The Chulla Romero y Flores (1958 Novel by Jorge Icaza) – An English Translation

Quito Ecuador

by Jorge Icaza (1906-1978)

Translated from Spanish by Richard Gabela.

An introductory note: “El chulla Romero y Flores” is a novel written by Ecuadorian author Jorge Icaza in 1958. It tells the story of the misadventures of the eponymous protagonist, Luis Alfonso Romero y Flores, a mestizo (mixed-race man) from Ecuador who, during the early twentieth century, struggles with issues of cultural identity, social class, and race. With a focus on racism, colonialism, and working-class issues, the novel paints a scathing portrait of Ecuadorian society and culture. To highlight the chulla’s cultural identity crisis, the title “El chulla Romero y Flores” juxtaposes two conflicting symbols: the “chulla,” a disparaging epithet for a proud, arrogant mestizo who aspires to rise in society, and “Romero y Flores,” a grandiloquent double surname introduced to Ecuador by Spanish colonizers and associated with social prestige, wealth, and power. This engaging, thought-provoking novel, set in Ecuador’s capital city of Quito, grapples with the social and cultural tensions that exist between Indigenous and Spanish cultures in Ecuador, and is often considered a masterpiece of Andean literature.

Jorge Icaza’s “El chulla Romero y Flores,” first published in 1958 by Editorial Casa de la Cultura Ecuatoriana, has been translated into a number of languages, including French (1960), Czech (1963), German (1965), Russian (1966), and Ukrainian (1967). What follows is my effort at the first-ever English translation of a chapter from Jorge Icaza’s book. I did this translation as a personal project and not as a commercial one. Any comment or suggestion from other translators or scholars is enthusiastically welcomed and greatly appreciated.

I want to note the difference between the epithets “chulla,” an early and mid 20th century antonomasia particular to Quito, Ecuador, used to describe a proud, arrogant mestizo who aspires to rise in society, and “cholo,” a racial slur equivalent to “half-breed,” used in Ecuador (as well as Peru, Bolivia, and parts of Northern Argentina) to describe an indigenous or mestizo person. While both terms are derogatory in nature, they can sometimes be non-offensive or even be used as terms of endearment between mestizos, especially when their diminutive form is used (ending in -ita or -ito). In Icaza’s original Spanish version he sometimes uses the diminutives “chullita” (which can mean dear chulla, little chulla, or young chulla) or “cholito” ( which can mean dear cholo, little cholo, or young cholo). I translated these diminutive forms thusly in order to properly convey their meanings within their respective contexts. It should also be noted that in their diminutive forms, moreover, these terms can be meant to be condescending. Based on the context in which the term is used, the reader is able to determine when the terms “chulla” or “cholo” are being used in a disparaging manner or out of friendliness or familiarity. The reader should keep in mind, as afore-mentioned, that “cholo” (or “chola” for female) is also used to refer to an indigenous person in Ecuador, not just a person of mixed-race. Therefore, because I thought it would help the reader comprehend what was being said or just to make a sentence flow better, I translated the word “cholo” as “half-breed” in some non-dialogue instances.

Chapter I

Several times a day Don Ernesto Morejón Galindo, Chief-Director of the Bureau of Economic Investigation, abandoned his small office to monitor the attendance of the employees in his charge. Don Ernesto was a man of uneven temperament. Completely uneven. Whenever he was in high spirits, he would boast about being a Don Juan, divulging details of his sexual exploits with the flair of a half-bred woman from the vegetable market or a recently-arrived rustic cowboy from the Andes. With the graphic and pornographic gestures of a sex addict, he would whisper in the ear of his chosen confidant: “What a wild night, my dear cholo. Three young ladies were at my service. Two of them turned out to be virgins.… He-he-he… And it didn’t cost me a single dime.” But when it came time to publicly chastise his minions (as he inwardly referred to his subordinates) he swelled with omnipotence and meted out threats without concert or order. At such times, his domineering arrogance erupted, and every grotesque feature on his obese face stood out: his cheeks were like a pair of rosy buttocks, his lips quivered like mud, there was bilious drool between his teeth, his eyes were filled with a demonic flame.

Every year, in late November, malignant thoughts brewed in the minds of the most fragile yet ambitious members of that office, where Luis Alfonso Romero y Flores, by art of audacity and stroke of good fortune, had somehow landed a job. The office was swirling with intrigue, office politics, and anonymous letters containing both veiled threats and sordid proposals, like lizards in a leafstorm. At that moment, the Chief-Director Morejón Galindo, swallowing a sort of shameful envy, was reviewing the list of delinquent tax payers, promissory notes, accounting records, as well as the names of the gentlemen over whom he should have exerted control or coercion but had never been able to. Despite his high-ranking position, he could never meet his objectives. A series of obstacles, mightier than his legal authority, bound him to the fear of ending up like those whose careers had been halted midway for having placed their trust in the integrity and legality of the system. Two of his main challenges were the prevalence of nepotism inside the web of corruption and his inability to remove certain officials from office. But he… He considered himself an honest man. It was the minions, the individual or individuals charged with acting on his behalf, who complicated the tragedy at every turn.

That year, after a great deal of doubt and insomnia, Don Ernesto thought he had finally found the savior, the incorruptible judge he had been hoping for. So one morning, before entering his private office, he appeared in the large room where his subordinates worked. With a fierce gaze, he wore his hat pulled low over his brow, exuding an air of arrogance.

“I was thinking of you,” he announced as he approached the chulla Romero y Flores’ desk. “Of you for the annual audit. Of you…”

“Me, sir?”


“I really…”

“I said, you!”


“Who else? Who else could I possibly trust with such a difficult, sensitive assignment? You mustn’t make excuses. You must obey orders. After all, you’re an employee.”

“An employee…”

“You’ll go alone. Just you! Enough with the delays. Enough with the out-of-control frauds. Enough…Understood?”

“Yes, of course. I’ll do what needs to be done.”

“That’s right! You’ll…”

“I’ll bring to account everyone who has not complied with the law,” said Romero y Flores, abruptly regaining his habitual cynical tone, which served to cover up his ignorance and half-breed vulgarity. Indeed, in a zealous effort to sound correct and proper, he perfectly rolled out each R and articulately pronounced each double L.

