Summary: Chapter 7
María Teresa
1953 to 1958


María Teresa’s next series of diary entries opens with the funeral of Papá, a few years after Minerva’s story leaves off. She is distressed that Papá’s mistress and children came to the Mass and cemetery. María Teresa decides that she hates men.

The family struggles with the loss of Papá. María Teresá and Mamá write a flowery letter to Trujillo, informing him of Enrique Mirabal’s death, and affirming their loyalty to him. They do this, though they all hate him. 


María Teresa reports that Minerva has met someone special, Manolo, a fellow law student.  María Teresa does not return to Inmaculada Concepcion, but attends day school. Minerva, who has returned to the capital, comes for a visit, bringing Manolo with her. María Teresa, after having a troubling dream about Papá, worries that Manolo is like him, but decides he has good qualities. She confesses that she likes men and wants to marry one.

María Teresa graduates, and writes in her diary sporadically. She reports that Prieto, the yard boy, had been spying on the Minerva family, and that she goes to the capital and enrolls in the university. She writes that she needs a better hiding place for her diary, and that she continues to have reoccurring dreams about Papá. 


María Teresa’s two entries for 1955 report that Minerva marries Manolo and that, a month later, they march in the opening ceremony for the World’s Fair. They pass the reviewing stand where Queen Angelita, Trujillo’s daughter, watches. María Teresa feels pity for her.


Two back-to-back diary entries for 1956 reveal that Minerva helps María Teresa with the acceptance speech she is writing for the honor of being named “Miss University” for the coming year. She feels obligated to praise Trujillo in the speech, even though he is having people “disappeared” every week. Minerva talks her sister out of praising Trujillo in her speech.


At twenty-two, María Teresa has not yet found true love. She reports that Minerva graduates with her law degree, but is refused a law license. Apparently, this had been Trujillo’s plan all along. Minerva and Manolo have a daughter, Minou, but are having marital issues due to Manolo’s unfaithfulness. Their shared passion for “the struggle” brings them back together. “What struggle?” María Teresa wonders. 

One night a man arrives with a wooden box in which María Teresa discovers guns. Minerva finally explains that she and Manolo are a part of the national underground. Minerva’s code name is Mariposa (butterfly). Palomino, the code name of the man who brought the guns, travels between the resistance cells that are spread across the country. María Teresa joins the underground and her new identity becomes Mariposa (#2). 


María Teresa and Palomino, whose real name is Leandro Guzmán Rodríguez, have fallen in love and are married on February 14, 1959, The Day of Lovers.

Summary: Chapter 8

Patria begins this part of her story by contrasting her life, which she observes has been built on a strong foundation, with that of her sisters, built on sand, “the slip and slide adventure.” However, after eighteen years, Patria has begun to feel the “baby’s breath tremor” of her foundation slipping. Now pregnant with Raúl Ernesto, her eldest son Nelson is talking about joining his “rebel uncles.” Patria and Pedrito, make every effort to protect Nelson from the SIM, the secret police who are rounding up boys in the capital. They insist that Nelson enter the seminary at Santo Tomás de Aquino.

Patria cares for Minerva’s six-month old, Manolito, while Minerva is on the road, working with the resistance. Minerva and Manolo visit every week, and meet with others on Patria and Pedrito’s property. Nelson, Patria discovers, is privy to the secret meetings.

Patria, in an effort to renew her faith, travels with Padre de Jesús and thirty women of the Christian Cultural Group into the mountains for a retreat. On the last day of the retreat, the government bombs the mountain in an effort to root out the “liberators.” Patria survives the bombing, but watches as a boy, the age of Noris, is shot in the back. In shock, she cries all the way down the mountain. 

Patria’s group changes its name to Acción Clero-Cultural, ACC, and defines its mission as organizing a powerful national underground. Padre de Jesús joins the resistance. After Raúl Ernesto is born, Patria joins the meetings held on her land. She invites the group into her home. 

Pedrito and Patria’s home becomes the “motherhouse of the movement.” The AOC group merges with Manolo and Minerva’s group. They name themselves after those who had died in the mountains: The Fourteenth of June Movement. Pedrito and some of the other men bury boxes of guns in the field.

Analysis: Chapter 7 & Chapter 8

In this section of the book, Minerva, María Teresa, and Patria become Las Mariposas, the Butterflies. Taking on the name Mariposa symbolizes their transformation into full revolutionaries. As caterpillars transform into butterflies while hidden in cocoons, the sisters undergo their transformations in secret as well. Although María Teresa is living in Minerva and Manolo’s tiny house, she only discovers Minerva’s new identity when she accidentally meets Leandro, who is secretly delivering a crate of weapons. When María Teresa becomes Mariposa #2, she must continue attending university classes to maintain her cover identity as an architecture student. Patria’s house becomes the motherhouse of the movement, her identity as devoted wife and mother melding with and simultaneously obscuring her life as Mariposa #3. Their revolutionary activities occur in place of womanly domesticity, guns sorted in the frilly pink haven of Noris’s bedroom, bombs called Nipples assembled at the kitchen table using María Teresa’s embroidery skills to handle the wires. The Butterflies are heroes because of their femininity, not in spite of it, further underscoring the theme of feminism found throughout the novel.

María Teresa’s diary is filled with young men she is attracted to and who compete for her attention, but it is meeting Leandro that causes her to focus that energy on one man and on the movement. Although her initial involvement is based on a desire to be part of whatever he is working for, she throws herself whole-heartedly into the struggle for the rest of her life. Alvarez uses this transformation to challenge the common idea that youth and especially girlishness is incompatible with serious thought and activism. María Teresa is a hero and a young, vivacious woman. She is no less a revolutionary because she enjoys clothes and fun. At the same time, the seriousness of her life and the suffering of the family after Papá’s death is underscored by María Teresa’s recurring nightmare of her father in his coffin, covered by the satin pieces of her wedding gown. Each time she has the dream, she pulls the cloth away to find a different man dead in the box, and she screams and drops her “contaminated” wedding dress. The dream foreshadows the losses coming for all the sisters.

While María Teresa is full of youthful adventure and excitement, Patria has, as the Bible commands, built her house upon the rock, part of the theme of religion in the novel. When she discovers that Nelson wants to join the revolution, she panics and seeks stability where she has always found it: the church. However, as her pilgrimage to the Virgin Mary earlier in the novel restored her faith in God, her retreat with the church to the mountains pulls her further into the resistance. When bombs fall on the retreat house, Patria takes shelter in a nook that once held a statue of the Virgin. In order to fit herself in the safe space, she pushes the statue out, effectively taking the place of Mary herself. She witnesses government soldiers shoot and kill a revolutionary no older than her son Nelson, and suddenly recognizes that all the revolutionaries are her children. Thus, she joins the movement as their protector, vowing not to watch her babies die, even if that is God’s will.