The book “In the Time of the Butterflies” was created by Julia Alvarez. It was published on 1994, and uses the Dominican Republic as its setting. It is a fictional story which uses historical realism as its plot. Alvarez, was an original New York City native, but moved to the Dominican Republic with her family in her younger years. She bore witness to a dictatorship and a movement that battled to depose the power hungry leader. It did not take long before they were forced to flee back to New York for their protection.
She grew up in New York, mastering the English Language, but never forgot, the incidents that occurred in the Dominican Republic. She chose to write its story; the story about the dictator, the Mirabal sisters, and the Butterfly movement (The Gale Group, 2002). The Dominican Republic was all about Rafael Trujillo during the twentieth century. He was a dictator who ruled its islands from the 1930s up to the 1960s. He was controlled by gluttony, desire, and power, and captivated his people with unthinkable viciousness and malice.
It was because of this dictatorship that the Las Mariposas or The Butterflies arouse. Three sisters; Maria Teresa, Minerva, and Patria Mirabal, battled the onslaught of Trujillo’s reign, with absolute perseverance and determination, putting aside the risks that their actions bring. The Butterflies were an epitome of bravery and sacrifice to the people of the Dominican Republic (The Gale Group, 2002). The book “In the Time of the Butterflies,” does not merely focus on the Mirabal sisters, but gives emphasis on the whole ambiance of the Dominican Republic.
Julia Alvarez gives the readers of her book an overview of their way of life, and what the Trujillo regime did to its people, and what was left for them to work with. She makes us feel the setting of the Dominican Republic, the people, and their government (Gale, 2005-2006). After experiencing the dictatorship herself, the author had been long enthralled by the story of the Mirabal sisters. After interviewing the fourth and only living Mirabal sister; Dede, she found all the pieces needed for her to create the masterpiece “In the Time of the Butterflies.
” Alvarez gives a timeline of events, showing to us the three Mirabal sisters childhood, life, death, and memory. Through her book, she explains to us the negative impacts that the Trujillo dictatorship gave to its country. She also indicates the steps that the Dominican Republic is taking, after the death of Trujillo. “In the Time of the Butterflies” is not just the story of the Las Mariposa’s, but also the story of the Dominican Republic; its people, their sufferings, their trauma, and their arising after the fall of its dictator (Gale, 2005-2006).
Hispaniola is domicile to both the Dominican Republic and Haiti. The Dominican Republic can be located at the Caribbean islands and is known to be a Latin American country, it is said to be the “mother of all lands. ” The Republic suffered from the dictatorship of Rafael Trujillo for the majority of the twentieth century. Under the support of the United States, Trujillo dominated from 1930 to 1961 (Forrest). He gained massive power and wealth at the sacrifice of his people while repressing all his enemies. He was assassinated by Dominicans of rich stature that were not happy with his rule.
During his reign, Trujillo was obsessed with power, and a group of Dominicans dared to overthrow him. Alvarez and her family were part of that movement, and show the valor of her people through this story (Forrest). The main characters of the story are; Patria, Dede, Minerva, and Maria Theresa. These girls were of beautiful physical physique, born at the Dominican Republic on a small farm in Oja de Agua. They heard their calling while attending school. It was there they realized that they must bring down the dictator of their country.
When they reached maturity, they joined a movement that was against Trujillo The three sisters and their families battled constantly, and did not give up though everything seemed to be against them (Wotring). Maria Theresa, Patria, and Minerva died on November 25, 1960 after visiting their husbands in prison, by the fists of Rafael Trujillo’s assassins, three helpless women that were beaten to death while riding a car, by a group of superior men. The death of the Las Mariposa’s was not set aside by the people of the Dominican Republic, it served as an awakening.
It was a catalyst for the people of its islands to battle and finally overthrow the dictator. The Butterflies were a representation of dignity, pride, and resistance (The Gale Group, 2002). It is amazing how these sisters and the people of the Dominican Republic found the strength to fight the Dominican dictator, after living in fear for more than thirty years. They rebelled against the leader, knowing that their lives and their families were in great danger. That took great courage and strength, something that is not normal. The reason for this is probably because they were tired of the oppression that they have been experiencing for years.