“Very good. There are certain sacred duties, my dear young man. Sacred… We must curb the corruption of payrolled scoundrels, powerful crooks, honored hypocrites, incompetents, cretins. Well… In short, you’ll you,” affirmed Don Ernesto, reluctantly suppressing a bout of anger and insults—a sign of sickly fear. On his lips of juicy caucara boiled the names of prominent leaders and inaccessible officials. People who could ruin him at the slightest misstep. People before whom he had to smile gratefully when in public. People who upon rotating in the heights became entrenched in them even more. From one year to the next… The same faces. The same names. The same families. The same methods. And he? No… He had never been able to ascend to… To his goal, to his dream. A ministership… An ambassadorship… Why not, dammit? Ah! Because those at the top clung to the tremendous inviolability of tradition, of custom, of pompous surnames, of bureaucratic heritage. It was impossible to overthrow them. Impossible to betray them without anyone noticing or suspecting the sacrilege.

“I’m going, I’m going, sir,” affirmed the chulla with menacing arrogance, while in the depths of his subconscious stirred the perspective of a strange, self-serving desire. He had heard about the rich pickings to be gleaned in those jobs.

“Thank you. Thank you…” managed to murmur the Chief-Director, dissolving into a sweet expression and a friendly smile.

“I’m ready.”

“Ready for anything. I knew my heart couldn’t deceive me. You’ll be… You are… Well… I understand myself… With an iron fist, eh? Of iron.”

“As you order, sir,” concluded Romero y Flores. However, as he observed his colleagues—bureaucrats of all ages and conditions—he found himself submerged in a wave of adverse glances and whispers that emitted all of the pestilence carried in the hearts of men with a job that is insecure, precarious and toxic. In a wave of unspoken outcries: “Why?” “Who crowned the chulla king?” “I … Twenty years … I’ve spent my entire life working here….” “So my honesty doesn’t count for anything, my beautiful handwriting….” “He’s an imbecile, an intruder … He knows nothing….” “A street dog, that’s what he is … I know him … People like him are just lucky….” “What will he do about the financial statements? How will he handle the audits? I … I just play dumb … He-he-he … I have an accounting degree … If asked how much is one times one, he’ll answer: I cannot say for sure if it’s two or three….” “Ohh … The children’s pension fund will be ruined … The priests, the nuns, the good people … They’ll have to return to public schools… where cholos go….” “They’re messing with the wrong guy, dammit … I’ll use my power and influence … Anonymous letters to the Ministers, to the President of the Republic….” “I’ll squeal to the press … Since when did you have a press, you moron? It belongs to them … Money is all that matters … Money … oh!”

Based on appearances, no one seemed happy with the Chief-Director’s orders: their eyes gleamed with hatred, their lips were dry with bitterness, their skin had a bilious color, and their wrinkles were twisted into sickly sneers. The Chief-Director’s absurd decision was indescribable! Romero y Flores, using and abusing his attitude of “his honor, the big boss” — inherited from his father — responded to the troop’s outcry with a haughty and defiant glare, from which everyone could read: “What are you complaining about? Nobody better mess with me… I’ll crush you…”

But it was Don Ernesto Morejón Galindo, with his uncanny ability to read his subordinates’ minds (identical destinies, similar experiences) who foiled the daring and cunning protest. With sarcasm and mockery that left no room for appeal, he warned aloud:

“I hope everyone agrees with me. Who? Who can complain? Rise up. Speak up. I know what I’m doing! And I’ll pulverize the first one who complains to me … I … You know me. I can be good, very good… But when I’m bad… Ahhh! Ohhh!”

Immediately, the explosive threat vanished from the face of the choir of bureaucrats just as it was about to spew forth its poor venom, demonstrating how quickly rebellion can transform to humility, or hatred to camaraderie, for those who find themselves at the whim of a powerful, invisible, and constrictive circle. In its place surged the mask of the innocent, drooling apology: “No… I am not annoyed, sir… On the contrary… Look at me… Look at how I’m smiling… He-he-he….” “There’s an understanding among whites… With me it’s different, dear boss… You yourself know… With you wherever, whatever….” “The decision is brilliant… Bril-li-ant… A real success….” “He arrived as a relative of the Big Boss. He’s our best ally… We’ve never had anyone like him before. So, what?” “All of us… All of us are happy….” “There’s no reason for you to get all worked up… Like that….” “Whatever you order…”

When the magical change occurred — just as he had predicted — Don Ernesto let out a loud snort that sounded like a balloon bursting. He then turned to the general accountant and ordered:



“Yes. Listen to me very carefully. Ensure that Mr. Romero y Flores has everything he needs to complete the year-end audit. Credentials, cadastres, lists, letters. Explain everything to him. He must act in conformity with the law.”

“Very well, sir.”

“He must act on my behalf. I will grant him special powers. Without special powers he won’t be able to accomplish anything.”


“Absolute special powers,” concluded the Chief-Director, placing a reassuring hand on the shoulder of the clerk chosen for such a crucial task.

From his pedestal of pride, foreign to his lifelong ambition of becoming a wealthy and powerful gentleman, the chulla Romero y Flores surveyed his colleagues. And as he looked at them, bent over their work like tiny question marks, viscous and insignificant, he was overcome by a chilling anguish that oscillated between compassionate contempt and the fear of transforming into one of them forever. He then recalled the sarcastic and defining nicknames he had assigned to each of them as they became more acquainted—an instinctive game that intensified his aspirations of aristocracy, for he envisioned a future where he would marry a wealthy woman and thereby own a grand estate. He referred to his desk neighbor, an elderly man named Gerardo Proaño, as “the hungry longo.” He had sunburned skin, a drooping mustache, and jutting cheekbones, and was known for his humble tendency to help others by covering up their mistakes. Timoleón Lopez and Antonio Lucero, the young calligraphers with fair complexions, he referred to simply as “a duo of pretentious chullas.” This was due to their excessive obsession with dressing well. Their attire was always immaculate, finely patched to address any holes, and they consistently wore bow ties and breast pocket handkerchiefs as a matter of course. He called Don Pedro Castellanos “the historical mummy.” His face, resembling parchment paper, bore eccentric eyebrows and wrinkles of commanding expressions—engrained from a glorious military career cut short by a failed coup d’etat. Jorge Santos Pavón was “the political mummy,” a man with bilious-colored skin and sneering lips who bore the surname of disgraced senior bureaucrats. Julio Cesar Benavides (the Chief-Director’s confidant) was “the poor doggie” because of his fawning, drooling smile, and the evasive eyes of a güiachishca. Gabriel Montoya, with his tall, dry, and funereal appearance, appeared as if he were carved out of a walnut tree. He was “the umbrella case full of failures” due to a series of wild and unsuccessful adventures: a tango singer in Buenos Aires, a dishwasher in New York, a one-line comedian in Central America, a smuggler in Cuba, and a bullfighter in Spain. With his fidgety little black eyes and rat-like snout, Nicolás Estupiñán was “the fox of gossip and slander” because he carried the free press in his blood: his grandfather was a typographer, his father a linotypist, and his brother a reporter. Fidel Castro was “a chagra aspiring to be a minister” due to his polished appearance and constant bowing and smiling, coupled with his never-ending supply of intrigues and letters of recommendation. Humberto Toledo, the secretary, was “the bitter dwarf” due to his short stature and frequent outbursts of insults and obscenities. Don Juan Núñez, the general accountant, was “the drainless swamp of grudges.” He had droopy eyelids, slack cheeks, and nicotine-stained fingers and teeth, and had a penchant for shady bureaucratic dealings. Despite this torrent of mockery, which served to defend and justify his having been selected, Romero y Flores realized with abhorrence that in the eyes of these men, he was nothing more than a poor devil full of inexperience and vanity.

