In the Time of the Butterflies

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Historical Context and Themes. Julia Alvarez: Life. Born in the US in 1950. Returned to Dominican Republic with family at 3 months old. Fled DR in 1960 with parents at age 10 when her father participated in coup to overthrow Trujillo. ID: 572272 Download Presentation

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In the Time of the Butterflies

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In the Time of the Butterflies

Historical Context and Themes


Julia Alvarez: Life

Born in the US in 1950Returned to Dominican Republic with family at 3 months oldFled DR in 1960 with parents at age 10 when her father participated in coup to overthrow Trujillo


Julia Alvarez: Writing

Atlantic Unbound Interview, 2000

“I know with the Mirabal sisters I felt a measure of responsibility to tell their story. They were the four sisters who were sacrificed to the regime, whereas my sisters and I made it safely to this country. It was also a desire to understand my parents' generation, who fell victim to the dictatorship -- la generación perdida (the lost generation), as they are known in the Dominican Republic -- so much talent, so much energy and faith, so many lives gone to waste. I needed to understand and to redeem the time for myself.”


Julia Alvarez: Writing and Cultural Differences between US & DR Interview, 1998

Q: A more important cultural difference between the United States and the Dominican Republic, where you were born, is the way that each culture views its writers — particularly its women writers. You’ve said that after your first novel, “How the Garcia Girls Lost Their Accents,” was published, your mother didn’t talk to you for several months. Why was that?

A:I think it was for a variety of reasons. A lot had to do with the fact

that I come from a culture in which women were not encouraged to speak up


Maxine Hong Kingston was very helpful to me. She begins “The Woman Warrior” by saying: “My mother told me never, ever to repeat this story.” That was such an eye-opener, because that’s the way with many of my stories. No “once upon a time” or any of those catch phrases. I come from a culture where women are not encouraged to speak

. [Instead, they are encouraged] to keep their mouths shut, to keep things in the family, to be the guardian of the stories and to be very careful who they’re released to. It’s a way of understanding that stories are powerful. You know, in the world we lived in, people “got disappeared” for saying the wrong thing.

What people said mattered. I was raised in that world, and suddenly here I am

— a woman with a voice in another language, one that we’re supposed to keep things from, you know, the gringos and the Americans. And I have a voice and I’m saying things about women and women’s experience which are not nice.

That women have mouths and needs and bodies and problems and breakdowns and all of the stuff that is not nice to admit and certainly not to the [Americans].


In the Time of the Butterflies: Historical Fiction

Historical fiction is a story that takes place during an actual period in history

There is some creative license pertaining to the truth and sometimes the author appeals to the emotional truth versus the entire factual reality

Much of


is grounded in fact; but some parts are bits of legend


Butterflies: What gave them that special courage?


Butterflies: A Postscript

“It was to understand that questions that I began this story. But as happens with any story, the characters took over, beyond polemics and facts. They became real to my imagination. I began to invent them.”


Dominican Republic


Dominican Republic: Trujillo

Born to lower middle class family in San Cristobol

1916: the US sent Marines to occupy island and protect economy

Trujillo was a cadet in Dominican Army; during US occupation he was trained by Marines

By 1925, he was army’s commander in chief



1930: President Horacio Vasquez resigned after a revolt against his government

Trujillo ran an unopposed election

Ran DR for next 3 decades as an Absolute Dictator


Impact of Trujillo as Ruler

Dominican people suffered from deprivation and repression

Critics suffered torture, imprisonment, loss of property

1937: Order massacre of thousands of unarmed Haitians living in the DR to racially homogenize the DR, avenge old tensions with Haiti, and establish firm control of borders


Impact of Trujillo as Ruler


The DR faced criticism from Dominicans and other countries

June 14, 1959: Castro and Dominicans exiled to Cuba led a failed invasion of the



tried to assassinate Venezuelan President Betancourt, which fueled tensions between DR and other countries

Organization of American States (OAS) voted to sever ties with DR and impose economic sanctions on country


Underground Movement in DR

Gained momentum in late 50s and early


The 14


of June Movement helped conspirators gain momentum; however when there was a plot to assassinate “El




Hundreds were rounded up by SIM agents and dragged to La


to be tortured in the electric chair, and then thrown naked into the La Victoria prison... The beautiful Mirabel sisters, Maria Teresa and Minerva, were arrested along with their husbands, two of the leaders of the June 14th Movement



sisters murdered on November 25, 1960 and is the signal of the end for Trujillo

Trujillo was assassinated six months after murder of Mirabels


Mirabel Sisters


Catholicism in DR

Patron Saint of DR : Virgin of La


, the Virgin of the Highest Grace

Today –estimated 7.6


Catholics in DR


Trujillo accused five Catholic priests of conspiracy and creating bombs for the Anti-Trujillo Movement; two of them were deported


letter from Church criticizing Trujillo’s mass


Mention of many saints in



Bernadette: pious youth who was told by the Virgin Mary to dig in mud until healing water appeared

Saint Dominic: known for idea that communities should be centered in the church


Gender Roles in the DR

While women in the DR have equal rights today, including the right to have property, the expectations of women in the 1960s was different.

Struggle for women to get an education (like Minerva in


Men praised for “machismo”

Women expected to fulfill traditional role of caretaker and expected to look other way at infidelity of husbands, etc.

Beautiful women praised and Virgin Mary is the idealized figure for women

Today there is an increase in the number of women in the workforce and women as head of household

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