In the Time of the Butterflies

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Patria Character Analysis

Patria Mercedes Mirabal Reyes is the oldest of the Mirabal sisters and the most religious. She wants to become a nun, but she gives this idea up and marries Pedrito at age sixteen. She has three children: Nelson, Noris, and Raúl Ernesto. Patria originally resists the underground movement, but she joins Minerva after witnessing the massacre in Constanza. Patria is never imprisoned, but she is murdered along with Minerva and Mate.

Patria Quotes in In the Time of the Butterflies

The In the Time of the Butterflies quotes below are all either spoken by Patria or refer to Patria. 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 4 Quotes

Minerva could tell. One day, we were lying side by side on the hammock strung just outside the galería. She must have caught me gazing at our picture of the Good Shepherd, talking to his lambs. Beside him hung the required portrait of El Jefe, touched up to make him look better than he was. “They’re a pair, aren’t they?” she noted.
That moment, I understood her hatred. My family had not been personally hurt by Trujillo, just as before losing my baby, Jesus had not taken anything away from me. But others had been suffering great losses…
I had heard, but I had not believed. Snug in my heart, fondling my pearl, I had ignored their cries of desolation. How could our loving, all-powerful Father allow us to suffer so? I looked up, challenging Him. And the two faces had merged!

Related Characters: Patria (speaker), Minerva, Rafael Trujillo
Related Symbols: Portraits of Trujillo
Page Number: 53
Explanation and Analysis:

Patria has been losing her previously strong faith after giving birth to a stillborn baby. She has also been influenced by Minerva, who at this point is almost entirely nonreligious, as well as growing increasingly radical in her resistance against Trujillo. Patria has kept her doubts about Christianity to herself so far, but in this passage it seems that Minerva has been able to read her older sister's mind—she "could tell."

This passage also brings up the symbol of Trujillo's portrait again, and particularly its proximity to the picture of Jesus in the Mirabal family's home. Patria explicitly connects Trujillo to God here, and sees that her own disillusionment with Christianity reflects Minerva's disillusionment with Trujillo. Patria is now able to recognize that because Trujillo's regime has not hurt her directly, she has been able to ignore others' "cries of desolation." But now that she is willing to "challenge" God for allowing such suffering, she also seems more willing to challenge Trujillo himself—and indeed, when she looks up, the faces of Trujillo and Jesus have merged, as if they are both different aspects of an oppressive, omniscient, patriarchal force.

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Chapter 8 Quotes

That room was silent with the fury of avenging angels sharpening their radiance before they strike.
The priests had decided they could not wait forever for the pope and the archbishop to come around. The time was now, for the Lord had said, I come with the sword as well as the plow to set at liberty them that are bruised.
I couldn’t believe this was the same Padre de Jesús talking who several months back hadn’t known his faith from his fear! But then again, here in that little room was the same Patria Mercedes, who wouldn’t have hurt a butterfly, shouting, “Amen to the revolution.”
And so we were born in the spirit of the vengeful Lord, no longer His lambs.

Related Characters: Patria (speaker), Padre de Jesús
Page Number: 163-164
Explanation and Analysis:

Thus far Patria has tried to stay out of the struggle against Trujillo, instead focusing on her faith and her family. After witnessing the violence of the fourteenth of June, however, Patria, Padre de Jesús, and some other devout Catholics and priests decide to form their own resistance group. The members of this group decide that the earthly government of the Church has been too slow to act against Trujillo's atrocities, and so they will obey God's law on their own—overcoming both their fear and their natural pacifism to fight for freedom against the dictator. Alvarez shows how each of the sisters experiences their own epiphany that leads them to become a "butterfly" (or not), and this inspiring passage, which is threaded with Patria's usual religious language, shows Patria embracing her more courageous, idealistic side and finally deciding to take a stand for what is right. Furthermore, she finds that this "revolution" doesn't go against her faith, but is rather affirmed by it.

Chapter 10 Quotes

Maybe because I was used to the Good Shepherd and Trujillo side by side in the old house, I caught myself praying a little greeting as I walked by.
Then another time, I came in from outside with my hands full of anthuriums. I looked up at him, and I thought why not. I set up a vase on the table right under his picture…
I don’t know if that’s how it started, but pretty soon, I was praying to him, not because he was worthy or anything like that. I wanted something from him, and prayer was the only way I knew to ask.

