“Hearing Minou tell the story that I had read about through the book was extremely powerful,” Lombardi said. “She also had an inspirational message for women because it is International Women’s Day, and she found it very strange that we weren’t doing anything to celebrate that in our school.  I think her presence here and her mother’s and aunts’ legacies are a testament to empowering women.”

To check out In the Time of the Butterflies, stop by the NASH Library. You can also buy the book on Amazon for $14. Additionally, the play adaptation of the novel will be performed at the Prime Stage Theatre in downtown Pittsburgh, and Mrs. Lombardi is taking a group to the show on March 13.