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 is Hilda in In the Time of the Butterflies, and why is her connection to Minerva important?

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During her last year at Immaculada, Minerva befriends Hilda, a  "really rude" young lady who "wears trousers and a beret slanted on her head like she is Michelangelo".  Hilda lives in town but often spends time at the campus.  Minerva had met her "at one of her secret meetings at Don Horacio's house.

Hilda is deeply involved in the revolutionary movement.  She is coarse and outspoken, an atheist, and thinks nothing of making outrageous and sacreligious comments at the Catholic boarding school to students and the Sisters alike.  Because of her behavior, she is eventually "asked to leave and not come back".  Sor Asuncion explains the expulsion by saying that Hilda "has a very poor attitude...and (Minerva) and her friends are catching it".  It is clear that Hilda, with her extreme politics, has a strong influence on Minerva, even though she is already inclined in that direction herself.

Despite her banishment from Immaculada, Hilda returns awhile later looking for a place to hide.  She is wanted by the authorities for her activities in the underground, and, in looking for help, she seeks out Minerva.  Minerva, in turn, consults with Sor Asuncion concerning Hilda's predicament, and surprisingly, the Sister agrees to hide Hilda, allowing her to stay on the premises disguised as a nun.  Hilda is eventually caught leaving the convent, however, and Minerva and all those who are involved in aiding and abetting her move quickly to destroy any evidence implicating them in the situation.

The connection between Minerva and Hilda is important to note both because of the influence Hilda has on the comparatively callow Minerva, and because of the fact that, through their association, and by helping Hilda escape capture, Minerva first becomes actively involved in the Revolution to the extent that she could get in serious trouble with the authorities (Chapter 3).

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