Related Characters: Patria (speaker), Rafael Trujillo
Related Symbols: Portraits of Trujillo
Page Number: 202
Explanation and Analysis:

In this passage we see a further development of the symbol of portraits of Trujillo. Patria still associates Trujillo with God (partly because of the previous proximity of the portraits of Trujillo and of Jesus), though she considers him a kind of evil god now. And so in this passage, Patria finds herself beginning to even "pray" to Trujillo himself—asking him to release her family members from their wrongful imprisonment.

As usual, Patria sees things in a highly religious way, her faith affecting her entire worldview and experience of reality. Thus she naturally starts praying to Trujillo, because prayer is the only way she knows how to ask something from someone powerful. The passage also shows Trujillo being portrayed as both an individual, personal antagonist and an ubiquitous, godlike figure.

El Jefe entered in a wash of camera flashes. I don’t know what I thought I’d see – I guess after three months of addressing him, I was sure I’d feel a certain kinship with the stocky, overdressed man before me. But it was just the opposite. The more I tried to concentrate on the good side of him, the more I saw a vain, greedy, unredeemed creature. Maybe the evil one had become flesh like Jesus! Goosebumps jumped all up and down my bare arms.

Related Characters: Patria (speaker), Rafael Trujillo
Related Symbols: Portraits of Trujillo
Page Number: 224
Explanation and Analysis:

As stated in the previous quote, Patria has been "praying" to Trujillo, asking him to release her family members, and here she sees him in person for the first time in years. Patria has been struggling to try and forgive even evil people, and to see them merely as flawed humans, but in this moment she finds that she still can't see anything redeemable in Trujillo.

In Patria's religiously-oriented mind, Trujillo is again elevated to a godlike status, but this time it is as a kind of demon or anti-Christ. As Minerva's old textbook declared, Trujillo perhaps is a kind of god made flesh (like Jesus, the "Word made flesh"), but in this case Trujillo is the devil made flesh. If Patria was hoping to find something sympathetic about her enemy, she has failed, and is instead only confirmed in her convictions that fighting Trujillo is not only right but also the proper Christian thing to do.

Chapter 12 Quotes

Patria closed her purse with a decisive snap. “Let’s just go.”
We moved quickly now towards the Jeep, hurrying as if we had to catch up with that truck. I don’t know quite how to say this, but it was as if we were girls again, walking through the dark part of the yard, a little afraid, a little excited by our fears, anticipating the lighted house just around the bend –
That’s the way I felt as we started up the first mountain.

Related Characters: Patria (speaker), Minerva (speaker)
Page Number: 297
Explanation and Analysis:

This passage describes the moment before the butterflies' assassination—arguably the book's climax, but also an event Alvarez doesn't describe. The language of this scene, which is ironically tragic in its optimistic imagery, calls back to the first memory of the book, with the sisters as little girls in the dark yard of their house, as yet mostly untroubled by dictators, revolutions, and violence. The story thus comes full circle, and Alvarez lingers on the sisters' final moments before their tragic end.

As she emphasizes the mingling of fear and excitement in this passage, Alvarez again makes the point that the butterflies were ordinary women—once just girls "walking through the dark part of the yard"—who were not superhumanly brave or strong, but who simply made the choice to do extraordinary things.

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Patria Character Timeline in In the Time of the Butterflies

