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Title: In The Time Of Butterflies

Review Date: February 13, 2006

Year Of Release: 2001

Rating: PG-13

Running time: 92 Minutes

Box Office Gross: N/A - Made for TV

Recommendation: Moving film - A story that needed to be told. Contains some inappropriate language, violence and sexual harassment.

Site Rating: 8 out of 10 stars

Introduction

I recently saw the film “In The Time of the Butterflies” starring Selma Hayek, James Almos and Marc Anthony, which followed the lives of the Mirabal Sisters in a dictator oppressed Dominican Republic. This film is horribly heartbreaking, as you know it was based on real events that real people actually lived through.

Former dictator Rafael Trujillo

Murderous Dictator Trujillo

The plot of the film is about real life dictator Rafael Trujillo – a conceited, self-worshiping, bloody tyrant that ruled the Dominican Republic with an iron fist from 1930-1961.

Based on public accounts and historical records, he committed many human rights violations and atrocities, allegedly in the advancement and name of his country.

It’s amazing what some will claim they are doing in the name of nationalism. In his attempt to whiten the Dominican Republic, he slaughtered 30,000 black Haitians who crossed the border from neighboring Haiti in search of work. He was a modern day Hitler. Anyone with that blatant a disregard for human life is unconscionable and evil.

While he did revamp parts of the Dominican Republic, it does not excuse the fact that many innocent Dominicans and Haitians suffered severely and were murdered under his rule - the Haitians for being black and native Dominicans who spoke out against his oppressive, cruel regime. The Mirabal Sisters (Minerva, Patricia and Maria) were among his victims.

They were nicknamed Las Mariposas, English translation, The Butterflies, partly because they fought against an unhinged dictator’s rule. By all accounts, the Mirabals were a normal Dominican family who wanted to live their lives in a civil, non-oppressed manner. That’s not an unreasonable request. However, during Trujillo’s reign, it inexplicably was.

During their lives they were unjustly incarcerated and tortured several times by Trujillo's government for daring to have an opinion other than his own and speaking out against his oppressive, murderous rulership.

"They (The Mirabal Sisters) posed a great threat to his regime, as they had become well-known and admired all over the island. No matter how many times Trujillo jailed them, no matter how much of their property and possessions he seized, Minerva, Patria and Maria Teresa refused to give up on their mission to restore democracy and civil liberties to the island nation." - Mirabal Sisters Web Site

Mirabal Sister Minerva Sexually Harassed

Minerva Mirabal, who by her picture posted above you can tell was beautiful, was sexually harassed by Trujillo, who made very inappropriate advances towards her at a State dinner in the presence of many. The mark of the truly arrogant - they don’t care who is watching their misconduct.

Some say, “Hell hath no fury like a woman scorned” - one, based on Bible descriptions there isn’t anything as furious as hell, and two, some men do not take to rejection well either. Trujillo was one of them and he resented Minerva for not responding to his advances.

That’s just what any young woman needs – a murderous dictator slobbering all over her and pawing her with his hands that have more hypothetical blood on them than a morgue. That was sarcasm.

Her father was unjustly incarcerated without reason and tortured because she refused the advances of the dictator. His heart gave out shortly after as a result of the torture and he died.

The movie was well written and well filmed in a manner that it is easy to follow and feel compassion for the lead characters that were made to suffer serious injustices.

The Murder of the Mirabel Sisters

Spoiler Alert: The end of the film is absolutely heartbreaking – but it needed to be included. The Trujillo sisters were brutally beaten and strangled to death by Trujillo’s rogue officers in a sugarcane field. Though the gore isn't shown, and appropriately so, it is positively one of the saddest, most disturbing movie endings I have ever watched.

The mere fact that you know it happened to real people, who actually lived and died under such terrible conditions, is enough to break your heart.

However, people need to see firsthand what happens when elected officials ignore human rights and devalue life based on their prejudices and convoluted philosophical ideas.

The Mirabal Sisters left behind small children and grieving families. Dictators not only adversely effect the lives of their targets, but their families as well. No one should be able to touch that many lives in a negative manner, but it is what can happen when not enough people speak up, out of fear.

The kind of aggravated abuse and torture these peaceful women faced for trying to better their own country was horrific. They were treated like garbage and deprived of basic human rights and freedom.

November 25, the day of their death in 1960 (which wasn’t so long ago), is recognized in many Latin American countries and designated by the United Nations as the International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women.

Trujillo was executed 6 months later – shot to death by his own men. Reports stated he got a dose of his own medicine from a disgusted "C.I.A." who allegedly "provided his men with weapons" to assassinate him due to his abhorrent actions (hey, I didn't make it up - it's on Encarta MSN and Wikipedia).

Sounds like he got pimp slapped by the C.I.A. (just kidding).

Dictators

The Hilters, Husseins, Bin Ladens, Milosevics and Trujillos of the world need to be excruciatingly recorded in world history in all their tyrannous glory, for the barbaric atrocities they committed, for all to see and serve as a warning to future generations of what happens when human compassion dies and is replaced with dictatorship and tyranny.

That statement was not to say anything against the people of Germany (Hitler), Iraq (Saddam Hussein), Saudi Arabia (Bin Laden), Serbia, Yugoslavia and Montenegro (Milosevic) and the Dominican Republic (Trujillo). It is an appeal to the world in general to protect each man’s human rights as citizens from tyrannous leadership and murderous misconduct.

No matter what country you live in this world we all share, we must be careful of whom we elect as leaders, hold them to strict and swift accountability and vigilantly guard our human rights. To not do so, as history has shown, can lead to the deaths of many innocent people. And we’re not guessing here. For further reference, see dictators listed above, the horrible things they did to maintain their dictatorships and how they forced their wicked philosophies on their respective, unsuspecting nations.

No country deserves that, as we are all human, and have basic rights that should not be violated by anyone.

It’s not so hard for an overly ambitious, egotistical, self-regarding politician to lose their grip and become the next Hitler. Hussein, Bin Laden, Milosevic and Trujillo did. So-called power does things to some people - those that should never be given the charge of ruling over a people.

There’s an old Jamaican phrase that goes, “See me, come live with me,” meaning you may see a person on the street or know them as an acquaintance, but when you live with them, then you see who they really are – which isn’t always good. Trujillo appeared as a leader to the world, many of whom didn't really know the real him, but to those in his homeland more familiar with his misdeeds, he was a tyrant.

This story also brings to mind another phrase used in Jamaica, "When you dig a grave for someone, dig two" – meaning, when you try to set up or try to harm or kill someone, God will bring it back around to you and you will suffer the same fate you unjustly forced on another. Meaning the second grave will be for you when you get caught in your own web.

This proved true in the Bible as well. Haman plotted against the Jews, even building gallows for them to be hung upon, but in the end, he was the one that ended up hanging on the gallows.  

History Corrects Itself

It’s amazing that the Mirabal Sisters were basically unknown women who fought for the betterment of their homeland, while Trujillo had achieved fame as the Prime Minister of the Dominican Republic, to an unsuspecting world that didn’t know what he was truly like – until he sought to eliminate an outspoken trio of innocent sisters via murder, which months later lead to his own assassination and disgrace.

Today, the Mirabal Sisters are thought of in high esteem with their home having been turned into a museum and a day designated in their honor and remembrance, while history has recorded the once revered Trujillo in picture perfect accuracy - ignominiously as a monster, classed with the worst of mankind.

Proof that it is not how you start – but how you finish...and as the Bible shows we are to, “Finish well” ("I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith" - 2 Timothy 4:7).

 


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