In The Time Of The Butterflies Patria Essay Definition

Three of the four daughters of Enrique and Mercedes Mirabal were murdered by the secret service of Dominican dictator Rafael Trujillo on November 25, 1960, as they returned from Puerto Plata, after paying their weekly visit to the imprisoned husbands of two of the sisters. Julia Alvarez, whose own family fled the Trujillo regime in August of 1960, when she was ten years old, captures in spine-tingling detail more than two decades of events that preceded these murders.

The first three sisters, Patria, Dede, and Minerva were born between 1924 and 1926. Teresa Marie, nicknamed Mate, followed in 1935. Of the four, only Dede survived assassination, because she was unable to travel to Puerto Plata with her sisters on the appointed day. Alvarez, using first-person narration and dividing her book into sections headed always by the name of the sister who is talking, achieves a uniquely well-rounded development of her characters, who reveal themselves in their own sections, but who are further revealed by each of the other sisters in their sections.

This is the story of how four conventional, Roman Catholic sisters evolved into revolutionaries code-named “Mariposa”—“butterfly” in Spanish—after being reared as typical, submissive Hispanic women. By defying Trujillo, Minerva, the most independent and iconoclastic sister, gains both his respect and rage. As his megalomania increases, however, the Mirabals become his obsession.

He arrested three of their husbands as well as Minerva and Mate, ultimately releasing the women to house arrest in Ojo de Agua. As Trujillo’s obsession grows, he orchestrates their murders, which transform the sisters into martyrs venerated throughout Latin America.


Bergman, Susan, ed. Martyrs: Contemporary Writers on Modern Lives of Faith. San Francisco: Harper, 1996. One chapter of this collection is “Chasing the Butterflies. The Mirabals: Dominican Republic, 1960,” Alvarez’s description of the path that led her to write about the Mirabal sisters.

Booklist. XC, July, 1994, p. 1892. A review of In the Time of the Butterflies.

Chicago Tribune. October 24, 1994, V, p. 3. A review of In the Time of the Butterflies.

The Christian Science Monitor. October 17, 1994, p. 13. A review of In the Time of the Butterflies.

Corpi, Lucha, ed. Máscaras. Berkeley: Third Woman Press, 1997. Included in this volume is Alvarez’s essay “An Unlikely Beginning for a Writer,” in which she describes her struggles to adjust to the English language and to perceive herself as a writer.

Cudjoe, Selwyn. Resistance and Caribbean Literature. Athens: Ohio University Press, 1980. This study of Alvarez’s predecessors helps map out one literary tradition to which she belongs.

Ghosh, Bishnupriya, and Brinda Bose, eds. Interventions: Feminist Dialogues on Third World Women’s Literature and Film. New York: Garland, 1997. Although it does not discuss In the Time of the Butterflies specifically, this collection of essays provides international perspective for Alvarez’s work.

Kirkus Reviews. LXII, July 1, 1994, p. 858. A review of In the Time of the Butterflies.

Library Journal. CXIX, August, 1994, p. 123. A review of In the Time of the Butterflies.

Ms. V, September, 1994, p. 79. A review of In the Time of the Butterflies.

The Nation. CCLIX, November 7, 1994, p. 552. A review of In the Time of the Butterflies.

The New York Times Book Review. XCIX, December 18, 1994, p. 28. A review of In the Time of the Butterflies.

Newsweek. CXXIV, October 17, 1994, p. 77. A review of In the Time of the Butterflies.

Publishers Weekly. CCXLI, July 11, 1994, p. 62. A review of In the Time of the Butterflies.

The Washington Post Book World. XXIV, November 27, 1994, p. 7. A review of In the Time of the Butterflies.

This article is about the novel. For the film, see In the Time of the Butterflies (film).

In the Time of the Butterflies is a historical novel by Julia Alvarez, relating an account of the Mirabal sisters during the time of the Trujillo dictatorship in the Dominican Republic. The book is written in the first and third person, by and about the Mirabal sisters. First published in 1994, the story was adapted into a feature film in 2001.


This is the story of the four Mirabal sisters during the dictatorship of Rafael Trujillo in the Dominican Republic. At school, one of the sisters, Minerva, meets a girl, Sinita, who later became one of her best friends. Sinita eventually confided in Minerva the truth about Trujillo - that their "glorious" leader was a killer. The sisters make a political commitment to overthrow the Trujillo regime. They are harassed, persecuted, and imprisoned, all while their family suffers retaliation from the Military Intelligence Service (SIM).

As vengeance for their political activities, Trujillo orders three of the sisters be killed on Puerto Plata Road, with their driver ear Rufino, while returning from visiting their husbands in jail. The women and driver are beaten to death and later their vehicle and bodies are dumped off a cliff in order to make their deaths look like an accident.


Minerva: The third Mirabal sister, and certainly the most headstrong. She is focused on law school, and succeeds in completing it as an adult, although Trujillo withholds her degree as revenge. She has a brief romance with the revolutionary leader "Lio" before she meets Manolo in law school (also a revolutionary), and marries him. She has two children, a daughter Minou and a son Manolito.

