On February 27, 1924 Patria Mirabal, the oldest of the four butterflies, was born “coming out, hands first, as if reaching up for something. ” (p. 44) Early on in Patrias life, she realized she was being called into a religious life. Patria would freely bequeath any and all of her belongings, to anyone that would ask. The children and their parents who lived nearby, began to “send their kids over to ask [Patria] for a cup of rice or jar of cooking oil. [She] had no sense of holding onto things. ” (p. 45)
Patria, Sor Mercedes, as she liked to call herself, would walk around the halls of her childhood home with a plain white sheet wrapped around her head, clutching an imaginary rosary to her heart. At fourteen, Patria received her wish and was sent to Immaculada Concepcion, in order to further her knowledge of His word. Many people viewed this as a “pity” (p. 45). Patria was “such a pretty girl” (p. 45), with her “high firm breasts and sweet oval face. ” She did not let the words of others stray her from the path of the Lord, and put all of her energy into bettering herself through Him.
At the age of sixteen, though, Patria began to notice when “the hands woke with a life of their own. ” (p. 47) and even after she had been able to quiet them, the other hungering parts of her body woke. In the fall after her sixteenth birthday, she did not return to Immaculada Concepcion with her two sisters, and instead, she waited for her future husband to visit. His name was Pedrito Gonzalez, and with his “strong body, his thick hands,[and] his shapely mouth” (p. 50) he won Patrias heart, body and soul, and stole her off the path that she swore she would devote to the Lord.
Even though Patria began to stray away from her godly lifestyle, she lived very innocently, and when her younger sister, Minerva, began to speak out more freely against their government, Patria shied away from any conflict concerning it. “Women shouldn’t get involved,” (p. 51) was the extent of her arguments with her younger sister, who could disagree with her until her face was blue. Patria kept a hold on her religion, it being the only other thing besides her children that she would take drastic measures for. After two births, her first, a boy, and second a girl, Patria felt her belly begin to grow again.
During this time, a strange feeling grew inside of Patria, one of which was not her developing child. Instead, it was the shifting of her faith. She began to notice the “deadness in Padre Ignacios voice, the tedium between the gospel and communion, the dry papery feeling of the host in [her] mouth. ” (p. 52) Not long after did she lose her third child to a miscarriage, blaming it solely on her loss of faith. After her child was cruelly taken from her hands, Patrias faith was almost nonexistent, but she continuously fooled all that came into contact with her. On New Years Eve of 1958, the entire Miribal family was gathered for a celebration.
Up to this point, Patria had been the prime example of a perfect housewife. But on this night was it when her “well-being began to give a little. Just a babys breath tremor, a hairline crack you could hardly see unless you were looking for trouble. ” (p. 149) That night, after Patria, Pedrito and Noris began their treck back to their house and were all safely sleeping in their beds, the bright lights of a car was shone into the bedroom window of Patria and Pedrito. In came Minerva, Manolo, Leandro and her young son, Nelson, very drunk and very excited. They were shouting the news that “Fidel, his brother Raul, and Ernesto.. ad liberated the country. ” (p. 150) Patria, angry with them all, had to furiously remind them “they were not libre. ” (p. 150) June 14th, the day that Patria was on a retreat with a Christian Cultural Group, listening to Brother Daniel speaking of the Assumption, was the day that the first act of liberation took place.
The mountain side was bombed, sending any and all people in the church to duck and hide themselves. Patria, walking outside to access the damage, was face to face with a boy no older than her dear Noris, and watched as he was shot in the back. He fell before her eyes and she realized “Oh God, he is one of mine! (p. 162) As Patria walked down the hill, back to her family and friends waiting patiently, she realized one other thing, “coming down that mountain, [she] was a changed woman. [She] may have worn the same sweet face, but now [she] was carrying no just [her] child but the dead boy as well. ” (p. 162) This act that she had witnessed set a raging fire in Patrias soul, and started the meetings of almost 40 people, in the small home of Patria and Pedrito, once a very stable home, now the “motherhouse of the movement,” (p. 166) sheltering men and women who all wanted one thing- to “harvest their freedom. ” (p. 168)
Alvarez, Julia. In The Time of the Butterflies. New York: Algonquin Books, 1994. Print.
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