In the Time of the Butterflies (2001)




Director:  Mariano Borrosa.

Starring:   Salma Hayek (Minerva Mirabal),  Edward James Olmos (Rafael Trujillo),  Ma Maestro (Mara Teresa 'Mate' Mirabal),  Demin Bichir (Manuel 'Manolo' Tavrez Justo),  Pilar Padilla (Blgica Adela 'Ded' Mirabal),  Lumi Cavazos (Patria Mirabal),  Marc Anthony (Lio),  Pedro Armendriz Jr. (Capt. PeZa),  Ana Martn (Mama),  Fernando Becerril (Enrique Mirabal), Anthony Alvarez (Palomino), Ermahn Ospina (Jaimito), Ral Mndez (Pedrito), Mariana Snchez (Minerva Mirabal, at age 13), Graldine Bazn (Patria Mirabal, at age 15).

three of the four Mirabal sisters risk their very lives by opposing Dictator Leonida Trujillo in the Dominican Republic



Spoiler Warning.

Very good movie.  From 1930 to 1961, Gen. Leonida Trujillo held absolute control over the Dominican Republic.  To cement his power he had secret alliances with the church, aristocrats, intellectuals and the press.  Another means of control was simply to murder anyone who opposed him.  It is estimated that more than 30,000 Dominicans were murdered. 

The movie begins in the year 1938 in Ojo de Agua, Dominican Republic.  In the farm house of the Mirabal family a portrait of Dictator Trujillo hangs on a wall  with the caption "In this house Trujillo is the boss."  In the home are four Mirabal sisters: Patria, Minerva, Dede and Mate.  Minerva (Salma Hayek) is the most ambitious.  She wants to become a lawyer in a country that does not allow female lawyers.  The lives of the family start to change as the three older girls go off to school.  A school friend, Sinita, tells Minerva that her Trujillo is a murderous dictator, who was responsible for killing her complete family.  When Sinita attempts to assassinate Trujillo, she is thwarted by Minerva, and then she simply disappears.  This brings Minerva to the attention of the dictator.   

Minerva awakens politically even more when she meets and falls in love with law professor, Virgilio Morales (Marc Anthony).  The professor is actively involved in resistance to Trujillo and tells Minerva to wake up to the injustices around her.  (One of the interesting facts the professor brings up is that the dictator was killings thousands of black Haitians who cross the border to ensure the whitening of the Dominican Republic.)  

Trujillo asks Minerva and her family to come to a formal dance.  While dancing with Minerva, Trujillo grabs her ass and she slaps him.  This is a mistake, for the dictator retaliates by having her father imprisoned and tortured.  To get her father out of prison, Minerva has to meet with Trujillo. 

Will Minerva be able to get her father out of prison?  And, even if she does, will she be able to stay out of political trouble?  Or will she continue in politics to the detriment of herself and her entire family? 

I liked the movie a lot.  It gives one a feeling for how terrible it is to live in a dictatorship where innocent people can suddenly just "disappear".  A good performance by Salma Hayek as Minerva as a person very enraged at the injustices inflicted by a dictator such as Trujillo.   

Patrick Louis Cooney, Ph. D.

Historical Background:


1492  --  the island was explored and claimed by Christopher Columbus.  Hispaniola became a springboard for Spanish conquest the Caribbean and the American mainland.

1697  --  Spain recognized French dominion over the western third of the island of Hispaniola.

1804  -- the French third of the island became Haiti.

1821  --  the two-thirds of the island known as Santo Domingo sought to gain its independence. But Santo Domingo was conquered and ruled by the Haitians for 22 years.

1844  --  Santo Dominto attained independence as the Dominican Republic.

1861  --  the Dominicans voluntarily returned to the Spanish Empire.

1865  --  the Dominicans fought to restore their independence.

1916-1924  --   the United States ruled Dominican territory with a military government.

1931-1962  --  the country was ruled by dictator Rafael Lenidas Trujillo.

Venezuelan President Romulo Betancourt filed charges with the Organization of American States that Trujillo was behind an attempt upon his life.

The deaths of three of the Mirabal sisters was the final blow to the regime of Trujillo.  The Dictator was assassinated six months later.

In many countries, November 25, the day of the murder of the three Mirabal sisters, is the International Day against Violence towards Women. 

1962  --  Juan Emilio Bosch y GaviZo (1909-2001) was the first democratically elected president of the Dominican Republic after the assassination of Trujillo.

1963 (September 25) successful coup d'tat led by conservative military officers and the Polica Nacional (Police) in support of the wealthy oligarchy and opposed to Bosch's supposed socialist policies. The govenment was a Triumvirate of Emilio de los Santos, Ramn Tapia Espinal and Manuel Tavares Espaillat.

1965 pro-Bosch forces (called Constitutionalists) overthrew the Donald Reid Cabral government. Rafael Molina UreZa became the provisional president.

1965 (April 25) the military (known as Loyalists) started a civil war.

1965 (April 28) the United States intervened in the civil war with President Lyndon B. Johnson sending 42,420 troops. Johnson believed that the Constitutionalists were composed of a great number of communists. The US imposed an interim government.

Since 1965   --  the Dominican Republic has struggled economically.

1966 (July 1) in the elections Bosch was defeated by Joaqun Balaguer of the Reformist Party, who garnered 57% of the vote. Balaguer was a lifelong supporter of Rafael Trujillo and had the backing of the military, peasants, religious women, and businessmen.



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