Study Guide

Mercedes Reyes de Mirabal, a.k.a. Mamá in In the Time of the Butterflies

By Alvarez, Julia

Mercedes Reyes de Mirabal, a.k.a. Mamá

Whereas Papá is a dapper gent and a ladies' man, Mamá sticks to her home. She is a simple woman who didn't have an education of her own and insists that her daughters have the opportunities she didn't get.

In the meantime, Mate reads the news to her and even begins to teach her how to write. When they have to send a letter to Trujillo, Mate writes it: "Tomorrow I'll copy it in my nice penmanship, then Mamá can sign it with her signature I've taught her to write" (2.7.36). Mamá depends entirely upon her daughters for survival during the regime.

She's a brave woman. Every single time that one of her family members is taken by the SIM she shields them with her own body, saying that they cannot leave without her. Most of the times it works and she's allowed to accompany her loved ones, but on the last time, when Mate is arrested, the captain plays a cruel trick on her:

At last, the captain said he would make an exception. Mamá could come along. But out on the drive, after loading the terrified Mate in the wagon, he gave a signal and the driver roared away, leaving Mamá standing on the road. (3.9.251)

She doesn't give up hope after her daughter is taken away though, and instead spends her time taking care of her grandchildren.

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