In the Time of the Butterflies

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Mate Character Analysis

The youngest sister of the family, Antonia María Teresa Mirabal Reyes, who goes by María Teresa or Mate, looks up to Minerva and spends most of her time initially thinking about clothes and boys. She joins the resistance movement when she falls in love with Leandro Guzman. Mate then becomes “Butterfly #2” and helps stockpile weapons. She is imprisoned along with Minerva, and is tortured by Johnny Abbes.

Mate Quotes in In the Time of the Butterflies

The In the Time of the Butterflies quotes below are all either spoken by Mate or refer to Mate. For each quote, you can also see the other characters and themes related to it (each theme is indicated by its own dot and icon, like this one:
Dictatorship Theme Icon
). Note: all page and citation info for the quotes below refers to the Algonquin Books edition of In the Time of the Butterflies published in 2010.
Chapter 3 Quotes

I see a guardia, and I think, who have you killed. I hear a police siren, and I think who is going to be killed. See what I mean?
I see the picture of our president with eyes that follow me around the room, and I am thinking he is trying to catch me doing something wrong. Before, I always thought our president was like God, watching over everything I did.

Related Characters: Mate (speaker), Rafael Trujillo
Related Symbols: Portraits of Trujillo
Page Number: 39
Explanation and Analysis:

The narrative now follows María Teresa's perspective, as she describes her life in her diary entries. The first sections from each of the sisters' perspectives essentially show how they all start out naive, having grown up indoctrinated with the dictatorship's propaganda, and eventually learn the horrible truth about Trujillo's regime. Mate is heavily influenced by Minerva, the older sister she idolizes, and so she also can't help picking up on some of Minerva's increasingly radical politics. At this point, Mate still thinks of Trujillo like a stern father, but also one that she is now disappointed in (because of what Minerva has told her)—she doesn't yet see the whole truth about him. In a crucial point revealed here, however, Mate also admits that previously she had thought of Trujillo as "like God, watching over everything I did." In this she refers to the family's portrait of Trujillo (a required accessory in every Dominican home) and the fact that it is placed next to a picture of Jesus. This is one many examples of Trujillo elevating himself to a Christian kind of godhood, and also of his real presence in the characters' minds as a kind of evil god, watching all his subjects through his systems of spies and secret police.

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Chapter 7 Quotes

There was a broadcast of a speech by this man Fidel, who is trying to overturn their dictator over in Cuba. Minerva has big parts memorized. Now, instead of her poetry, she’s always reciting, Condemn me, it does not matter. History will absolve me!
I am so hoping that now that Minerva has found a special someone, she’ll setttle down. I mean, I agree with her ideas and everything. I think people should be kind to each other and share what they have. But never in a million years would I take up a gun and force people to give up being mean.

Related Characters: Minerva (speaker), Mate (speaker)
Page Number: 123
Explanation and Analysis:

The narrative returns to Mate's perspective here, as again she examines Minerva's behavior, both fearing for and idolizing her older sister. Minerva has grown even more radical by now, inspired by Fidel Castro's attempt to overthrow Batista, the corrupt dictator of Cuba at the time. Mate, for her part, seems to agree with Minerva's views, but also lacks the conviction to attempt to act on them. She wants people to "be kind to each other," but also sees that to actually force this to happen would involve "taking up a gun"—something she is still unwilling to do (and which even seems counterintuitive to her).

Here Alvarez juxtaposes the personal with the political, as Mate is growing more revolutionary herself, but is still primarily concerned with boys and romance. Mate then projects this worldview onto Minerva, and hopes that a man (Manolo) will make Minerva "settle down."

There were hundreds of us, the women all together, in white dresses like we were his brides, with white gloves and any kind of hat we wanted. We had to raise our right arms in a salute as we passed by the review stand.
It looked like the newsreels of Hitler and the Italian one with the name that sounds like fettuccine.

