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 the oldest sister in In the Time of the Butterflies?

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Patria is the oldest sister in In the Time of the Butterflies. She is deeply religious and maternal.

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Patria is the oldest of the four Mirabal sisters. At first determined to become a nun, this religiously devout teen leaves the convent to marry Pedrito González. This is consistent with her religious beliefs, as the Virgin Mary's central act of faith was bearing and raising the child Jesus.

Patria is a homebody who loves her children. She finds her Catholic faith challenged when her third child is stillborn. She ends up crying all the time. That and seeing a boy about the age of her daughter, Noris, killed by Trujillo's men brings out Patria's deep desire to save the children of her country. She thinks of them all as her own children. She decides,

I'm not going to sit back and watch my babies die, Lord, even if that's what You in Your great wisdom decide.

What she experiences brings Patria out of her "cocoon" and helps form her into an active "butterfly." Patria's home becomes central to the resistance movement. The underground gathers here, in a place where nurture and motherhood and the making of weapons meet. Bombs are constructed, with Patria's consent, on the egg-stained formica of her kitchen table. Her sister Minerva looks through the "viewfinder of an M-l carbine" while sitting in a chair where Patria rocked her babies.

The once-obedient and rule-abiding Patria has now become a rebel. She turns her friendly and domestic nature toward the fight for freedom from tyranny.

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