Study Guide

Present-Day Characters in In the Time of the Butterflies

By Alvarez, Julia

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Present-Day Characters

There are only a few characters that populate 1994, when the novel takes place. Most of the others have died, but there is a focus on the next generation, those few who have survived the Trujillo era. There's Dedé, of course, but also a few others.

The Interviewer

We don't know much about the woman who visits Dedé to interview her about her sisters except that her Spanish isn't very good. Dedé calls her a "gringa dominicana" ("a Dominican gringa" 1.1.1), so she is probably from the United States and of Dominican heritage—much like the author, Julia Alvarez. So Alvarez is inserting herself into the story, perhaps to remind the reader that it's a true one and that she based the novel on research.


Minou is Minerva's eldest child, and Dedé's niece. She's the only one of the nieces and nephews who shows up in the present day to visit Dedé. Sometimes she makes Dedé think of her mother, Minerva, but Minou struggles to be her own person:

Minou's eyes flashed with anger, and Minerva herself stood before Dedé again. "I'm my own person. I'm tired of being the daughter of a legend." (2.5.16)

The weight of her mother's life is heavy for Minou.


Fela was the Mirabal family's long-time maid, and stayed on working in the house with Dedé after the sisters and Mamá died. However, Dedé lets her go when she "started going wacky after the girls died" (2.5.3). Fela claims to be "possessed by the spirits of the girls" (2.5.3) and people come from all over to visit with them, including Minou, who feels that Fela is her only connection with her mother.

Dedé calls Fela an "ebony black sibyl," referring to her African roots and her skills as an oracle. Fela's practice reminds us that, for all Patria's Catholicism, Afro-Caribbean religions also have a strong presence in the Dominican Republic.


Tono barely appears, but we think he's kind of like the groundskeeper. He's in charge of the girls' museum after they die and is also around in early times as an employee of the family.

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