Patria recites the Bible verse about “building your house upon a rock,” and she describes her marriage at age sixteen as this rock. She is a good wife for years, and lives with Pedrito on the “rock” of his family’s ancestral farm. Her sisters, by contrast, 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 and moved many times. Patria, on the other hand, stays on her “rock” for eighteen years.
Once again there is a drastic change in tone as the narrative shifts from one sister to another. Mate’s life is full of passion and change, while Patria is steady and conventional. Here are more mentions of Dedé and Jaimito’s business failures.
During that eighteenth year – 1959 – things start to get so bad with the regime that 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 sleeping with an older widow.
Patria seems closest to Dedé in temperament, but external situations and Patria’s religious idealism lead the two sisters to take different paths. Trujillo has now been in power for 29 years.
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 singing the national anthem, and they celebrate until dawn. Patria and Pedrito have sex that night, and weeks later she learns that she is pregnant. She decides (as if by divine inspiration) to name the child Raúl Ernesto, after two Cuban revolutionaries.
Castro and Che Guevara overthrew the Cuban dictator Batista and set up a Communist government in Cuba (which would later grow corrupt in its own way, as well). Minerva and Manolo are clearly inspired by this victory, and even Patria is moved, as she gives her baby a quietly subversive name.
Patria is still “running scared” in her life, but now she is especially worried 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. Patria decides to send Nelson to religious school in the capital, where he will feel manly but be under supervision.
Patria is first nudged towards resistance through her son Nelson, as she tries to protect him from the danger Minerva might expose him to. Most of the births of children are told from the perspective of other sisters.
It is hard to convince Pedrito to let Nelson go, as he says the best school is on the farm. Patria doesn’t suggest that Nelson might not want to be a farmer, but she does say that the seminary is the safest place for young men these days. The church still refuses to “get involved in temporal matters,” so Trujillo leaves it alone. The terror of his regime is now the SIM (Military Intelligence Service), headed by the brutal Johnny Abbes. Pedrito finally allows Nelson to go.
Nelson is clearly an independent spirit, and feels trapped by his “patrimonio” (inherited land). Like Minerva, he wants to leave home and join the revolution. The SIM is now Trujillo’s strong arm, and the main enemies the sisters will deal with from now on. The church still stands by, passively condoning Trujillo.
At Easter Patria is frightened when Nelson mentions joining the “liberators” who are rumored to be invading from Cuba soon. Patria reminds him that God will take care of things, and she makes him promise to stay out of trouble.
Inspired by Cuba’s revolution, the resistance now hopes for outside help. Patria feebly echoes the church’s frightened stance, though she is starting to grow dissatisfied.
Patria goes to see Padre de Jesús, a young priest, for advice. 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 that he is also lost, and doesn’t know the right action to take. Patria is deeply moved by this. She prays to the Virgin, who also had to give up her little boy Jesus.
Padre de Jesús only reinforces Patria’s inner turmoil, instead of offering a priest’s expected advice. Patria now feels especially close to the Virgin as a fellow mother, as Patria debates giving up her son for a greater cause.
Patria gradually gets a little braver, “inching towards courage” and helping her sisters with little things. One day Minerva brings her baby Manolito and asks Patria to watch him, as Minerva will be on the road a lot. Patria tells her that she is pregnant, and tells her the name she has for the baby. Minerva recognizes this as a sign of solidarity. Patria cautiously offers her help “if there should come a time,” and Minerva says “there will.”
Patria’s union with her sisters is gradual but steady, and she fortifies her courage with faith and motherly love. Meanwhile Minerva and Manolito’s movement continues to progress in its plans.
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 he is excited about the coming invasion, and Patria is excited that he will be safely back at school by the time it happens.
Patria is now putting herself in danger by allowing Minerva’s group on her land, but she doesn’t let them into her house yet.
A few weeks later Patria decides to take a religious retreat with Padre de Jesús and her religious group of about thirty women. Patria tries to convince Noris to go with her, but Noris wants to stay and attend parties. Patria accepts this, and she and group plan to go up to the mountain town of Constanza.
Patria continues to take her own religious path regarding political resistance. This trip will be a watershed moment for her. Noris resists her mother’s religious nature.
Patria thinks of how she had written a letter to one of the priests at Nelson’s school, asking him to keep Nelson safe and not let him go out. Nelson had found out about this and gotten angry, but Patria declared that she 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 how brave Mate looked, and promised to take care of Jacqueline if anything happened to her.
Patria is now starting to act more like Papá and being overprotective of Nelson. Patria is surprised to see that Mate is now a real “butterfly” along with Minerva. As the most mothering of the sisters, Patria initially takes on the responsibility of raising all the children if something goes wrong.
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 state of emergency is called off, so Patria’s group leaves in June. She is amazed at the beauty of the mountains, and sees some wary-looking campesinos watching them as they drive past. The group arrives at a cottage where they will live spartanly and pray. Patria feels a renewal of faith.
Campesinos are poor, rural farmers. In Cuba they helped Castro and the revolutionaries, but in the Dominican Republic they are still convinced by Trujillo’s propaganda. Trujillo basically shuts the whole country down to protect himself from the invasion.