Before leaving for the day, Luis Alfonso neatly arranged the papers on his desk, stroked the newspaper that he habitually kept neatly folded in the bottom pocket of his jacket, donned his hat, and, with contemptuous swagger in his gait, left without saying goodbye. He met twice more with Don Ernesto that afternoon. He was again lectured on the supreme law, the absolute special powers, the enormous responsibility of his mission, the honesty expected of him, and the public ridicule that his office faced. In an effort to disguise his moral sensibility, which was unaccustomed to such lectures, he widened his eyes in astonishment and indignation, moving his head in a manner indicative of his readiness to launch into a ferocious attack. Indeed, the strange threat from the incorruptible judge was stretched to its fullest height.

Confident that he would triumph over the untouchable scoundrels and high-society fraudsters, the young man received the paperwork, notices, accounts, and orders from the old accountant the very next day.

“A fortune in numbers, my dear friend. Numbers, numbers…”

“Which I intend to convert into money.”

“You must proceed with caution. Be very careful!”


“You’ll encounter those referred to as ‘the nation’s elite’: bankers, landowners, militarists, friars, politicians… A candidate for the Presidency of the Republic.”

“I know them all,” proclaimed the chulla, maintaining the sense of importance he’d felt since the previous day.

“Are they friends of yours?” asked the employee with the droopy eyelids and slack cheeks, with the awe and respect of a huasicama at the scent of “his honor, the big boss.”


 “Ah! In that case… Look here… here….”

On the street, laden with files, the newly-appointed tax inspector grew anxious as he considered who would be the first victim. “A friend who might… A friend? He-he-he…” The delight produced by his lie to the general accountant manifested itself in an idiotic joyous grin. He ran his hand across his face instinctively to wipe away the imprudent outburst, for it somehow wounded his dignity. “Who then? Don… What’s his name? Ramiro Paredes y Nieto… Candidate for President of the Republic… Ohhh, sweet mama….” He had frequently read in the newspapers (believing everything he read in them) about all the merits and virtues attributed to that gentleman. He thought: “He must be flawless, generous, honest, good… The most important citizen of the homeland… Oh! But what about the past due accounts? Did they lie to me at the office? Why? For what purpose? Don Ernesto Morejón Galindo… The bureaucrats… Envy… Pure envy… I’ll see, dammit… I’ll see….” He took a look around him. A dazzling sun silhouetted the scenery of old colonial eaves, curved balconies, adobe walls, and two- or three-story houses, while the streets appeared eager to stand tall. He advanced downhill on the sidewalk in an Indian trot. Suddenly, he realized how foolish he must have looked, like a young, diligent Indian running errands. He slackened his pace (gradually). His class, his authority, his dreams… And as he crossed the Great Square, his profound disdain for the people who under that sun laid bare their everyday talk of complaints and memories—retired militarists, disgraced politicians, conspirators lurking for the propitious moment in which to climb through doors and windows of the Government Palace—prompted him to stretch and inhale deeply, puffing up his chest like a rooster.… “My importance… My honesty… They’ll take me far… Friend and protector of a Candidate for the Presidency of the Republic … For the Presidency… He-he-he…”

“Is Don Ramiro Paredes y Nieto available?” the chulla Romero y Flores inquired of the man who emerged to greet him.

“Don Ramiro? Did you ask for Don Ramiro?”


“He’s not in.”

“Well, the thing is, I…”


“I’m from the Bureau of Economic Investigation.”

“Ah! Oh! My apologies.”

“I’m here about the account.”

“I had no idea that you… I… I’m the general assistant.”

“Good, very good.”

“Come, come right in. Just this way, sir.”

“Thank you.”

“This is Don Ramiro’s office. You see? Abandoned… Practically abandoned…”


“I’m sure you understand me.”

“I don’t understand anything,” murmured the new tax inspector, inhaling the cellar odor in the air.


“Well… I was hoping to speak with him.”



“He comes here only on occasion. I look after the office. I’m here to help you for whatever you may need. Just ask.”

“Only on occasion,” repeated Luis Alfonso reproachfully, with a stern look.  He had the special powers, hence the authority to demand that the accused appear before him.

“The thing is… Well… The boss is the boss,” muttered the general assistant, not fully comprehending the young man’s importance or daringness. Don Ramiro Paredes y Nieto was like a taboo to him, as he was to most others, floating in the hallowed heights of the country’s masters.

“No, my friend. The gentleman is an employee, and as such, he is accountable to the Office of Economic Investigation.”

“He’s the official,” corrected the old bureaucrat, staring firmly at his interlocutor behind a pair of iron-framed glasses. With effortless ease, his bloodshot, watery eyes were able to seamlessly transition between expressions of adulation, malice, and disdain.

“It’s all the same.”

“No. Some obey, others command, give orders. We…”

In order to avoid unnecessary discussion, the chulla, feeling somewhat lost, changed tactics:

“And how is this place kept running without him?”

“I run things around here.”

“Ah! You. Very good. I understand now. So you’re in charge…” he concluded, resuming his tax inspector’s demeanor. And, without another word, he opened the files he was carrying on a large dusty desk of dinosauric proportions that undoubtedly belonged to Don Ramiro.

The young man’s energetic and defiant attitude momentarily disconcerted the elderly clerk, who, in search of an explanation consistent with his experiences, pondered: “What’s with this guy? Someone seems to be pushing him. Someone powerful: Archbishop… General… Minister… Today he’s at the bottom… Tomorrow he may be at the top… These pompous chullas never change. Always fishing in troubled waters for a high administrative post or a wealthy wife… I’ll tell him….” And without even being asked, dragged along by his natural inclination for gossip and veneration, he informed him:

“Don Ramiro is a very busy man. He is said to hold seven posts. Seven major posts. Seven sources of income! He’s a patriot. One of the continent’s greatest patriots. A universal man.”