Related Characters: Mate (speaker)
Page Number: 131
Explanation and Analysis:

Here Mate describes her first day of class in "Trujillo City" (formerly Santo Domingo), where she and all her classmates are made to dress in white, march, and raise their arms to salute Trujillo. Mate compares the girls to "brides" showing themselves to Trujillo, a metaphor that is (as we have seen) grotesquely apt—as Trujillo has a tendency to seek out attractive students to seduce or rape. This idea could even extend to the whole country—all the women of the Dominican Republic are "fair game" in Trujillo's mind. This passage also links Trujillo to other infamous dictators of history, notably Hitler and Mussolini, emphasizing the horrors of Trujillo's regime despite its relative lack of international recognition, at least compared to these other more famous tyrants.

I admit that for me love goes deeper than the struggle, or maybe what I mean is, love is the deeper struggle. I would never be able to give up Leandro to some higher ideal the way I feel Minerva and Manolo would each other if they had to make the supreme sacrifice. And so last night, it touched me, Oh so deeply, to hear him say it was the same for him, too.

Related Characters: Mate (speaker), Minerva, Manolo Tavarez Justo, Leandro Guzman (Palomino)
Page Number: 147
Explanation and Analysis:

Mate has now become a revolutionary as well, following in Minerva's footsteps and becoming "Butterfly #2" in the resistance group. Yet Mate is still very much her own person, and here she admits that she still leans more towards romance than revolution. She assumes that Minerva and Manolo would be willing to give each other up for the "struggle," but Mate feels that she could never sacrifice Leandro, even for a higher ideal (and she is overjoyed to hear that he feels the same way). Thus this passage shows a different kind of bravery, one that is not the straightforward, reckless courage often portrayed in idealized revolutionaries. Instead it is a courage in love as well as politics, and in struggling on whatever one's "deeper struggle" might be.

Here again Alvarez shows how the butterflies were not ideals or one-dimensional heroes, but real women with real complicated emotions and reservations about their actions.

Chapter 11 Quotes

It happens here all the time. Every day and night there’s at least one breakdown – someone loses control and starts to scream or sob or moan. Minerva says it’s better letting yourself go – not that she ever does. The alternative is freezing yourself up, never showing what you’re feeling, never letting on what you’re thinking… Then one day, you’re out of here, free, only to discover you’ve locked yourself up and thrown away the key somewhere too deep inside your heart to fish it out.

Related Characters: Mate (speaker), Minerva
Page Number: 231
Explanation and Analysis:

At this point in the book, Mate and Minerva are both in prison, and dealing with all the struggles and suffering that come with their situation. As we only learn about this period from Mate's point of view, we again see Minerva as her younger sister sees her—someone almost impossibly strong, courageous, and firm in her convictions. In the case of this passage, however, it becomes clear that Minerva isn't just a superhuman revolutionary leader—she also understands the psychological pressures the other women are undergoing, and thus becomes an advocate for mental freedom even within the confines of the prison itself. As both Minerva and Mate suggest here, there is a bravery not just in "sucking it up" but also in "letting it out"—adding further nuance to Alvarez's exploration of the different kinds of courage.

Where does that sister of mine get her crazy courage?
As she was being marched down the hall, a voice from one of the cells they passed called out, Mariposa does not belong to herself alone. She belongs to Quisqueya! Then everyone was beating on the bars, calling out, ¡Viva la Mariposa! Tears came to my eyes. Something big and powerful spread its wings inside me.
Courage, I told myself. And this time, I felt it.

Related Characters: Mate (speaker), Minerva
Page Number: 238
Explanation and Analysis:

Here Mate again describes Minerva's "crazy courage," and we also see the legend that is already growing around the sisters. Minerva is labeled "Mariposa" (butterfly) by the other prisoners, and becomes a larger-than-life figure in their defiant chant—someone who "does not belong to herself alone," but stands for all of "Quisqueya" (in this case, another name for the Dominican Republic itself).

We don't see Minerva's perspective here, and so can't tell if she really is feeling the "crazy courage" Mate projects onto her, but we do see Mate becoming a "butterfly" herself in this inspiring moment. She feels "wings" spreading out inside of her, a kind of liberation and bravery that she finds even in her imprisonment. As is shown throughout the book, for all of the sisters courage is often more an act of will than a feeling, but in this moment, Mate has the good fortune to actually feel it, inspired by Minerva's actions and the prisoners' call to arms.

