A project by actors, producers and activists Eva Longoria and Dania Ramirez puts a spotlight on a family of Dominican women who fought against a brutal dictatorship and gave up everything in the fight for freedom.
The actors’ new scripted podcast with iHeartMedia’s My Cultura Network “Sisters of the Underground,” tells the true story of the Mirabal sisters, Patria, Minerva and María Teresa, Dominican dissidents whose courageous activism and subsequent murders by the state triggered outrage that led, in part, to the downfall of the brutal dictator Rafael Trujillo (aka El Jefe) in the 1960s.
The sisters were the subjects of Julia Alvarez’s widely praised 2010 novel, “In the Time of the Butterflies.”
The audio drama stars a cast of Dominican actors including Judy Reyes (voicing Minerva Mirabal), Celinés Toribio (Dédé Mirabal), Sharlene Taulé (Maria Teresa Mirabal), Akari Endo (Patria Mirabal), Sergio Carlo (Manolo), Hemky Madera as (Trujillo) and Ramirez as narrator Minou Taváres Mirabal.
Longoria and Ramirez — who formed a deep friendship after working on “Devious Maids,” which Longoria executive produced — told TODAY that bringing this story to life was “serendipitous.”
The multifaceted stars, who serve as executive producers of the eight-part series, felt they needed to tell the story after seeing the “parallels” of what happened during that time period and today.
“It doesn’t surprise me that women can be courageous and it doesn’t surprise me that once we put our mind to something we can make things happen,” Ramirez told TODAY over the phone. “But it does (surprise me) the time that this happened. Back in the 1960s in such a patriarchal society.”
The Mirabal sisters’ efforts to challenge the regime cost them their lives, but it also sparked a revolution and made them symbols of both democratic and feminist resistance, as Time reported.
“There’s nothing shocking to me that women are at the center of rebellion because women are disproportionately affected by things like this,” Longoria said, adding that in this day and age, “our democracy is being threatened and it’s going to be the activism, I believe, of women in this country to really get democracy back on track and to make sure that our rights aren’t being taken away, that we’re being heard.”
We need more women like the Mirabal sisters who were so courageous during that time, but we still need that courage today.
Longoria and Ramirez said that they know a thing or two about fighting for what they believe in and having their voices heard, especially in the entertainment industry.
“I feel like I fight hard all the time,” Ramirez said. “I do believe that anything that’s worth it, it’s going to be a fight. I think, as women today, it’s interesting to see that we’re still fighting that fight.”
Longoria added, “We fight for everything, every day. Women have to be twice as good, twice as efficient, twice as fast, twice as prepared and so it’s still the reality of it.”
Together, they’re building their own sisterhood “between the women that are doing things and getting things moving” to put out meaningful content.
Aside from collaborating with each other and Latinos in the industry, Ramirez was recently announced as the lead for Fox’s missing persons drama “Alert” after wrapping Season Two of Netflix’s “Sweet Tooth.”
As for Longoria, “Sisters of the Underground” is the second of three original shows created by her UnbeliEVAble Entertainment for the My Cultura Network, which also includes the upcoming “Hungry for History” about the origins of cultural dishes, and “Connections” podcast, which launched earlier this year. She’s also coming off directing the pilot for HBO Max’s since cancelled comedy “Gordita Chronicles,” which she also served as executive producer. She also has an array of projects in the works, including producing and starring in the mini series “Land of Women” and her feature directorial debut, “Flamin’ Hot.”
Ramirez hopes that with the retelling of the Mirabal sisters’ story, they “not only inspire women today, but also inspire the new generation of women” to show them that they can do anything they set their minds to.
“United we matter more than divided,” Ramirez added.
Longoria said she wants women to remember to “give themselves permission to be great.”
“You are the difference,” she said. “These three women were ordinary women who did something extraordinary, and I think the rest of the world should empower themselves in that way.”
“Sisters of the Underground” is streaming on iHeartMedia’s My Cultura Podcast Network, a network dedicated to elevating Latinx voices and stories.