'In The Time Of The Butterflies' is the story of the four Maribal sisters who bravely opposed the Trujillo regime in the Dominican Republic in the 1960's.Rafael Trujillo was assassinated in 1961; his reign was brutal and oppressive. As dictator, he took control of all major industries and financial institutions.
While Minerva may be considered more outwardly brave, her other sisters are also courageous in their own ways. Minerva's three sisters are Maria Theresa (Mate), Dede, and Patria. Dede is the only surviving sister; it is Dede who tells her story to the interviewer.
Patria (the eldest sister)
She is extremely religious. When she discovers that her oldest son, Nelson, has become involved in the resistance movement, she sends him away to Santo Tomas de Aquino, a seminary, for his protection. Eventually, against everything her Catholic faith teaches her, she joins the resistance movement. Patria represents the courage of many mothers and wives who fight for freedom for their children and grandchildren despite private fears and reservations. It is Patria who joins the Christian Cultural Group (which eventually becomes the Accion Clero-Cultural, a front for the national underground resistance movement). With uncharacteristic audacity, she speaks up and recommends Maria Theresa, Pedrito, Minerva, Manolo, and Nelson as new members of the movement. The Fourteenth Of June movement is born in Patria and her husband, Pedrito's home, because of Patria's boldness.
Maria Theresa (Mate- the youngest sister)
She is affectionate and very devoted to Minerva. It is Mate who keeps a diary, where she records her personal thoughts and quiet reflections about her life in Trujillo's regime. When Minerva fraternizes with Hilda, a known revolutionary, she is unhappy. However, when Minerva asks Mate to hand over her diary (because it mentions Hilda), she complies, not wanting Minerva to be implicated. Mate's loyalty is one of her greatest strengths. When Minerva tells Mate about her secret revolutionary activities, she changes her thoughts about Trujillo. He is no longer the benign ruler who watches over everyone for their welfare; indeed, with new eyes, she now sees him as the brutal dictator who watches over his citizens carefully so that he can mercilessly eradicate any resistance to his totalitarian rule. She eventually joins the cause, along with Minerva and Manolo. She is still loyal to Minerva even after enduring torture during her prison sentence; while in prison, she courageously keeps writing in her diary. Although Mate gives an image of malleability, she can also be fiercely independent. When Minerva tells her to share her personal account of conditions at the prison with the OAS (Organization Of American States), she chooses not to do so because she does not want to implicate Santiclo.
Dede (the second oldest sister)
Dede is married to Jaimito, who forbids her to join her sisters in the resistance movement. It is she who lives while her sisters die for the cause. She is fiercely protective and courageous: when the police pull her and Minerva over on their way to Monte Cristi, she pretends that she is Minerva, even though she is afraid. She is willing to do what she can to protect her little sister despite her fear. In the end, she and Jaimito divorce; she courageously tells her sisters' stories to the interviewer.