In the Time of the Butterflies

In the Time of the Butterflies Summary and Analysis of Part III - Chapter Ten: Patria, January to March 1960

For three months, Patria (along with the rest of the family) suffers without her son, husband, or Minerva. She is staying at Chea Mirabal's new home together with Maria Teresa, Dede, and their children. But after three days, the SIM comes to take Maria Teresa, too. Soon after she is taken, Captain Pena arrives, scaring the children. He tells her that the SIM made her husband an offer: he would get his freedom and farm back if he divorced "his Mirabal wife," but Pedrito refused.

At church the next Sunday, Padre Gabriel, the replacement after Padre de Jesus was arrested, gives a revolutionary sermon. The family spends the rest of the day in Salcedo attending masses. The church as an institution has "thrown in its lot with the people," and the SIM is noticing. The next Sunday, prostitutes attend mass and disrupt it; the next week, the contents of latrines are dumped in the confessional before Sunday morning.

One morning, Margarita, Carmen's daughter, comes to the house to deliver a note from Maria Teresa. She says that her mother's cousin works in La Victoria, the prison where the girls are being held. That night, Dede, Patria, and Chea stay up preparing a package to smuggle into the prison, with a note asking for any news of the men and Nelson. Patria delivers it to Margarita at the pharmacy where she works. After Mama goes to bed, Dede confesses to Patria that although her marriage seems to be bearable right now, Jaimito "would have been happier with someone else."

Now, the family is very aware of the spies who constantly lurk around their house. When they trample Mama's flower beds, she replaces the flowers with thorn bushes to trip them up so that they cannot get too close to the house. The newspaper reports that eight prisoners have been pardoned, which gives Patria hope; however, Captain Pena has taken over Patria and Pedrito's land.

Patria goes to Don Bernardo's house and asks for a ride to Santiago to Captain Pena's office. While she pleads with him to intercede on behalf of her family in jail, she prays for him all the while, hoping to defeat him with prayer. Meanwhile, the Catholic Church is being attacked by the government for its revolutionary pastorals. Patria continues to pray to Trujillo for the release of her family, and the correspondence via Margarita continues with the girls in jail.

Captain Pena comes to Chea Mirabal's house, but Mama refuses to see him, so it is Patria who must receive him. He brings visiting passes and reports that Nelson might be released with the next round of pardons. But Minerva and Maria Teresa have refused their own pardons. When Pena asks Patria how they should celebrate when Nelson returns home, she invites him over for a sancocho. That night, Patria confesses to her mother that she has "made an indiscreet promise," offering the Lord her own self in exchange for Nelson.

On the next Tuesday, they drive to the capital to pick up Nelson. They have their "most respectable relations," Tio Chiche and his son Blanco, escort them as a show of strength. Patria is worried that El Jefe will play a cruel trick and decide not to release Nelson, and she also worries for the sake of Noris, who has become beautiful and might be to Trujillo's liking. When he is released to Patria, she "cried out and dropped to my knees." Journalists record the release of all the pardoned prisoners, and it is reported in the newspaper.


The theme of Trujillo being juxtaposed with Jesus is also prominent for Patria throughout this chapter. In Mama's old house, portraits of Jesus and Trujillo hung side by side, and now Patria says, "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." She wants her family back from him, and "prayer was the only way I knew to ask." But when Patria arrives at the capital for the release of Nelson, she feels no kinship toward him—quite 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!"

Throughout this chapter, Patria also links herself to Jesus in her suffering. The very first line is, "I don't know how it happened that my cross became bearable," following Jesus’ injunction to take up the cross and follow his ways. Also, as Jesus carried a cross and wore a crown of thorns in part as political torture, Patria says, "My crown of thorns was woven of thoughts of my boy." In addition, though she repeats as a mantra, 'And on the third day He rose again," after three days at her mother's house, "instead of a resurrection, I got another crucifixion," when the SIM comes to take Maria Teresa away. When she prays to Trujillo for the safe return of her family, she thinks, "Take me instead, I'll be your sacrificial lamb." In Christian tradition, Jesus is the lamb of God in that he dies to take away the sins of the world, suffering so that humans might live. Patria wishes to offer herself up as Jesus did in the Christian faith, for her family.

In contrast, Captain Pena is figured as the devil. When Don Bernardo drives Patria to his office, she says, "It wouldn't have been exaggerating to say that Patria Mercedes had been struck dumb in the devil's den." When it strikes her that he, too, is weak, she realizes: "This devil might seem powerful, but finally I had a power stronger than his." That power is prayer, and she prays for him: "Soften his devil's heart, oh Lord." When he comes to the house with visiting passes, Mama won't see him because "The truth was the devil was the devil even in a halo. But I knew it was more complicated than that. He was both, angel and devil, like the rest of us."

The violent imagery that has permeated all the sisters' narrations persists in this chapter. When Captain Pena tells Patria the offer that the SIM made Pedrito, she says, "I could feel my heart like a hand making a fist in my chest." When she speaks to him, "my voice threw sparks."

As the narrator, Patria uses the technique of rhetorical questions, in a sense implying dialogue, but also expressing the unspoken points that the characters all understand. For instance, when Mama and Dede see the black towel they sent Maria Teresa airing out the window of La Victoria, they know it means that it is her window: "And who else would have a black towel in prison?" When they hear the news that Captain Pena has taken over Patria and Pedrito's land, Mama stops herself from saying, "The truth is ..." because, "Why give out the valuable truth to a hidden microphone?"

Like that of her sisters, Patria's narrative voice is interrupted by exclamations that demonstrate her passion. When nothing happens in response to her prayers to Trujillo, she thinks, "Either Pena had forgotten or—God forbid!—something terrible" had met Nelson. When Pena comes to Mama's new house complaining that none of his neighbors will lend a hand to help him at the farm he has stolen from Patria and Pedrito, she thinks, "(What could he expect? That whole area was full of Gonzalez!)."