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 rocked by explosions. Everyone falls to the ground. When the shelling ends Patria gets up and sees that part of the house is destroyed, and several of her group are injured. They bandage each other up and pray.
This is a famous date, and Patria experiences this battle and witnesses the massacre of the “invaders.” They are mostly Dominican exiles returning from Cuba to fight Trujillo.
They hear gunfire and huddle in the corner. They watch men in camouflage run across the grounds towards the house, followed by the campesinos they saw earlier and some guards. The men in 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.
All of the “invaders” are killed except for the four that Patria sees. The campesinos do not help their liberators, but instead fight for Trujillo despite the fact that they are oppressed by him. As a mother, the young man’s death is the most devastating thing Patria can witness.
After the violence is over, Patria comes down the mountain “a changed woman.” She feels like the boy she watched die was her own stillborn son of years before. The mountains are all burning and smoking, and Patria tries to look up and see God but the smoke is too thick. Patria makes herself pray as she weeps, and she tells God that she won’t “sit back and watch my babies die.”
The death of the young man brings back all of Patria’s old hurts and loss of faith from years earlier. It is after this revelation (of an entirely different kind from hearing the Virgin’s voice) that she decides to act against Trujillo, with or without the church.
Patria’s family meets her on the way back, but Patria is still too traumatized to speak. The next day the papers reveal that forty-nine men were killed in the mountains. They were the first wave of the rumored invasion. A week later there are more invaders, but Trujillo’s planes bomb their ships and hunt them down after they land. Campesinos help the guards fight the invaders.
The outside help that Minerva’s group had been so excited about is brutally defeated by the regime. Trujillo had beefed up the national defense budget in preparation for this invasion.
Two months later, Patria joins Padre de Jesús and a few others for a meeting of the “Church Militant.” She immediately feels an electricity in the faith of the room, “the fury of avenging angels sharpening their radiance before they strike.” They are all tired of waiting for the pope and archbishop to condemn Trujillo, and they decide to take action on their own.
The group calls themselves the ACC, and they plan to create a national underground, teaching the brainwashed campesinos to not hunt down their liberators, and reminding them that it is a deadly sin to kill a fellow human. After the meeting Padre de Jesús asks if Patria knows others who would like to join, and Patria is sure that Minerva and her group will. Padre de Jesús comments on how much Patria has changed, and she feels like her vision is “clean at last.”
Patria’s new courage comes with this inspiration and anger. As with the romantic, girlish Mate, the religious, peaceful Patria seems to go against her nature in joining the fight, but she also brings her own perspective to the underground. If the underground is to be successful, however, they need civilian help like Castro had.
The next week Patria has given birth to her baby, and she comes out when Minerva and her group are having their meeting. She invites them all inside for the first time. This is dangerous because there is a recent law that if anyone is caught harboring enemies of the regime, all their property will be seized. This is Pedrito’s greatest fear, as his ancestral land is the center of his life.
Patria’s new baby is now truly a child of revolutionary fervor, with both his name and his arrival at the time of Patria’s newfound courage. Patria is now willing to put herself in danger for Minerva’s group, as she has wholly committed to their cause.
When he first learns that Patria invited Minerva’s group to meet in the house, Pedrito yells at Patria for the first time in their marriage. He says that her first responsibility is to her husband, children, and home. Patria pleads with him, but then suddenly grows angry and tells Pedrito that Nelson doesn’t want to become a farmer – he has already applied for the university and has joined the underground. Pedrito weeps at this, but then gives his silent assent.
Patria and Dedé start out almost on parallel tracks, but they diverge not just in their fortitude but also in their husbands. Pedrito yells, but then he subdues his pride and machismo and goes along with Patria. He shows his maturity in accepting that his son wants to follow his own path.
After that Patria’s house becomes the “motherhouse of the movement.” Minerva and Manolo’s group merges with the ACC, and Manolo becomes president after Minerva refuses to accept the position. There are about forty members. Patria is now “Mariposa #3,” and they name their group the “Fourteenth of June Movement” after the massacre in the mountains. Their mission is to “effect an internal revolution rather than wait for an outside rescue.”
The butterflies are finally all united, and their famous struggle begins. The name of the movement is modeled after Castro and Che Guevara’s “Twenty-sixth of July Movement.” Manolo is the official president—another sign of the patriarchal hierarchy—but Minerva acts as the real driving force behind the operation, an indication that the patriarchal hierarchy cannot match her will and determination.
Patria then lists the ironies of the work going on in the house – the family’s breakfast table is now used to make bombs, Nelson counts ammunition on the couch where he used to play with a wooden gun, and in the chair where Patria nursed her babies Minerva now checks the viewfinders of rifles. Noris is sent off to live with Mamá, and they use her room to hide the arsenal of weapons among her toys and perfumes. Instead of planting seeds in his land, Pedrito now buries boxes of weaponry – a new kind of farming that he can share with Nelson, “seeds of destruction” from which they hope to harvest freedom.
This passage contains the heart of Alvarez’s themes – the union of innocence, delicacy, and femininity with violence and revolution, and the courage and strength of average women when faced with brutality and oppression. Things are looking hopeful for the butterflies at this point, and Minerva has now gained some real power with which to fight Trujillo.