“Seven incomes?”

“It’s common practice nowadays. Among the upper-crust. They’re excellent at everything.”

“At every act of abuse… At every display of selfishness…” the chulla thought to himself, observing his informant with a mixture of pity and disgust. The man was a small, greasy bug as wrinkled as the instep of the painful shoes he wore. He was dressed in an old-fashioned suit, with a collar speckled with dandruff, patched-up elbows, and shiny knees, and to top it off, he reeked of tobacco, a hangover, office paper and ink — telltale signs of twenty years of complicity and unrest.

“At everything,” the young man repeated aloud.

“On the other hand, his associates…”

“You’re one of them, aren’t you?”

“If I tell him what he wants to know, he might…” the nearsighted man thought to himself. “The financial statements. He won’t know… Not about that….” He then rubbed his hands together like a Jesuit before concluding:

“But not in the way you might be thinking.”

“Ah! Better, much better.”

The conversation then moved from excuses to twisted discords. That’s how the chulla discovered that Doña Francisca, the wife of the Presidential Candidate, was the one managing her husband’s electoral campaign finances, along with the office’s accounts and funds.

“She doesn’t come here either?”

“Only on occasion. However, she calls me almost every day. She comes from a prominent family. From the noblest,” insisted the general assistant, eager to demonstrate how difficult and pointless a thorough audit would be.

“I know,” Romero y Flores murmured as he leafed through the evidence.

“You know? I don’t think so.”


“But you don’t know about the other thing.”

“What other thing?”

“Well, regarding… Don Ramiro’s love affairs. When it comes to women, he’s a goat.”

“A goat?” asked the young man as he thought: “Just like Don Ernesto. They all act like satyrs. Could it be a mark of nobility?”

“Yes,” affirmed the old man. He was clearly attempting to delay the battle until he could receive orders from his boss.

“I thought he was a serious man.”

“In other respects, he certainly is. In all his speeches, he’s a champion of Christian morality. Haven’t you heard him speak? Ah! Oh! What a gift of gab!”


“The devil has an insatiable appetite. And since he’s so intelligent.”

“The devil?”

“Don Ramiro. He writes marvelous love letters. What style! Pure style. They say he’s the best author in the world.”

“In the world?”

“That’s what those who know say. He employs one of his girlfriends as a secretary in the Main Publications Department, where he also serves as the Managing Director. I’m sure you know her. They call her ‘The Nun.’”

“The Nun?”

“Before she became who she is today, she was a nun at the Sacred Heart Church….He-he-he….”

“The Nun,” repeated Luis Alfonso to himself mentally, picturing the mouthwatering curves of that woman known to him only by sight. But what did that matter to him? What? His duty…The financial statements…That was the main thing.

“All right, my friend. Let’s get to work. I want the account,” announced the young man, emulating Don Ernesto’s brazen attitude. 

“The account?”

“Yes, sir. I want to examine the account, to audit it, to…”

“It’s ready, quite ready. Sixty typewritten pages, all in perfect order,” admitted the old man as he searched for the requested records, nervous by the conversation’s sudden change in tone.

“I’d like to see it.”

“Yes. Here it is,” concluded the Candidate’s clerk, retrieving some papers from a drawer of the dinosauric desk and handing them over to the tax inspector.

With the poise and confidence of a seasoned professional, Romero y Flores settled in an armchair and began cross-checking the data in his paperwork with that in the account provided by the nearsighted man. He pretended to know what he was doing. Behind his ever-changing mask, which at that moment was one of an experienced accountant — a sullen brow, an occasional pondering pause, a persistent mumbling of monosyllables and quantities — his suspicion against the general assistant twisted into a growing obsession: “He wants to deceive me, but I won’t let him! I’ll denounce him. But how? I’m unable to uncover the fraud. But the fraud exists! It exists! Where? Wheeere? Don Ramiro and Doña Francisca were duped by this scoundrel. I’m sure of it. Could they be in on it? Impossible. They’re the finest of people. I’ll request an invoice review, as suggested by ‘the drainless swamp of grudges.’ It will take time….”

The old man, timid and nervous as a rat, pretended to be diligently looking over notices and ledgers. He, too, was unable to suppress his mocking spirit. He had discovered from the very outset, by the unusual manner in which the so-called tax inspector had commenced his work, that he had absolutely no clue what he was doing… “He’s pretending… No, little guambro… He’s way off the mark… He’s peeing outside the bowl… He-he-he… The scam… On paper, everything seems in order… But…”

“The supporting documents for account 585,” the chulla demanded abruptly, recalling something he’d been warned about at the office.

At the unprecedented request, the general assistant looked at his interlocutor in shock. It wasn’t fear… It was that…. No one had ever dared to request those documents with such nonchalance before. No one! Even the Congress of the Republic, which had made similar requests in the past, had always done so through a convoluted process filled with apologies, secret sessions, and sugar-coated reproaches — like a sinner before Taita God, like a rebellious Indian before “his grace, the big boss.” And at the end, the country’s highest authority conferred on Don Ramiro a vote of applause.

 “You heard what I said? I said the receipts for account 585,” continued Romero y Flores, emboldened by the old man’s reaction.

“I’m afraid I can’t do that, sir.”

“What? Are you refusing?”

“Perhaps you’re unaware. That account is for special expenditures. Classified expenditures. Those pertaining to homeland security.”

“Which means?”

“According to the law, only Doña Francisca…”


“I meant… That only Don Ramiro… I… I’m just a poor employee. My income…”

“But you just said…”

“You can tell a lot about a man by his income, like an animal by its footprint. And me… You already see how I am.”


In search of an amicable understanding, one free of complications, the old man continued:

“It’s sacred.”


“Sacred for us, for the small taxpayer, for the man on the street, for the chagra, for the cholo, for the Indian.”

“It’s not the same for me,” squealed the new tax inspector, thinking of his special powers.

“I used to think the same way about myself many years ago when I was a young chulla like yourself. But work and experience….”

“Absurd,” muttered Romero y Flores, sneering contemptuously. He was hurt by the “young chulla” remark, by the comparison, by that aspect of himself he meant to keep hidden.

“It’s the same thing.”


“Okay, as you wish. But for now, they, the officials… They’ve contributed to the country’s prosperity and made themselves rich in the process.”

“So you…”

“Just to be clear, I haven’t said a word. Heaven forbid I should ever speak of the upper-crust. We should never stick our noses in their business.”

