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In the Time of the Butterflies

by Julia Alvarez

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In In the Time of the Butterflies on chapter 11 on April 11 what happened to Mate?

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On April 11, 1960, Maria Teresa is tortured at La 40; in undated journals between the 10th and the 16th, she recovers from her ordeal.

When Maria Teresa is incarcerated by the Servicio de Inteligencia Militar, she notices that she's bleeding on April 10th, despite the fact that most women...

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have stopped menstruating in captivity. She says that she herself has missed January, February, and March. She also says that she and Leandro were trying to have a baby in December and January.

The next entry in the journal has "Not sure what day it is" listed as the date and she says she's weak but the bleeding has stopped. She says there's a story that she's not ready to tell; that it didn't matter whether she had a miscarriage or her period because there was nothing that could be done after the secret police got to her.

The next entry is listed as "Another day." She says Magdalena is taking care of her and feeding her broth.

Later in the chapter, Mate writes down her story for the OAS Committee investigating Human Rights Abuses. She says that on April 11th, 1960, she was taken to La 40 and forced to strip to her slip and brassiere. She laid on a metal table and the guards bring a man—her husband—in. (His name is blacked out in her retelling.) They hit him when he refuses to talk and she feels pain in her stomach. She says it's as bad as contractions.

When they refused to talk and she refused to persuade him to talk, the men tied her down and used an electric prod to shock her. Her husband agrees to do what they want. They drag him away and take her back to prison.

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This is actually one of the most disturbing scenes that I found when I read this book. Chapter Eleven narrates how Maria Teresa, the youngest of the four Maribel sisters, is taken from her cell, and brought to a torture room. There, she is stripped to her underwear. She is made to watch as her husband is brought in and beaten up. Then, in an effort to persuade her husband to reveal information, the guards torture her with electricity, in the hope that witnessing his wife in such pain might encourage her husband to relent and give in. Note how Maria Teresa herself describes her experience:

Bug Eye stood before me, holding a rod with a little switch. When he touched me with it, my whole body jumped with exquisite pain. I felt my spirit snapping loose, soaring above my body and looking down at the scene.

What is interesting is that after the torture is over, Maria Teresa reports that the guards who had carried out this heinous act all looked ashamed of themselves for their participation in her torture.

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