Like a feline who scratches its predator when it is cornered, the rebels used their fear as a weapon against the dictator. It is true, that rebels are not born to become one, but they are made. Rafael Trujillo himself, created these rebels, by depriving them of their freedom. The rebels and the Butterflies were made unknowingly by the dictator, because they were sick and tired of the life that was given to them by Rafael Trujillo. In the book, we can see that Patria, Mate, and Minerva went different experiences in their lives, to make them ready for the destiny that was given to them.
The sisters did not choose their fortune, they realized it. They were like any other girls who were born and raised in a loving family, educated, and understood the values and ethics of the world. The biggest difference that made them different from any other normal girls is the setting of their lives. They were born inside a dictatorship; they felt pain, humiliation, and loss in their lives. All of these were needed, to make these women the heroines that they became. All three heroines underwent individual experiences that shaped them to become the women that they were.
Minerva for instance was the most educated and the most politically minded of the sisters, witnessed how her classmate was abducted by Rafael Trujillo and was made to be one of his mistresses. She saw how her friend was left hopelessly alone in Miami, waiting for the leader, at a very young age. Ever since then, Minerva became fearful of the leader, and even went so far as to tie her breast so that the incident that happened to her friend will never happen to her (Rich, 2002). “I could feel my breath coming short again. At first, I had thought it was caused by the cotton bandages I had started tying around my
chest so my breasts wouldn’t grow. I wanted to be sure that what had happened to Lina Lovaton would never happen to me. But every time I’d hear one more secret about Trujillo I could feel the tightening in my chest even when I wasn’t wearing bandages. ” – Minerva (Alvarez) Patria Mirabal on the other hand chose to join the rebellion group, after realizing that the dictatorship of Rafael Trujillo was threatening the two most important things in her life; her family, and the church. She was the eldest and most implausible of the three sisters to join the underground movement.
But her spirituality and love for others became her source of strength to battle the dictator (Rich, 2002). “I got braver like a crab going sideways. I inched towards courage the best way I could, helping out with the little things” -Patria (Alvarez) The Youngest sister, Maria Theresa was not as strong as brave as Minerva and Patria. Julia Alvarez even reveals her fear and terror in the book. Her youth brought to her naive ness, blinding her about the truth of Rafael Trujillo. She was influenced by her family to join the movement, not really sure of what she was getting herself into.
But soon realizes the wickedness of the leader. In one point of the story, she was electrocuted by the guards of Trujillo as her husband was helplessly watching her. Maria lived inside fear for so long, but was able to overcome her fright, and learned to over power herself (Rich, 2002). “Everything just looks a little different. I see a guardia and I think, who have you killed…. I see the picture of our president with eyes that follow me around the room, and I am thinking he is trying to catch me doing something wrong.
Before, I always thought our president was like God, watching over everything I did” – Maria Theresa (Alvarez) Conclusion Julia Alvarez was able to create a beautiful story which showed to us the rich culture and history of her people. She showed to us their sufferings and hardships, through the story of the butterflies. She brought to us the trauma that the ruthlessness Dominican dictator; Rafael Trujillo brought to the Dominican Republic The heroism of the three sisters, teaches us how strong the will of the people can become, that it is so strong that it can bring down Gods.
The Mirabal sisters searched deep inside of them, and conquered their uncertainties. They lived, battled, and died for their country. It was the force of the dictator against their spirit. Julia Alvarez delivered to us the story of the people of the Dominican Republic, through the exquisite legend of the “Las Mariposas. ”
References: Alvarez, Julia. In the Time of the Butterflies. 1995. Forrest, Dave. “The Dominican Dictator: Rafael Trujillo” Gale, Thomson. “In the Time of the Butterflies Study Guide. ” 2005-2006.