“When something isn’t right, I believe we have a duty to do just that.”

“No, not in that account.”

“I’ll…” the chulla threatened, chuckling sarcastically as he thought: “I’ll be protected by the law, public opinion, the Chief-Director.”

After interpreting the young man’s thoughts with great intuition, the general assistant replied:

“You believe that the law, that the bosses, that… No. When a man is ruined there is no law nor boss that can save him.”

“Is that so?”

“The law and the bosses are like Don Ramiro’s subordinates. He has seven departments under his command. If it’s not from one angle, it’s from another. It’s a serious thing.”

“Okay. Let’s focus on the last two years. That’s the fair thing to do. It’s the honest thing to do. Don’t you think?”

“I would advise you not to…”

“To fulfill my duty?”

“Not really. Everything can be worked out. ”

“Eh? What are you insinuating? Never!”

“Nothing, nothing, sir.”

Despite objections from the old man, who moved about the room opening drawers and shuffling papers on some pretext, Luis Alfonso commenced his work. But after a few days, covered in dust, and exhausted from rummaging through the archive (a doorless armoire and a stack of bundles piled high on a table) he considered talking to Don Ramiro directly.

“No… You can’t do that, my dear sir,” announced the nearsighted man in a mocking falsetto tone. He was calm and confident. He had received orders from Doña Francisca.

“Why?” asked Romero y Flores, floundering in a sort of impotence that threatened to bury him in the tragedy of his shame, of his humble voice, of…

“I thought I told you. Don Ramiro’s out of town. He’s on an electoral tour. His moment’s drawing near. He’s the official candidate.”

“I’ll speak with Doña Francisca then.”

“Well, that’s different.”

“I’ll go today.”

“The lady has a political gathering at home. Every afternoon… Perhaps tomorrow. I could…”

“Good, very good.” the young man said optimistically. He then feverishly gathered his papers, some notes, and a copy of Don Ramiro’s account. When he bid farewell to the general assistant, he thought: “Poor fool… He’ll die trying to protect his deception… Those wrinkled shoes, ripped elbows, dandruff, and that stench… Oh!”

As he walked down the street, thoughts of his heroic decision began to fade away as he realized he needed to take precautions. He went in search of Don Guachicola, an old drunkard whose photographic memory had enabled him to record a slew of scandalous anecdotes about the posh half-breeds and bureaucrats he’d spent his life among — he also sought out his friends, chullas from the billiard halls, bars, cafes, and backrooms — to learn what more he could about the virtues and miracles of the Presidential Candidate and his family.

In the middle of a drunken monologue, Don Guachicola, savoring vengeance and the bitterness of defeat, gave the young man a biographical synthesis of Don Ramiro:

“He arrived many years ago from a small village deep in the mountains. He arrived, like so many young men from the countryside, with a burning desire to advance, to become a doctor. He was the blossom of his province! But, either because he couldn’t or didn’t wish to, he never completed his university studies. Instead, he figured out how to brilliantly use his outward appearance to position himself as a most eligible bachelor. He was no Adonis, but being a light-skinned Indian, practically white, enabled him to get by with the help of women. Setting true love aside, he tied himself to the dowry of Ms. Francisca Montes y Ayala. They say the lady did it to cover up more than one scandal caused by his fiery temperament. And what did it do for him? He’d suddenly stepped into the world of the patriots, the masters, the minority ruling class. Marriage is the sweet key of destiny. Thousands have accomplished what he did in the same manner. According to publicity and praise from the ‘big press,’ which was the only kind he read, he used his wife’s money to make charitable donations after establishing himself. He started going to the club. His concubines were many and beautiful. He took exaggerated care of his appearance, paying attention to every detail from his clothing to the scent he wore. Like you, dear chulla. He’s quite a sight to behold in his morning coat, bowler hat, spats and cane. In fact, you should see him at funerals, weddings, and etiquette visits to dignitaries, bishops, generals and diplomats. He became involved in a number of political parties, and his political influence grew as fast as his cynicism. He formed friendships and discovered kinship in the conservative oligarchy. He expressed his support for a certain left-wing group. He declared himself a liberal in the upper bureaucratic spheres, where his spouse’s illustrious surname guaranteed him instant acceptance… As for his talent as an orator, as a philosopher, as a poet. Oh, what talent! Divine! Newspapers have, on occasion, published articles containing excerpts from his letters or passages from his speeches, and they continue to do so. A friend of mine who knows all about these things describes his work as ‘academic endeavors of a half-breed trying to pass for white, mere plagiarism from European magazines, a Baroque disguise….’ The gentleman’s embezzlements were once the subject of much debate and scandal. What embezzlements! It was a huge deal. However, as soon as they realized he wasn’t just another poncho-clad peasant, the authorities acted with the same fear and respect that a wretched Indian would exhibit before his master: hat in hand, drooling apology… And here’s the best part, in a show of political gallantry, they called the robbery a mere oversight, lack of experience… This idiot must be backed by an entire troop of criminal associates.”

“I’ve discovered one of them… One…” Romero y Flores remarked to himself.

His friends too, young adventurers like himself, provided the new tax inspector with an account similar to that of old Guachicola — but less toxic, to be sure. Despite a tumult of impulses, he felt no closer to reaching the great role model.

Luis Alfonso felt his courage dwindling, and that his incorruptible judge’s persona was being mocked by the full-length mirrors, damask curtains, silver candelabras, pale porcelain ornaments, and trembling crystal lamps — decor from his grandiose dreams.

As in tales of witches and ghosts, there suddenly emerged from a door a tall lady (neither skinny nor fat) who concealed the maturity of her half-century old age behind a facade of makeup and an artificial youthful demeanor. Under the spell of the afternoon twilight streaming in through the large windows, the woman’s visage acquired an animalistic aesthetic. “Doña Francisca… She has the face of a horse… The horse from the game of chess… I like the Nun better…” said the young man to himself.

“Mister Tax Inspector?”

“At your service. I was wondering…”

“Good. Take a seat.”

“Thank you very much. Thank you kindly. I must express my regret. He-he-he… I’m sure you’ll understand. Duties are duties… I… My superiors…They…” muttered the chulla, trying in vain to be friendly. He wanted to employ his repertoire of exquisite manners from his aristocratic dreams but they remained dormant. He just couldn’t rid himself of the clinging agony that caused his hands to tremble and his legs to tingle. On other occasions (very few, of course), he had found interacting with posh people easy. But he hadn’t felt naked then, whereas now he felt himself teetering on the verge of a stupid contradiction. Was it the Presidential Candidate’s wife’s malicious and domineering demeanor? Was it the enticing murmur (perfume and merriment) that was trickling in from the next room?

