Posted by: koolwine | April 25, 2010

Dominican Republic: In the Time of the Butterflies

Country: Dominican Republic

Local Name: República Dominicana (Spanish)

Title: In the Time of the Butterflies

Author: Julia Alvarez (Dominican-American)

Published: 1994   Pages: 324

Acclaim: Nominated for the 1995 National Book Critics Circle Award


Time Period: 1938-1994

Summary: The four Mirabal sisters, Patria, Dedé, Minerva and Maria Teresa plan and inspire a revolution against their country’s brutal and repressive dictator Rafael Trujillo.  Code named Las Mariposas (the butterflies), the sisters and their families are ruthlessly pursued by the government and ultimately martyred for their sedition.*

*No, I did not give away a surprise ending; you would have learned the same from reading the back cover.  In fact, the United Nations has proclaimed November 25 to be the International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women in remembrance of the Mirabal sisters who were murdered on that day in 1960.

My opinion: An easy, suspenseful, page-turning read.  Girl power in spades.  Liberally sprinkled with local terms and expressions.

In my book (or, how the Dominican Republic has affected me and maybe you, too)

Baseball is Slammin’
I am not a baseball fan.  But back in 1998, when he was competing with Mark McGwire to break the home run record (I couldn’t even tell you whose record they were trying to beat or how many home runs needed to be hit), Slammin’ Sammy Sosa was impossible to ignore.  Sosa, who has turned his fame into infamy through the alleged use of corked bats, steroids and most recently, skin bleaching cream, hails from the Dominican Republic.

Whether or not baseball is still America’s favorite pastime is up in the air.  Not so in the DR, where baseball is HUGE.  Dominicans are second only to Americans in the number of players that are drafted into Major League Baseball.

Missoula’s own Minor League Baseball team, the Osprey, boasts five players from Dominican Republic:  Eury De La Rosa, Sammy De Los Santos, Miguel Pena, Antonio Sepulveda and Henry Zaballa.*  Manager Hector de la Cruz was also born in the DR.

*These players might be from the 2009 season;  I can’t tell from the website.  In any case, the Osprey roster has included players from the DR for at least the past several years.

Amber Alert
One of my favorite movies is Jurassic Park.  The second scene unfolds at the fictional Mano de Dios Amber Mine in the Dominican Republic, where a worker has found a mosquito embedded in a piece of amber.  This mosquito is filled with dinosaur blood that scientists will then extract and use to create living dinosaurs.

Screenwriter (and novelist) Michael Crichton was correct in the placement his fictional mine;  the DR has one of the world’s largest amber deposits.  Dominican amber is the fossilized resin from the now extinct Hymenaea tree and is unique in its likelihood to contain “inclusions” – insects or other organic matter (1 out of 100 pieces).

However, it would not be possible to use the mosquitoes within Dominican amber to obtain a dinosaur’s DNA sequence;  Dominican amber ranges from 23-30 million years old.  Dinosaurs died out 65 million years ago.  That leaves a 35 million year gap between the last pumping dinosaur blood and the first bloodsucking mosquitoes to be trapped in sticky Hymenaea tree resin.

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