In The Time of Butterflies, what does Patria's being awakened by a "craving" for sweets symbolize?

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mwestwood | College Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

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In Chapter Four of The Time for Butterflies, Patria Mirabal is now the narrator, and she tells of her religious fervor in her childhood and her interest in becoming a nun. While she attends a convent school, however, Patria experiences an awakening of her pubescent body when she suddenly notices the maturation that has taken place in herself. At night she tries to pray, but she is distracted and, instead, watches the flame trees outside. Patria narrates, 

There was a struggle, but no one could tell. It came in the dark in the evil hours when the hands wake with a life of their own.

It is as though Patria cannot control her awakening urges and her hands will not rest as she lies in her bed at night. She tells her reader that she craves sweets such as figs in sweet syrup, candy filled with coconut, and golden "flans." Further, she relates than when young men whom her "mooning girlfriends" have "appropriated" come to the store and tap their big hands on the counter, she remarks that she desires

to put their fingers in my mouth, one by one, and feel their calluses with my tongue. 

This craving of Patria symbolizes her awakening desires and her growing womanhood, a hormonal burst that cannot fit into a religious habit, by any means. Later, in the Holy Thursday mass when Patria washes the feet of Pedrito Gonzales, she is excited by his animal qualities that not only excite her, but appeal to her maternal instincts of caring. 

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