“Our clerk informed me over the phone that you refuse to sign off on my husband’s account. Why? Are you acting on some whim?” asked Doña Francisca, taking advantage of the tax inspector’s notable disconcertedness.

In response, the young man made a gesture indicating that he was not at fault.

“Then who? Your….”


“Ah! Complete nonsense. And you believed it. It’s better that you think about the future. Your future.”

“She has no idea… I mean to defend her… Defend them… From the parasites…” Luis Alfonso said to himself with heroic pride. With a pride that dictated his response:

“Yes. But perhaps you’re unaware that your employee has refused to provide me with receipts for several items. He must be…”


“Hiding something.”

“Those documents no longer exist. They could have compromised us, so they had to vanish. They’re simply gone,” Doña Francisca announced with morbid, throat-stabbing cynicism. Romero y Flores furrowed his brow, his jaw dropped. What was speaking to him was neither the face of the horse from the game of chess nor a victim of exploited vulnerabilities. It was a powerful foe, a perfumed demon with stony, cold black eyes, which contrasted sharply with the ladylike delicacy of her pointed fingernails.


“The Tribunal Court of Audit and Finance. Are you familiar with it? It’s the supreme authority on the matter.”


“It burned all of that trash some months ago.”

“Without allowing the legally mandated time limit to elapse?” asked the chulla abruptly, acting on instinct.

“In special cases…”


“When national honor demands it… When politics… When my husband… When a person of great importance, like the President of the Republic, deems it necessary…”

“But what about me?”

“Nothing. You must accept things as they are.”

The new tax inspector, feeling trapped in an absurdity beyond his special powers and affectations, believed that insisting was his only means of salvation:

“Where can I find Don Ramiro?”

“Didn’t our clerk tell you he’s on tour?”

“He mentioned something like that.”

“It’s so hard to get a hold of him. We… We’re merely chicks. He… He’s the mighty eagle.”

“The museum eagle, goddammit,” Luis Alfonso thought, recalling a joke he’d read in an opposition newspaper about the illustrious personage. The memory of that sarcasm partially appeased the chulla’s disconcertedness. He wanted to say something, to use the audacity that had earned him so much renown among the low-status half-breeds—a boldness that was violent, predatory, and skillful—but before he could speak, she proceeded:

“If you desire a recommendation… If you want… Well… You understand me, right?”

“Not a word,” murmured the young man, despite being well-informed thanks to the rumors he heard from the gossiping and greedy minions.

“Oh! Really? Scruples… We can discuss that later…” concluded Doña Francisca, eyeing the little bureaucrat with the same curiosity with which someone observes a miserable worm’s venomous outbursts before crushing it underfoot.

“It’s just that…”

“My apologies, your name…” the lady said, abruptly changing topic.

“Luis Alfonso Romero y Flores,” he said, stressing the R’s in his surname.

“Son of the late Miguel, right?”

“Why, yes…”

“Poor Miguel.”


“I helped him greatly during his disgrace.”

“During his disgrace,” the new tax inspector echoed, slipping down the slope of the shame produced by the realization that someone knew the secret of his original sin, of his bloodline. He wouldn’t have minded if she was simply alluding to his father’s tragicomic misery. But….

“We were once friends. Very good friends. Before… That thing… It was unforgivable. There’s no name for it,” remarked the Candidate’s wife, throwing her hands in the air.

“My mother… She’s talking about my mother… About her… Oh!” the chulla thought to himself. His incorruptible judge’s air of cockiness and witty adventurer’s wry grin came to a halt. His countenance changed to one of anguish and supplication.

“Well… It’s not really worth talking about…” murmured Doña Francisca, letting up on her plan to humiliate the young man. It had taken her just a few words, very few. Due to her rare intuition as a landowner, she knew where to strike, where the cholo community’s most sensitive point of embarrassment lay (the shame of being only half-white). Satisfied and compassionate, in a fit of generosity, she continued:

“I understand your pain. I see your sorrow… But you should consider. You’re a young man. You have your whole life ahead of you. You could make good friends. Our offer isn’t bad. The clerk… Our employee… He must have said something….”

As if dreaming, Romero y Flores shook his head in disbelief. Blurry spots danced before his eyes. He felt wounded, weak, small.

“Come… Let’s go into the drawing room. The city’s very best are here,” invited the woman with the chess-horse face with feigned courtesy, guiding the young man who moved like an automaton.

The room was filled with tobacco smoke and varying degrees of bright to dim lighting. Guests were bowing deeply to one another in reverence, which included a parade of gentlemen polished by some secret villainy, ladies in silk and jewelry, senior clergy in purple-trimmed cassocks, and officers clad in dress uniforms with swords, as if from an almanac. Luis Alfonso’s initial confidence in mixing with the “very best” of the city dissipated as soon as Doña Francisca, acting both sly and benevolent, told him he could enjoy himself as if he were just another one of her guests, and then abandoned him in a corner of the room to fend for himself. At that moment, as if everyone had agreed on a strange game, they openly turned their backs to the intruder. Anxious to make himself known, he made his way through the crowd, swallowing profanities along the way. He tried to smile. He tried to speak. As he passed by, the chatter and candid talk coming from the faces of the “very best” came to a halt. “Who is he?” each insinuated with scornful eyes. “What exactly does he want?” “What’s his purpose here?” And not once but thrice he responded mentally, “I’m the tax inspector, and I want to inspect….” Fortunately, that dialogue died of indifference, it was lost among the mirrors, among the curtains, among the furniture, among the servants who passed around whiskey, cupcakes, and bacon rolls. Then someone placed a glass in the chulla’s hands, followed by another. His obsession with the idea of himself as a superior figure of justice was fostered by the alcohol. He approached a group of young women chatting and gossiping next to a porcelain vase. He tried to say a few words from his gallant repertoire. It was a futile effort. Once again he was met with the contempt of everyone’s damned backs. Contempt… For him! He then remembered that he was “Mister Tax Inspector,” and, as someone preparing his weapon for battle, he pulled some papers out of his pocket—a summary of the Presidential Candidate’s financial records. He made a pointing motion with them and managed to murmur in a strange voice:

“I’m the tax inspector.”

Doña Francisca’s guests, with great prudence, drowned out that declaration by raising the tone of their voices, of their joyous laughter. In the face of failure, Romero y Flores stiffened in a defiant posture and made a valiant effort to shed his anonymity:

“I’m the tax inspector.”

“Eh?” exclaimed the honorable and distinguished crowd, violently turning their heads in his direction to chastise him.