The timeline below shows where the character Patria appears in In the Time of the Butterflies. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Chapter 1: Dedé, 1994 and circa 1943
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...her sisters” – Minerva was high-minded and moral, María Teresa was young and girlish, and Patria was very religious. (full context)
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...Papá to predict her future, and he says that she will make “men’s mouths water.” Patria then asks for her future, but Mamá stops Papá, saying that their priest, Padre Ignacio,... (full context)
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...María Teresa’s was just a joke, and Mamá stopped him before he could get to Patria and Minerva. Dedé feels a chill, as if this happy time is over and “the... (full context)
Chapter 2: Minerva, 1938, 1941, 1944
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The girls leaving home starts with Patria wanting to be a nun. Papá says that this is a “waste of a pretty... (full context)
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...confused and asks Minerva about it afterward. Minerva has already learned all about menstruation from Patria, so she explains it to Sinita. Sinita offers to trade her the “secret of Trujillo”... (full context)
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...they are supposed to have celebrations honoring Trujillo. The Mirabals get around this by celebrating Patria’s twentieth birthday instead, but making everyone wear red, white, and blue. Patria is married and... (full context)
Chapter 3: This little book belongs to María Teresa, 1945 to 1946
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María Teresa describes Patria’s cute children, Nelson and Noris. For Three Kings day the family goes shopping in Santiago,... (full context)
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Minerva graduates and she and María Teresa go home for the summer. Patria has been pregnant, but she gives birth to a stillborn boy. Patria cries all the... (full context)
Chapter 4: Patria, 1946
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The narrative is now told from Patria’s point of view, remembering the past. She describes how she always felt an affinity for... (full context)
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At night Patria starts touching herself, but she tries to stifle her desires with thoughts of Christ. This... (full context)
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Patria stays home from school the next fall and helps Papá at the store. She starts... (full context)
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After she gets married, Patria goes to live with Pedrito on his family’s farm. She has a son, Nelson, and... (full context)
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...forces her to. Minerva says that some of the priests are on “double payroll,” and Patria feels Minerva affecting her own faith. Patria then loses her religion altogether when she has... (full context)
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Patria keeps up her facade, but Minerva recognizes that she has lost her faith. One day... (full context)
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Patria moves back in with Pedrito, and his strange, sexually aggressive grief for their child helps... (full context)
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...Mary lately, so they can pray to the Virgin for help. Papá stays behind, and Patria wonders what caused her mother to want to leave home and take this trip. The... (full context)
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...so they stay with some distant relations. As they pray to the Virgin that night, Patria asks Mamá if Papá has “another woman,” and Mamá doesn’t deny it. Mamá laments that... (full context)
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...next morning the Mirabals set out for the small chapel where the Virgin was sighted. Patria sees the portrait of the Virgin and thinks that it looks gaudy and cheap, but... (full context)
Chapter 6: Minerva, 1949
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...as she worries that Trujillo now desires Minerva. She agrees to let Minerva attend if Patria, Dedé, Pedrito, and Jaimito all go too. María Teresa cries and wants to go, but... (full context)
Chapter 8: Patria, 1959
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Patria recites the Bible verse about “building your house upon a rock,” and she describes her... (full context)
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...no one can ignore them. At Jaimito’s urging Dedé stays out of any trouble, but Patria at least prays for better things. Her son Nelson is growing up now and possibly... (full context)
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One night Minerva, Manolo, Leandro, and Nelson appear and wake up Patria and Pedrito. They are all drunk and celebrating Fidel Castro’s victory in Cuba. Minerva starts... (full context)
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Patria is still “running scared” in her life, but now she is especially worried about Nelson,... (full context)
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At Easter Patria is frightened when Nelson mentions joining the “liberators” who are rumored to be invading from... (full context)
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Patria goes to see Padre de Jesús, a young priest, for advice. Patria has remained religious... (full context)
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Patria gradually gets a little braver, “inching towards courage” and helping her sisters with little things.... (full context)
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Minerva and her group start visiting more often, and Patria lets them use her land for their meeting place. When Nelson comes home from school... (full context)
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A few weeks later Patria decides to take a religious retreat with Padre de Jesús and her religious group of... (full context)
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Patria thinks of how she had written a letter to one of the priests at Nelson’s... (full context)
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The rumors of the invasion make Trujillo declare a state of emergency, so Patria and her group have to delay their retreat. Eventually the invasion seems nonexistent and the... (full context)
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The fourteenth of June is the last day of Patria’s retreat. She and her group are talking in the retreat house when suddenly it is... (full context)
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...camouflage make it to the deck of the house, but then four are captured, and Patria watches the face of a young man Noris’s age as he is shot and dies. (full context)
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After the violence is over, Patria comes down the mountain “a changed woman.” She feels like the boy she watched die... (full context)
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Patria’s family meets her on the way back, but Patria is still too traumatized to speak.... (full context)
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Two months later, Patria joins Padre de Jesús and a few others for a meeting of the “Church Militant.”... (full context)
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The next week Patria has given birth to her baby, and she comes out when Minerva and her group... (full context)
