In the Time of the Butterflies by Julia Alvarez is a captivating story of four sisters’ struggle during the Dominican dictatorship. It tells the story of the Mirabal sisters: Dede, Patria, Minerva, and Maria Teresa.
They called themselves “Las Mariposas.” They were seen as the pride of the Dominican Republic because they strong objectors to Trujillo, also known as El Jefe, or the boss in spanish. “Las Mariposas” were real people and they part of the underground movement to overthrow the dictatorship that they were living through. The novel takes place under the trujillo regime and in 1994. The story begins in 1994 as Dede, the last survivor of the mariposas, is talking to an interviewer about how her sisters had individualistic characteristics but she then trails off into thinking about how her life before she realized all the bad that came from the dictatorship. Her realization comes from a girl named Sinita, whose family was murdered by Trujillo for talking out against him.
She had met Sinita at catholic school where she began to witness the first of Trujillo’s affects. Such as his ability to seduce a young girl named Lina Lovaton but he ends up leaving her with a child in Florida and then another girl named Hilda who has to hide at the convent to get away from the police. The book continues on with the sisters being older and they are discovering their sexualities leading them to get married and Patria is most affected when her third child is stillborn and begins to have a conspiracy theory against Trujillo for being the cause her baby’s death. Minerva gets married to a man named Virgilio Morales but then he is driven into exile by the Trujillo regime.
Then Dede is married to her cousin, Jaimito. From here the story begins to accelerate into the revolution because when Minerva discovers that her father has a mistress and three other daughters they get invited to a party in honor of trujillo, he then tries to do what he did to Lina Lovaton which is seduce her but she had rejected him. In rejecting “El Jefe” she caused her father’s imprisonment but since she aspired to be a lawyer she aided in having her father to be released with Minerva meeting Trujillo and them having another argument. Within four years her father dies and she is finally able to go to law school where she meets her second husband, Manolo who is also a revolutionary against the dominican dictatorship. When Minerva graduates she isn’t allowed her license which is evidently trujillo’s doing when she denied him at the party and at her father’s imprisonment. Maria Teresa, Mate, becomes involved in the story when she falls in love with a man who is part of the underground anti-Trujillo movement and he ropes in Minerva, Manolo, and Mate. After this happens Minerva is given the nickname of “Mariposa.
“Patria is still not part of the story until when one her two children, Nelson, decides that he wants to join his aunt’s revolution. She is not involved because the church is still not choosing a side until Patria is traumatized when she sees soldiers of Trujillo’s army murdering young revolutionaries. After this happens her priest and herself finally join her sister, Minerva’s, underground group. Patria then becomes the connection when her house is then used to store the weapons.
The only sister left to join the underground was Dede but she still refused even though her husband, Jaimito, demanded for it to happen. Later the trujillo secret police, the SIM, arrest Minerva, Mate, Nelson, Leandro, Manolo, and Pedrito. After this things begin to escalate because from here their courage and pride intensifies. Nelson is then pardoned because Patria talks to Trujillo. Mate is tortured in order to torture Leandro so that he can spill any secrets he has about the underground revolution. “Las Mariposas” have become strong symbols of the revolution by now but unfortunately their fourth trip to see their husbands had ended unprosperous when their car had been ambushed and all the sisters but Dede and the driver, Rufino, were killed and placed in the vehicle to make it look like an accident.
It was obvious that this was the doing of Trujillo and his SIM. Finally in 1994, El Jefe was finally overthrown and it was within a year and a half of the deaths of the Mariposas but Dede, the last remaining Mirabal sister, is living with Minerva’s daughter and she has become a spokesperson for her family and the struggles they have gone through.