Dominican dictator Rafael Trujillo (ruled 1930-1961) developed the reputation as one of the most violent and oppressive leaders of the Western Hemisphere in his thirty-one years of power. Authors Julia Alvarez and Mario Vargas Llosa provide insight into the effects of Trujillo's infamy by sharing the stories of Dominican women. In Alvarez's novel, In the Time of the Butterflies, the Dominican-American author fictionalizes the lives of the Mirabal sisters, historical women who were assassinated in 1961 for their involvement in the anti-Trujillo movement. Likewise, Vargas Llosa centers much of his novel, La fiesta del Chivo, on the life of Urania Cabral, a fictional female character who is raped by Trujillo at the age of fourteen. Both the Mirabals and Urania grow up amidst dictatorship and Alvarez and Vargas Llosa frequently focus on their characters' growth as they progress from childhood and adolescence into adulthood. This formative time in the protagonists' lives is often impacted by Trujillo and his actions. In particular, Alvarez and Vargas Llosa emphasize the unique process of female identity formation as a means of highlighting the cruelty of the Trujillo dictatorship. Female development is often described as a process that focuses on connection and relationships to others. As a result, women often demonstrate a high ability to respond to the needs and feelings of the people in their lives. Alvarez's depiction of the Mirabal sisters reflects these principles as her characters mature into strong women by learning the value of selflessly caring for others. The Mirabals' concern for people contrasts to Trujillo's character, which Alvarez portrays as violent, selfish and petty. Conversely, Vargas Llosa's protagonist experiences a traumatic event at the age of fourteen that severely inhibits her growth. As a result of Trujillo's cruelty Urania loses her ability to connect with others and becomes cold and distant. Urania's developmental obstacles reflect the debilitating effects dictatorship can have on individuals, and by extension, on a whole nation. In both In the Time of the Butterflies and La fiesta del Chivo the concept of female development shapes and informs the portrayal of Rafael Trujillo and his corrupt government.



College and Department

Humanities; Spanish and Portuguese



Date Submitted


Document Type





In the Time of the Butterflies, La fiesta del Chivo, female development, Rafael Trujillo, Julia Alvarez, Mario Vargas Llosa