“I’m the tax inspector!” Luis Alfonso cried out helplessly, surrounded by a throng of accusing eyes: “He’s drunk!” “Who does he think he is, yelling like that in a room full of people?” “A bad-mannered cholo!” “What nerve!” “Why don’t they kick him out?” “Inspect? Who, how, why?” “We’re the masters here!” “To doubt us is to doubt God, the country, everything…!” “Someone should tip him to keep quiet!”

“I’m the tax inspector!”

Doña Francisca appeared abruptly, with a conciliatory tone. Her chess-horse smile had a lethal and eerie quality to it.

“It’s true,” she announced loudly.


“I forgot to introduce you. This gentleman is the son of Miguel Romero y Flores.”

“Romero y Flores?”

“Poor Miguel. His ruin was the result of his drinking, debts, laziness, and a string of problems with women. His lifeless body was discovered in some alleyway in the neighborhood of Aguarico. Totally inebriated.”

“A gentleman of adventure, of the conquest, of the encomienda, of nobility, of pride, of the cross, of the sword, of…” the chulla said to himself, driven by a desperate urge to hide the humiliating fact that he was the offspring of a forbidden love, a mixed-race man with Indian blood. As he glanced at the onlookers, the foolish expression on his face was evident to everyone.

“We, his friends, forgave him all his faults—except for the last one.”

“Which one?”

“His public affair with a chola. With an Indian maid. Isn’t that so, young man?” asked the woman ironically, her words landing like a stinging slap across his face.

 “Oh! Oh god! Mom… Momma…” was the soundless lament raging in the young man’s heart.

“Poor Miguel. According to the men who carried away his corpse, he was found shirtless, with merely a tiny vest fastened around his chest with a string. They called him Majesty and Poverty.”

“Oh, of course! Him…” gasped the choir, revealing its astonishment. Under memory’s spell, the honorable and distinguished crowd conjured up an image of the proud wretch in all of his former grandeur, with his old-fashioned top hat and greenish frock coat, and though his clothes were patched up at the shoulders, knees, elbows, and shoes, he still exuded an air of elegance. In their mind’s eye, they pictured him walking tall and proud like a soldier, his skin as coarse as a century-old tree, with an upward-pointed mustache, a hooked nose, and a stern brow that accentuated the fiery scorn in his tobacco-colored eyes.

“My grandfather told me that the nickname ‘Majesty and Poverty’ is traditional.”


“Apparently, a down-and-out Spanish nobleman from colonial times also bore that name. A little man who, despite having ragged clothes and an empty stomach, had the regal bearing of a cavalier in cape and sword, with palace liturgy, and a batiste handkerchief.”

From the choir encircling the young man, came a flood of cruel remarks:

“A dreadful specter.”

“Like a baroque figure on a church wall.”

“Simply ridiculous.”



“Like a catafalque in the midst of rainy mountains and sunny jungles.”

“Nevertheless, there’s something in him that’s in all of us.”

“In all of us.”

“That’s ours.”


“As for the mother of the distinguished tax inspector, people called her Mama Domitila,” said Doña Francisca, speaking above her friends’ noise, which rose by the minute.

The chulla could no longer bear it. He raised his head to make his escape, to express all of his disgust and anger at the world. But the words just wouldn’t come out. He had forgotten about his special powers, his grace, his dignity. He felt naked, raw. He felt as though the scornful glares from the honorable and distinguished crowd were setting fire to his veins, to his nerves, to his bones. He recoiled, like a scorpion besieged by flames. He desperately wished for poison so he could take it and end it all. As he turned to leave, an embarrassed expression crossed his face, which asked for forgiveness and suggested that everything be forgotten.

Standing on the street, Luis Alfonso seemed impervious to the brisk highland winds and misty drizzle of the evening, feeling hungover due to the contempt he received from those he held in high regard, his chest torn open to reveal his putrid and distorted guardian spirits. Especially Mama Domitila’s. Nooo! He had been unable to keep her from being exposed. The other, though impoverished, was at least of noble descent. It’s just that… He recalled bitterly how the old chess-horse face’s cynicism had made it impossible for him to use his favorite tactic. She had not allowed him, they had not allowed him, as was his custom, to hide the resentfulness, gloom, sentimentality, fatalism, quietness, humility of his mother — an Indian maid — behind the mask of the arrogance, adventurousness, intelligence, pomposity, fanaticism and brutality of his father — a disgraced gentleman. “Why was I such a coward? Why didn’t I come up with some lie, some joke? Why in the hell did they open my chest to see what’s inside me? Why did I get tongue tied? Why? Why did my mind go blank? Why did my legs…? Why?” said the young man to himself, with self-reproach and loathing.

“Because of your mother!” was Majesty and Poverty’s response. “She’s to blame for the constant embarrassment you carry around with you… For the foolish look on your face… For the way your lips tremble when people like me delve into your past… For your farm worker’s hands… For your high cheekbones… For your green ass… A gentleman you’ll never be….”

“Because in them you saw the fury and evil heart of taita Miguel,” rang Mama Domitila’s soundless wail. “Of taita Miguel when he made me weep like a worthless dog… Because you too, my tender bird, my chased little mouse, despise me… Because you too, my beautiful baby boy, have some white devil in you….”

These distinct, persistent voices and impulses, with their irreconcilable, paradoxical dialogue, had been with him ever since he was a young boy, driving him deep into the desperation and loneliness that comes with being an outcast from two nonconforming races, from an unmarried home, from a people who revere what they hate and are ashamed of what they love. He vowed to take revenge on them. He would destroy, by any means necessary, the old chess-horse face, the Presidential Candidate, and the sneering, all-powerful choir made up of the “very best” of the city. Without taking his chances of winning into account, he decided to wage a dangerous war. He would denounce their mistakes, swindles and frauds to the four winds. He was armed with their falsified transfers, receipts he’d uncovered. But… where should he go? To whom? How should he get started? He took a look around him. A skinny, barefoot boy was banging on a studded, latched door with his small hands. With the same bravery with which he had once given a deserved beating to a classmate—a stuck up cockroach from a newly-rich mestizo family—who had dared to call him “son-of-a-bitch, güiñachisca,” the young man said to himself, “no matter who or where,” while deftly avoiding his guardian spirits’ attempts at intervention. It’s curious that, ever since that encounter, or maybe even earlier, he found the term “güiñachisca” more hurtful and humiliating than the term “bitch.”