Dedé: Dede is the second Mirabal sister. She is not as certain about the revolution as her sisters, and feels weaker because of that fact. She has mixed feelings about joining the revolution, so she doesn't. She uses her husband, Jaimito, as the reason she doesn't officially join. He doesn't want her involved in the revolution, and the conflict almost destroys their marriage. She is constantly worrying about her sisters, telling them they'll be killed. She has children, all boys, Enrique, Rafael, and David. In the end she is the only survivor of her four sisters.

María Teresa: The youngest of the four Mirabal sisters, she is very materialistic. She marries Leandro and has one daughter, named Jacqueline. She joined the revolution while she is living with her sister Minerva. She joined because she wanted to feel worthy of Leandro.

Patria: The oldest of the Mirabal sisters, she is very religious. While looking for her calling from God, she instead finds her husband, Pedrito, whom she marries at age 16. Her faith wavers intensely as a young woman. She takes the miscarriage of her third child as God's punishment towards her, which drives her further into a religious depression. She later regains her faith on a pilgrimage to Higuey that she takes with her mother and sisters. She has three children: Nelson, Noris, and Raul Ernesto. She is also a revolutionary, starting a Christian revolutionary group and merging it with her sister Minerva's revolutionary group.

Trujillo: Rafael Leonidas Trujillo, also known as "El Jefe" ("the Chief"), the main antagonist of the novel. He is the self-appointed dictator of the Dominican Republic. A harsh ruler, he demands complete obedience of everyone and commits many cruel and unjust acts against his people, such as imprisonment without trial, confiscating land and possessions, and torture. Though married, he has many affairs with young girls who he keeps in houses around the country. He is also identified as a rapist. As his regime falls apart, he becomes even more vicious and cruel, and eventually has the Mirabal sisters (all except for Dede) killed, when they become too much of an opposition to his decaying power.

Mamá: Mother to the Mirabal girls, and married to Papa. She takes care of the girls and is always worried about them.

Papá: Father to the Mirabal girls, and married to Mama. He heads the family store.

Pedrito González: A farmer. He married Patria Mirabal when she was 16, on February 24, 1947. He and his wife eventually join the revolution, along with their son, Nelson. He is later imprisoned, along with his brothers-in-law, Leandro and Manolo, for participating in the revolution. He and Patria have three children: Nelson, Noris, and Raulito.

Fela: A worker for the Mirabal family who claims to be a fortune teller. After the girls die, she claims to be possessed by them. Minou goes to Fela for a time to "talk" to her mother after her death.

Minou: One of Minerva's children, Minou was born around 1956. Like her mother, she is strong-willed and independent.

Don Manuel: Trujillo's right-hand man. Manuel is very "tall and dapper" (page 110). He is a corrupt politician, like many of Trujillo's cronies. Manuel does many of Trujillo's odd jobs, such as delivering messages and threats for him.

Virgilio: Virgilio Morales, nicknamed "Lio". He is a revolutionary, but unlike most, he is not underground. He speaks out publicly against the government, which is considered suicide. Lio was forced into hiding because of his actions against the government. He was very close to Minerva before he fled the country. He asked her to flee with him but Minerva did not get the letter in time because Minerva's father hid the letters from her.

Jaimito: Jaimito is Dede's husband and cousin. Jaimito and Dede live on his farm after they are married. He is opposed to his wife's family's involvement in the revolution, and forbids her to join. When he and Dede were first married he was kind, but over the years he and Dede drift apart. He cares deeply for his boys.

Sinita: Minerva's good friend, whom she met at Inmaculada Catholic School for Girls. She later goes to Santo Domingo and becomes a revolutionary, just like Minerva. All the men in Sinita's' family were killed by Trujillo, the last when she was a young girl, anchoring her deep-seated hatred of Trujillo.

Rufino de la Cruz: The Mirabals' driver whenever they rented a car to go over the mountains to visit their husbands in prison, he was very loyal to the "butterflies", and they trusted him wholeheartedly. He has a wife and one child. He was murdered along with the Mirabal girls.


The book was nominated for the 1994 National Book Critics Circle Award.[1]

The Port Washington School District in Port Washington, NY banned this book because it has a detailed diagram depicting how to construct a bomb. "We believe that the purpose of education is to expose students to all areas of reality so that we can make our own judgments. Isn't that why we are able to read Romeo and Juliet without committing suicide, or The Lord of the Flies without being violent? We should not ban a powerful piece of literature just because of a diagram." stated a New York Times opinion piece written by two Schreiber High School students where the book was banned.[2]

In the Time of the Butterflies is a selection of The Big Read, the National Endowment for the Arts' community-wide reading program, and of "Readers Round Table"(Algonquin).

Connection to historical events[edit]

The idea behind In the Time of the Butterflies originated in the 1960s when author Julia Alvarez was in the Dominican Republic. The Mirabal sisters had been murdered just three months after her father got involved with the underground against Trujillo.[3]


One thought on “In The Time Of The Butterflies Patria Essay Definition

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *