In the Time of the Butterflies

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Portraits of Trujillo Symbol Analysis

Portraits of Trujillo Symbol Icon
Part of Trujillo’s personality cult is a rule that every family must have a picture of “El Jefe” (Trujillo) displayed in their home. There is a portrait of him in Mamá’s house next to a picture of Jesus, and this is especially powerful for Patria, who sometimes sees the two as opposites – God and devil – but sometimes sees the faces merge, and with a later portrait she accidentally prays to Trujillo instead of to God. The portraits of Trujillo, then, represent El Jefe’s aspirations to become like a god, watching over everything and having total control of the Dominican Republic. They show the pervasive fear of his police state, and also the personality cult he has built up around himself, so that children are raised to love him and everyone must praise him as their “Benefactor.”

Portraits of Trujillo Quotes in In the Time of the Butterflies

The In the Time of the Butterflies quotes below all refer to the symbol of Portraits of Trujillo. 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 2 Quotes

When we got to school that fall, we were issued new history textbooks with a picture of you-know-who embossed on the cover so even a blind person could tell who the lies were about. Our history now followed the plot of the Bible. We Dominicans had been waiting for centuries for the arrival of our Lord Trujillo on the scene. It was pretty disgusting.
“All through nature there is a feeling ecstasy. A strange otherworldly light suffuses the house smelling of labor and sanctity. The 24th of October in 1891. God’s glory made flesh in a miracle. Rafael Leonidas Trujillo has been born!”

Related Characters: Minerva (speaker), Rafael Trujillo
Related Symbols: Portraits of Trujillo
Page Number: 24
Explanation and Analysis:

At this point, Minerva has few illusions left about the true nature of Trujillo's regime. So when she goes to school and receives new textbooks with Trujillo's face on the cover, she describes them in witheringly sarcastic terms—the propaganda here seems so blatant as to be almost humorous. Here we also see how Trujillo's "cult of personality" takes on distinctly religious language, as the dictator elevates himself to the level of a god, "God's glory made flesh in a miracle." The Dominican Republic is a primarily Catholic nation at this point, and in the textbooks that Minerva is describing here Trujillo highjacks the language of Catholicism (particularly describing the birth of Jesus, the "Word made flesh") in order to build himself up as a holy figure and make his birth the supposed high point of all Dominican history.

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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.

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.

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.

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Portraits of Trujillo Symbol Timeline in In the Time of the Butterflies

The timeline below shows where the symbol Portraits of Trujillo appears in In the Time of the Butterflies. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Chapter 2: Minerva, 1938, 1941, 1944
Dictatorship Theme Icon
Religion Theme Icon
Courage vs. Cowardice Theme Icon
...doing bad things to learning that “Jesus had slapped a baby.” She thinks about the portrait of Trujillo that hangs in her family’s house next to a picture of Jesus and... (full context)
Chapter 3: This little book belongs to María Teresa, 1945 to 1946
Dictatorship Theme Icon
Religion Theme Icon
Courage vs. Cowardice Theme Icon
...is Elsa’s grandfather, and is in trouble with the police for refusing to hang a picture of Trujillo in his house. (full context)
Dictatorship Theme Icon
Freedom and Imprisonment Theme Icon
Religion Theme Icon
...Trujillo as “like God, watching over everything I did,” but now when she sees a portrait of Trujillo she thinks that he is trying to catch her doing something bad. María... (full context)
Chapter 4: Patria, 1946
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Religion Theme Icon
Women Theme Icon
...recognizes that she has lost her faith. One day she notes Patria staring at the portrait of Trujillo next to the picture of Jesus and says “they’re a pair, aren’t they?”... (full context)
Chapter 6: Minerva, 1949
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Freedom and Imprisonment Theme Icon
Religion Theme Icon
Women Theme Icon
...souvenir. At the last party she attended, Minerva brought her back a paper fan with Trujillo’s face on one side and the Virgin on the other. Minerva kept making María Teresa turn... (full context)
Chapter 10: Patria, January to March 1960
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Freedom and Imprisonment Theme Icon
Religion Theme Icon
Courage vs. Cowardice Theme Icon
...as everything is the same but all rearranged. In the hallway she has the required portrait of Trujillo, but now it is a picture of El Jefe in his old age,... (full context)
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Freedom and Imprisonment Theme Icon
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Women Theme Icon
Patria is still used to having the picture of Jesus next to the portrait of Trujillo, so sometimes she accidentally says a prayer to El Jefe as she passes.... (full context)
Dictatorship Theme Icon
Freedom and Imprisonment Theme Icon
Religion Theme Icon
...they haven’t been “disappeared.” Patria goes out and cuts new flowers to put under Trujillo’s portrait. (full context)
Dictatorship Theme Icon
Freedom and Imprisonment Theme Icon
Religion Theme Icon
Courage vs. Cowardice Theme Icon
...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 he will be dead and... (full context)
Dictatorship Theme Icon
Freedom and Imprisonment Theme Icon
Religion Theme Icon
Women Theme Icon
...enters. Patria expects to feel more sympathetic towards him after months of praying to his portrait, but instead he seems more evil than ever. She wonders if he is the devil... (full context)