Summary and Analysis
For the first year after arriving in Santa Fe, Latour has been traveling on business that takes him away from his diocese. He now wishes to learn about the people in his diocese. With a young Indian guide, Jacinto, he visits Indian missions. His first stop is Albuquerque, where Father Gallegos, a pleasure-loving, hospitable priest, entertains him. Latour and Vaillant have discussed the scandalous situation of Gallegos and Latour's intention to do something about it before Christmas, but on this visit Latour says nothing except to remark that there is no confirmation class. Gallegos responds that he confirms the children at the same time he baptizes them.
Gallegos is a man prone to dancing the "fandango five nights running." He plays poker and stocks his cellar with wines, whiskey, and brandy. He may or may not enjoy more than the company of a wealthy widow, who picks him up for dinner in her covered carriage. Just to ensure that Latour doesn't ask him to accompany him on the next leg of his journey, Gallegos feigns gout by bandaging his foot. Latour knows that Gallegos is faking the illness because he knows Gallegos was up late dancing several nights before. In any event, Latour had no intention of asking Gallegos to accompany him. He finds him "too self-satisfied and popular ever to change his ways."
The next stop at Isleta brings Latour to the home of Father Jesus de Baca, whom Vaillant had recommended to Latour as a devout priest. The old priest loves parrots because the cultivation of them and the possession of their feathers endear him to the parish. The only decoration in de Baca's home is a wooden parrot, probably more than a hundred years old, carved as a portrait of some cherished bird brought up from Mexico.
About Father Jesus is a "quality of golden goodness." He gives a good report of the people of Laguna and Acoma, and tells of a miracle-working portrait of St. Joseph that is owned by the pueblo at Acoma, which is a gift of one of the kings of Spain.
Cather contrasts the worldliness of Father Gallegos with the austere devotion of Father Jesus de Baca. de Baca is more like his namesake, Jesus, than is Gallegos.
The wooden parrot is symbolic of the Holy Spirit, which usually is depicted as a white dove.