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In the Time of the Butterflies

by Julia Alvarez

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What is the birth order of the four sisters (oldest to youngest), in the book In the Time of the Butterflies?

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The oldest three of the Mirabal sisters were very close in age.  Patria, the oldest, was born in 1924.  The most religious of the three women, she seemed destined to enter the convent, but surprised everyone by marrying Pedrito Gonzales at the age of sixteen.  Pedrito and Patria had three children, Nelson, Noris, and Raul Ernesto.  Patria, her husband, and her oldest son Nelson were all active in the revolution.  Patria was killed with Minerva and Maria Teresa on November 25, 1960.

Dede, secondborn, was born almost exactly a year after Patria, in 1925.  She is the only surviving Mirabal sister.  Dede, nicknamed "Miss Sonrisa", was always a cheerful, compliant child.  She married her childhood sweetheart Jaimito, and the two had three sons, Enrique, Rafael, and David.  Because Jaimito forbade Dede to become involved with the revolution, she was not with her sisters on the fateful trip when they were killed.

Minerva was born in 1926, a year after Dede.  Sharp-tongued and confident, she was the firebrand of the group, and the most strongly committed to the revolution.  Minerva married Manolo Tavarez, a fellow revolutionary.  The couple had two children, Minou and Manolito.  Minerva was assassinated with her sisters Patria and Maria Teresa in 1960.  Her husband Manolo continued his activity with the underground, and was murdered in 1963.

Maria Teresa was the baby of the family, born in 1935, nine years after her closest sibling.  She was introduced to the revolution by Minerva, with whom she shared a special rapport.  While living with Minerva and Manolo one summer, Maria Teresa met Leandro Guzman, who was securing guns for the underground; they subsequently were married.  Maria Teresa was imprisoned with Minerva in 1960, and tortured in front of her husband to force him to cooperate with authorities.  She was killed with Patria and Minerva in 1960.

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