In the Time of the Butterflies

In the Time of the Butterflies Summary and Analysis of Part II - Chapter Eight: Patria, 1959

Patria's children, Nelson and Noris, have grown up, and they all live in Pedrito's great-grandfather's house. Eighteen years after getting married, she has spent New Year's Eve at Mama's new house in Conuco, and she has fallen asleep at her own house. But she is woken up by Minerva, Manolo, Leandro, and Nelson, who report that Fidel Castro and Ernesto "Che" Guevara have ousted Batista in Cuba. That night, Raul Ernesto, Patria's next son, is conceived.

Patria is afraid for her sisters and for her son Nelson, who is "always tagging along behind his Tio Manolo and his new Tio Leandro, men of the world who had gone to the university and who impressed him more than his country father." She sends him to Santo Tomas de Aquino, a seminary in the capital, with the help of Padre de Jesus Lopez. When Nelson begins to talk about joining the liberators, Patria goes to Padre de Jesus Lopez for help, but he tells her he, too, is lost, and cannot show her the way.

Minerva and Maria Teresa both have had babies, Manolito and Jacqueline, respectively. Minerva asks Patria to take care of Manolito, explaining that she is going to "be on the road a lot." But she and Manolo visit from Monte Cristi every week; they meet on Patria's and Pedrito's land with many other revolutionaries. But this gives Nelson the chance to get involved when he is home from school. He reports back to her that the revolutionaries are expecting an invasion by the liberators from Cuba.

Though she is pregnant with Raul Ernesto, Patria decides to go on a retreat with Padre de Jesus and the Salcedo group to Constanza. They are the Christian Cultural Group, led by four priests including Padre de Jesus and Brother Daniel. Trujillo has heard rumors of the pending invasion and has declared a state of emergency, but the retreat goes to Constanza anyway. They stay in a retreat house that resembles a nunnery, and Patria feels peaceful.

On June 14, while they listen to Brother Daniel speak about the Assumption, the mountainside is bombed. The first wave of the liberating invasion is the target, and as Patria watches, one of them (who is about Noris's age) is gunned down. The Christian Cultural Group comes back down the mountain, and Patria's family meets her on the road coming into town. In the newspaper, they read that 49 men and boys died in the attack. They read six days later that the second wave of the invasion force was intercepted and also defeated.

At the next meeting of the Christian Cultural Group, the mood has changed considerably: Padre de Jesus speaks like a revolutionary, and they change their name to Accion Clero-Cultural, or ACC. Their mission is to organize a powerful national underground. Patria volunteers Pedrito, Nelson, Minerva, Manolo, Maria Teresa, and Leandro for the organization. However, Pedrito becomes upset that the revolutionaries are meeting in their backyard, since a new law has been passed that will allow the government to confiscate the land of anyone found to be harboring any enemies of the regime. Patria is able to sway him when she reveals that their son Nelson is involved, too.

The Fourteenth of June Movement is founded then, in Patria and Pedrito's home. There are about forty people, with Manolo as president. They make bombs, called "nipples," and hide weapons. Patria sends Noris to Chea Mirabal's house, and they use her bedroom as an ammunitions room.


As narrator, Patria uses similes and personification that connect her to both heaven and earth. When Padre de Jesus tells her he cannot help her because he, too, is lost, she says, "I was shaking like when a breeze blows through the sacristy and the votive candles flicker." She is in the place of the prayerful candles, being shaken by nature. When she is overwhelmed by the beauty of Constanza, she personifies the land and nature more generally as if it is tied to God: "Purple mountains reaching towards angelfeather clouds; a falcon soaring in a calm blue sky; God combing His sunshine fingers through green pastures straight out of the Psalms."

Pedrito also ties Patria to the Earth. This is evident in the language she uses to express not being worried about him like she worries about her sisters: "Pedrito didn't worry me. I knew he would always have one hand in the soil and the other somewhere on me."

Patria uses a style of narration that involves direct address and exclamations, characterizing herself as deliberate but also at times as emotional as her younger sister Maria Teresa. For example, when Nelson sees an excited look on her face after he tells her about the invasion, she says, "But you know why that look was there? I'll tell you." Similarly, when she explains why Noris does not want to go along with her to the retreat, she says, "I certainly couldn't talk her into a retreat with 'old ladies' and a bunch of bad-breath priests. (Lord forgive her!)."

When Noris meets her after the mountainside is bombed, Patria notices "a change in her, as if her soul had at last matured and began its cycles." This metaphor comparing the soul maturing to a menstrual cycle hearkens back to Chapter 2, in which Minerva begins her "complications" both physically and emotionally as she realizes the country is in danger, and the power and evil of Trujillo. It also is reminiscent of Maria Teresa, who in her diary entries as a young girl yearned to discover her soul.

Patria also struggles to reconcile her commitment to God with her desire to protect her family and defend her country. Symbolically, she and Maria Teresa make a list of the weapons they've assembled "in the pretty script we'd been taught by the nuns for writing out Bible passages." Even when the retreat house is bombed, she describes it spiritually: "His Kingdom was coming down upon the very roof of that retreat house." As they ride back down the mountain after the retreat, she says, "I tried looking up at our Father, but I couldn't see His Face for the dark smoke hiding the tops of those mountains."

This chapter also keeps the reader informed about the larger history. We learn about the role of Cuba and its revolutionaries. We also learn about the events of June 14 and the origins, filtered through the narrator, of the Movimiento 14 de Junio.