And without giving any consideration to what his colleagues often spoke about at the office (shady dealings, bribes, complicity), Romero y Flores foolishly believed that he could put an end to the scoundrels and crooks. For just a fleeting moment, an anxious restlessness penetrated his anger and threatened to weaken it. But… his special powers… he exhaled menacingly, like a snarling dog. He lifted his head. As he braved the rain and wind under that dark sky, he murmured in a low voice, thinking of Rosario:

“I’ll fight them, goddammit. They’ll pay for what they did to me.”


Long before she met the chulla Romero y Flores, Rosario Santacruz, the orphan of a retired captain who was shot to death during a dispute among drunken soldiers, believed that the gracefulness and allure of her body would save and secure her future. Similarly, she believed that her supple legs (slender ankles, soft knees, delectable thighs), rebellious breasts, sensuous lips, firm stomach, and curly black locks (a miracle achieved through rag-rolls and curling irons), would guarantee her a good marriage. This belief, which sometimes brought her inexplicable, blush-inducing delight, and at other times agony, left her feeling dazed and confused, and as a result, the biggest liar and sweet-talker had been able to sweep her off her feet with his proposals. It was a small merchant by the name of Reinaldo Monteverde who wooed her with his promises of fortune and a lavish wedding ceremony: parchment paper invitations, a beautiful church, champagne toasts, a formal wedding party, photos in the newspapers, and a honeymoon by the sea. However, it should be said, none of these wonders ever came to pass.

That wasn’t even the worst part. The worst part was the bridegroom’s brutal and insatiable behavior during the consummation of their marriage. As he subjected her to a dizzying array of panting and spasms, she felt crushed, alone, like the victim of some stupid game, of a piercing cry that struck her in the temples, throat, and fists: “Nooo! I don’t want to. It hurts! I’m not a beast of burden! Mommy, no… He’s crushing me, he’s suffocating me! Ouch! He’s… My god! How disgusting, his hands, his mouth, his skin, his body! Ugh! Everythiiing…”

And, having lost her first battle as a woman, the bride sat curled up on the edge of the bed, her eyes shut and hands clenched, bogged down by the nightmare of the debased sexual encounter—contemplating running away. But where could she go? How? With whom? To her mother’s house? Impossible! She was afraid that people would deem her attitude and decision unworthy of their honorable sympathy.

The period that followed was marked by a series of baseless grievances and futile arguments. Until finally, one day, the melodrama within the Monteverde home reached its climax. Without any valid reason he could think of to justify the aggression, Rosario unleashed her hatred right before her husband’s nose.

“I don’t love you . I’ve never loved you. I can’t go on living a lie like other women do.”

“How dare you?”

“This all seems so cruel to me, so stupid.”

“You’re my wife, my woman.”

“You never knew how to make me your woman… since the first night…”

“Oh, my god, what am I hearing!”exclaimed the man. He couldn’t believe his ears. He couldn’t tolerate having his manhood called into question.”

“We should separate.”


“I beg you. I don’t see any other way.”

“But what would people say?”

“People. Always people. They can say whatever they want.”

“It’s just that I…”

“You, what?”

“Nothing,” the man muttered, feeling utterly bewildered and empty. He was grappling to make sense of her attitude. He was at a loss for words. The whole thing just overwhelmed him. He loved her in his own way. Suddenly, he had an epiphany, one naive and sadistic, which led him to conclude:

“We are bound before God and the law.”

“I don’t care!”

“Not event that?” he shouted arrogantly, trying to break the woman’s resolute stubbornness.

“Yes. I don’t care!”

“You’re a corrupted woman!”

“Corrupted. No…”

“They’ve corrupted you,” rectified the small merchant, afraid of having gone too far.

“Who? Who’s corrupted me?”

“I don’t know.”


“Everyone… Everyone!”

“That’s enough!”

“They’ve corrupted you. They’ve corrupted you!”

A few minutes later, he vanished with a resounding bang, feeling humiliated, leaving Rosario haunted by the uncertainty of whether his claim about her was true. Motionless, with disgust in her mouth and bitter surprise in her eyes, she wondered how she’d been able to endure her situation night after night. Unable to bear it any longer, she firmly resolved to return to her mother’s. Truth be told, Rosario had conflicting emotions towards her mother, Doña Victoria. She loved her as much as she regarded her with a sense of mockery due to the lady’s old-fashioned and rustic traits. As a woman separated from her husband, and a party-girl, her mother’s home posed a terrifying threat: loneliness, compounded by the dismal and unglamorous hours that awaited her within those two rooms—one serving as a storage space for old furniture and sentimental mementos, and the other, a kitchen blackened with grime. “Something… Something will happen… Something has to happen…” resonated the young woman’s defiance. From amidst the haze of her hope, she couldn’t quite make out the nature of that “something,” but still it fueled her yearning for escape.

Upon discovering Monteverde’s insults towards her daughter, the widow Santacruz was unable to contain her indignation. With the same gesture and tone that she typically employed when haggling over cents with the cholas in the market, she declared:

“My child, my baby girl! That scoundrel, that criminal. So, is there nothing that will make him understand?””

“No… No…”

“The brute.”

“I can’t take it anymore.”

“He’s been slowly torturing you to death.”

“Yes.. Yes…”

“The scoundrel better not show his face around here! I can be good, very good. But when I’m bad, I’m really bad.”

But when Rosario mentioned the only way out of her predicament —divorce— Doña Victoria’s Catholic spirit emerged in advice and lamentations:

“No, my child, not that. I urge you to think twice before deciding. A woman who has broken the bonds of the Holy Mother Church, a young, pretty woman who lacks the means to support herself, who… Jesus! I can’t even bear to imagine it! Of course, there are some lucky carishinas who, despite their past, manage to find a gringo husband. But gringos aren’t that easy to come by… And as for me, well… I simply can’t do it, I lack the strength… My pension is not enough.”

Despite the economic challenge and the moral scruples of the widow Santacruz, Rosario left her husband. The man’s attempts, through messages, letters, pleas, and nighttime scandals in the street—sometimes accompanied by an orchestra and occasionally while intoxicated—yielded no results. A kind of fear and hatred had matured in her heart, distancing any prospect of reconciliation, all hope of self-sacrifice, and any possibility of a loving reunion.

As a mother and a woman, Doña Victoria was the only one who perceived her daughter’s sexual tragedy—the anguish it caused her daughter internally and the shame it could bring her in the eyes of others. She made every possible endeavor to lessen her daughter’s suffering: she took her on visits to old friends, on daily trips to churches and monasteries, and together they even crashed weddings, name days, baptisms, and wakes.

The Santacruz family never took pride in their friendship with Doña Camila.

More coming soon…

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