The Butterfly Effect

July 08, 2021

By Ayana Jackson Jackson

I have always been fascinated by butterflies. The concept that a creature so small goes through an entire transformation just to find its true self is just spectacular. The process of the butterfly is similar to the transformation we go through ourselves as people. We often have to find ourselves before we go out and make change in the world.

When my mother suggested I read In the Time of the Butterflies by Julia Alvarez, I was ecstatic. The true story of the three Mirabal sisters who led the way for the revolution against the dictatorship in the Dominican Republic was one I had heard about before but never from the perspective of the sisters themselves. As a young Dominican woman, the Butterflies, as they are known, were martyrs to me. They were stories you would find in a history book, impressive yet impersonal. I was able to meet them within the pages of In the Time of the Butterflies. Now I know Minerva, Patria and María Teresa. I learned their hopes and dreams. I saw their fight and the bravery they demonstrated to the very end of their tragically short lives. I saw myself in them, as young women of color, and I was inspired.

What do you think of when you hear the word butterfly? Do you think of a beautiful, bold creature with unique patterns? Do you think of an insect that is, yes, gorgeous and marvelous to look at from afar yet at the same time delicate, untouchable, and fragile? As women, we are often fed the lie not to speak up for ourselves, so we don’t. We constantly apologize for inconveniencing others and are told to remain in our chrysalis to avoid conflict and resistance. Yet, within our chrysalis, we have the capability and potential to transform into something beautiful. We are a force to be reckoned with. Butterflies are not to be contained. They have wings for a reason.

Now unlike the Mirabal sisters, there are no dictatorships, overthrown governments, or impending revolutions happening around me. Yet, reading their story not only reiterated the importance of having a sisterhood but reminded me that however powerless I may feel, my voice is not one to be ignored. I often find myself frustrated and hopeless by the false narrative that when it comes to changing our world, I am only a drop of water in a vast ocean of what society has deemed to be normal. Minerva, Patria, and María Teresa must have felt that way too. They had no clue the impact they would make on the Dominican Republic and the lives of people for generations to come.

The persistence, determination, and strength of three young girls changed the history of an entire nation. I am exhilarated by the idea of what we can do to change the world for the better as a collective with our own sisterhood. Because you know what they say about the butterfly effect: the flapping of butterfly wings can be powerful enough to start a hurricane.