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Mate Character Timeline in In the Time of the Butterflies

The timeline below shows where the character Mate appears in In the Time of the Butterflies. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Chapter 7: María Teresa, 1953 to 1958
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Mate starts consulting Fela about her future, asking about boyfriends. She is mostly trying to decide... (full context)
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Mate asks Fela about casting spells on people, and learns to put the person’s name in... (full context)
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...has met a special man at law school. He is engaged to someone else, which Mate is suspicious of because of Papá. Minerva starts listening to illegal radio stations and quoting... (full context)
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...weeks later Minerva comes home with her boyfriend Manolo (who has broken off his engagement). Mate has been teaching Mamá to read. She mentions that the family has lost a lot... (full context)
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Mate writes out the menu of what she is making for the Day of Lovers (Valentine’s... (full context)
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Mate describes her perfect man. Soon afterward she has the same dream she had about Papá,... (full context)
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A few months later it is Mate’s graduation party, and her aunt confronts her there, telling her to choose between Berto and... (full context)
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Mate says that the Mirabals have recently discovered that their yardboy is on “double payroll,” being... (full context)
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Mate makes it to the capital and is excited about the big city. She says all... (full context)
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Mate tries to study law like Minerva, but then gives it up and takes “Philosophy and... (full context)
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...It is Minerva’s wedding day, and she is marrying Manolo. Minerva is very happy, but Mate is slightly sad because Minerva is moving out to live with Manolo. All the sisters... (full context)
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A month later Mate vaguely describes a march for the World’s Fair opening ceremony at the capital. Minerva participates... (full context)
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(1956) Many months later Mate is writing a speech accepting her award as “Miss University.” Minerva’s baby Minou is crying... (full context)
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(1957) More than a year later Mate is feeling lonely, as Minerva is about to graduate and move to Monte Cristi with... (full context)
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The next day Minerva and Manolo decide to take Mate with them to their new house. The drive is tense, and Manolo and Minerva whisper... (full context)
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...long periods. One night Minerva starts crying, and admits that Manolo is cheating on her. Mate affirms to herself that she hates men. A few days later Minerva and Manolo are... (full context)
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A few weeks later Mate writes an excited entry. She was sleeping restlessly, having her same nightmare with all the... (full context)
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The next morning Mate returns to school, but on the way she talks to Minerva and Manolo about their... (full context)
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A few weeks later Mate is back at school, but she has lost interest in her studies. She is now... (full context)
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The next day Mate turns twenty-two, and she spends the day building bombs. She recreates the diagram for the... (full context)
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Palomino starts coming around more to talk to Mate. The landlady thinks he is the pimp of their operation. One day Palomino kisses Mate,... (full context)
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Two weeks pass without Palomino coming as expected, and Sonia is out of town so Mate is alone. She still has to accept all the deliveries and stockpile the weapons, but... (full context)
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The next morning Leandro arrives and Mate is so relieved that she kisses him in the street. Leandro says he has been... (full context)
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(1958) It is the Day of Lovers, two months later, and Mate writes out the invitation for her marriage to Leandro. Part of the date announcement includes... (full context)
Chapter 8: Patria, 1959
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...seem to live on sand. Minerva and Manolo live in a “little nothing house,” while Mate and Leandro are renters. Dedé and Jaimito have lost their money in several business ventures... (full context)
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...about Nelson, as he hangs around with Manolo and Leandro and keeps visiting Minerva and Mate. Mate now has a baby named Jacqueline, and Minerva has a new baby named Manolito.... (full context)
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...Patria has remained religious since her vision of the Virgin, but she has noticed that Mate has given up faith like Minerva. Instead of consoling Patria, Padre de Jesús tells her... (full context)
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...would rather have a living boy than a dead man. Patria had also talked to Mate about it, and hadn’t realized how involved Mate was with the movement. She thought of... (full context)
Chapter 9: Dedé, 1994 and 1960
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...a smile to meet them. They all make small talk for a while, and finally Mate tells Dedé that something big is going to happen. Minerva says “the goat is going... (full context)
