illustration of a young woman's silhouetted head with a butterfly on it located within a cage

In the Time of the Butterflies

by Julia Alvarez

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Who were the Mirabal sisters in In the Time of the Butterflies?

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The Mirabal sisters were real sisters who lived in the Dominican Republic during the dictatorship of Rafael Trujillo. Three of the sisters were active participants in a resistance movement against Trujillo and were murdered because of their involvement.

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In the Time of the Butterflies is the fictional portrayal of the lives of the Mirabal sisters, who lived in the Dominican Republic during the era of Rafael Trujillo's dictatorship. Trujillo actively sought out dissenters during this period and was responsible for tens of thousands of deaths as he exerted complete control over the Dominican people. Eventually, three of the Mirabal sisters would be counted among those who perished during his rule.

Patria, Minerva, and María Teresa Mirabal were actively involved in an underground resistance movement during the 1950s; a fourth sister, Dedé, was not an active participant in the resistance at the time of her sisters' revolutionary involvement. The sisters, who were the daughters of farmers, grew up in a rather ordinary and middle-class home in the town of Ojo de Agua.

Minerva, who went to college to study law, became increasingly aware of the injustices of Trujillo's dictatorship. She met Manolo Tavárez Justo while in college, and they married in 1955. Together, the two emerged as leaders in the resistance movement. Soon, sisters Patria and María Teresa, along with their husbands, joined Minerva's resistance efforts.

Tragically, Minerva, Patria, and María Teresa were murdered while travelling together to visit their imprisoned husbands in 1960. They were taken from the car they were riding in, beaten, and strangled. Their bodies were then placed back inside the car and pushed over a cliff; Trujillo's regime intended for their deaths to appear accidental.

Because their involvement in the resistance was widely known, the truth of their deaths was almost immediately recognized. The sisters became martyrs, which bolstered new support against Trujillo's regime as an increasing number of Dominicans became aware of the horrors of his influence in their country. The surviving sister, Dedé, raised all of her sisters' children and managed their legacy until her own death at age 88.

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Who were the Mirabal sisters from In the Time of the Butterflies?

In the Time of the Butterflies by Julia Alvarez is a fictionalized account of the four Mirabal sisters--Minerva, Maria Theresa, Dede, and Patria--who were integral members of an underground resistance movement during Trujillo's rule in the Dominican Republic.  Their resistance group was known as the Movement of the Fourteenth of June, and inside this group, the sisters where known as "Las Mariposas (The Butterflies)."  The sisters were repeatedly jailed for their protests and were often tortured during their incarceration.  Trujillo decided to end their resistance by having them executed.  A group of hired men intercepted three of the sisters after they visited their imprisoned husbands.  They were lead into a field and killed.  Dede survived the execution.

Although the Mirabal sisters are real historical figures, Alvarez uses elements of fiction to develop their characters and retreat into their thoughts in the novel.

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