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When he first learns that Patria invited Minerva’s group to meet in the house, Pedrito yells at Patria for the first... (full context)
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After that Patria’s house becomes the “motherhouse of the movement.” Minerva and Manolo’s group merges with the ACC,... (full context)
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Patria then lists the ironies of the work going on in the house – the family’s... (full context)
Chapter 9: Dedé, 1994 and 1960
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Months earlier Patria had come to Dedé asking to bury some boxes, and Dedé had suspected that Minerva... (full context)
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...has threatened to leave her if she joins her sisters. Minerva starts to argue, but Patria smooths things over and says that it is Dedé’s own decision. (full context)
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...in, and she sees the boxes he was unloading. They look the same as those Patria was looking to hide. Dedé realizes that Padre de Jesús is “one of them.” Dedé... (full context)
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Then Patria and her family arrive crying desperately. Patria tells her story: some neighbors warned Pedrito and... (full context)
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...the flames from their hiding spot, so they ran down from the hills to protect Patria and the other children. They were then arrested. Patria screams “I’ve been good!” to the... (full context)
Chapter 10: Patria, January to March 1960
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Patria is crazy with grief when she first comes to Mamá’s after losing everything, but soon... (full context)
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Patria slowly recovers from her grief, but sometimes she breaks down and screams “I’ve been good!”... (full context)
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Patria is still used to having the picture of Jesus next to the portrait of Trujillo,... (full context)
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Patria prays to the real God too, but she notes that she doesn’t offer herself as... (full context)
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...visits the house regularly, and sometimes he brings candy for the children. Once he tells Patria that Pedrito was offered his freedom if he would divorce his Mirabal wife and pledge... (full context)
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...of 372 detained prisoners. This is a relief, as at least they haven’t been “disappeared.” Patria goes out and cuts new flowers to put under Trujillo’s portrait. (full context)
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...the pulpit, saying that it is a sin against God to take away human rights. Patria is inspired and moved, and she finally offers herself to God as a “sacrificial lamb”... (full context)
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After that the SIM starts bothering the church, sending spies to attend services. Patria learns that this is happening all over the country, as the Catholic leaders have finally... (full context)
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One day Patria gets a surprise visit from Margarita, her illegitimate half-sister. Patria is wary of her, but... (full context)
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That night Patria, Mamá, and Dedé assemble a care package for the girls. After Mamá goes to bed,... (full context)
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Patria goes to Margarita’s pharmacy and delivers the care package for the prisoners. The next week... (full context)
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The next day Patria dresses up and goes to her elderly neighbor’s house – he is a Spaniard named... (full context)
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They reach the capital and Peña lets Patria in immediately. Patria starts crying and asks Peña for help in getting Nelson pardoned. Peña... (full context)
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...starts a war against the church as condemnations of Trujillo keep issuing from the pulpit. Patria keeps praying to the portrait of Trujillo, warning him about fighting against God, as soon... (full context)
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One day Peña comes to visit, and Patria recognizes that he is making a peace offering, as he has been having trouble with... (full context)
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...she refuses to have Peña eat a meal in her house. Finally she relents, but Patria knows that they will all cast various spells and say prayers over the “devil’s” stew.... (full context)
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A few days later Peña calls and says that Patria should come to the capital and bring a sponsor on Nelson’s behalf. He asks about... (full context)
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...lost on the way to the capital, but eventually make it to the National Palace. Patria suddenly regrets bringing Noris along, worried that she will catch Trujillo’s eye. As she walks... (full context)
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They come to a parlor full of journalists, and Trujillo enters. Patria expects to feel more sympathetic towards him after months of praying to his portrait, but... (full context)
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Finally the prisoners enter, and Patria falls to her knees when she sees Nelson, who is bruised and skinny. Patria thanks... (full context)
Chapter 11: María Teresa, March to August 1960
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For a while the prisoners all wear crucifixes that Patria sends as a sign of solidarity, but then the guards decide to break up the... (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 pardon. The next day Mate talks with Magdalena... (full context)
Chapter 12: Minerva, August to November 25, 1960
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...let Minerva 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... (full context)
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...and Peña asks to see them. He makes a lewd proposition that infuriates Minerva, but Patria defuses the situation. Peña informs them that their husbands are being transferred from the capital... (full context)
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...time all three sisters have ridden together, as Pedrito is still at the capital so Patria usually doesn’t come along. Before they left Mamá and Dedé had warned them of the... (full context)
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They keep driving, and then see Peña’s car and fear an ambush. Patria starts to pray, but Minerva tells Rufino to keep driving. To keep themselves calm the... (full context)
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...Rufino have a beer. Minerva tries one last time, but the line is still busy. Patria is worried about going on, as the road looks especially deserted, but Minerva wants to... (full context)
Epilogue: Dedé, 1994
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...as their car had been stopped and the women were being led away by guards. Patria had broken free for a moment and yelled to the truck driver to tell her... (full context)