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...members of Minerva’s group. Leandro is arrested first. The family gathers at Mamá’s house, and Mate tearfully explains what happened: the SIM broke down their door, dragged Leandro away, trashed the... (full context)
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...the SIM already there. Captain Peña, head of the northern SIM, is there to arrest Mate. Mate clings to Mamá, and eventually Peña agrees to let Mamá come with her, but... (full context)
Chapter 10: Patria, January to March 1960
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...He rose again.” But instead of “rising again,” after three days the SIM come for Mate. It will be three months before Patria sees her sisters, husband, or son. (full context)
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...her illegitimate half-sister. Patria is wary of her, but Margarita brings her a note from Mate in prison. She says that her cousin works in the prison and delivered it for... (full context)
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...rules.” There is no news about Nelson, but they get a few more notes from Mate. (full context)
Chapter 11: María Teresa, March to August 1960
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The narrative is now Mate’s diary from prison. A friendly guard named Santicló helped smuggled her the notebook along with... (full context)
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Mate, Minerva, and the other female “politicals” are all locked up with some “nonpoliticals” – thieves,... (full context)
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Mate’s favorite fellow prisoner is Magdalena, who is very kind and giving and also has a... (full context)
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Mate describes the code language developed in the prison, with nicknames for the guards and various... (full context)
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Mate wakes up crying every morning, but Minerva insists on having a “little school” every day... (full context)
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...from their family with the other prisoners, so as to avoid creating a class hierarchy. Mate writes down a prayer she heard another prisoner pray: “May I never experience all that... (full context)
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Mate develops a schedule for each day to ward off panic and despair, though sometimes she... (full context)
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...weeks, but as she is led away the other prisoners all chant “Viva la Mariposa!” Mate feels “something big and powerful spread its wings” within her and her courage is renewed. (full context)
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A few days later Mate is allowed a brief visit with Mamá, Patria, and Pedrito, and she learns about Nelson’s... (full context)
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Mate misses her periods for a while and worries that she might be pregnant. She knows... (full context)
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On Easter Sunday Minerva is released from solitary. Mate hasn’t talked about her torture to anyone but Magdalena. Finally she tells Minerva that she... (full context)
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Twenty-five days later Mate and Minerva are taken to the courthouse for their “joke of a trial.” They are... (full context)
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...violations. The guards are all worried about this, while the politicals are excited. Minerva warns Mate to describe her torture experience to the OAS and not give in to her pity... (full context)
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Rumors abound among the politicals, and Mate hears that Leandro has been accused of treason. The men have all been tortured and... (full context)
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Mate has always had a long braid, and now she uses it to hide notes in.... (full context)
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Mate describes a “close encounter” she has with Magdalena. One night the two are talking and... (full context)
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The OAS committee is coming soon, and Minerva talks strategy with Mate, as Mate is the one chosen to be interviewed. Minerva says to focus on principles,... (full context)
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At the committee Mate says she has been treated fairly. As she walks out she lets the first note... (full context)
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The narrative is now Mate’s diary entry from months before, describing her experience at the prison called “La 40.” She... (full context)
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They then bring in a man (probably Leandro, but Mate has blacked out the name in her diary) and beat him in front of Mate.... (full context)
Chapter 12: Minerva, August to November 25, 1960
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She and Mate are only allowed to go out twice a week – once to visit their husbands... (full context)
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...Minerva doesn’t want to do it, but eventually she is convinced by the other sisters. Mate has started standing up for herself much more. Minerva signs the letter but angrily demands... (full context)
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...see Dr. Viñas, who is a urologist and not known as a political. Patria and Mate drop her off at a house where the doctor supposedly works. Dr. Viñas and his... (full context)
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...heartbreaking for her to go through her old belongings – a book Lío gave her, Mate’s souvenir from the Discovery Day dance, and a picture of Lina Lovatón. (full context)
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When they return home, Mate is upset because she has had her old nightmare about Papá’s death, but with Leandro,... (full context)
Epilogue: Dedé, 1994
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...was crazed with grief and pushed past the guards to the morgue. Dedé cut off Mate’s braid and kept it. (full context)