Summary and Analysis
Part 1: 1-Aug
Father Olguin's point of view is presented at the beginning of this chapter. The priest is enjoying a deceptive feeling of oneness with the life of the village. Another ceremony is being prepared. This one draws many Navajo families and children; magnificently attired in velvets and silver, they enter the village precincts on wagons and prancing horses. Olguin fantasizes a self-satisfying visit to Angela, in which he will retain his officious dignity in spite of the erotic appeal she has for him; after ringing the bell for the noon prayer, he sets off to visit her.
Olguin's visit to Angela results in perverse disappointment. As a thunderstorm gathers in the mountains and begins moving toward the valley, he lectures her pedantically on the coming festival and the meaning of the various ceremonials. Aware of her own desire and its incongruity with the priest's fatuousness, she mocks him with the opening words to the Act of Contrition, a prayer said by penitents in confession. Angered and humiliated, the priest drives recklessly back to the village; although he almost hits a couple of children and narrowly misses colliding with a wagon, he can't shake his feelings of fear and repulsion. In the carnival atmosphere, he is reduced to a mere joke, and even babies laugh at him. While the priest struggles with his tempestuous feelings, the storm reaches the canyon and Angela's house; she welcomes it as a violent cleansing, leaving her with a previously elusive inner peace.
Meanwhile, within the village, the fiesta has begun. The narrator now follows a lame old man, again presumably Abel's grandfather, Francisco, dressed in ceremonial garb and shuffling from his home towards the kiva. As the old man smells the spicy, pungent odors of food, his reverie centers on the Navajos — the enticing aroma of their campfire cooking, the fellowship commemorated and renewed in this festival, and the desirability of a piece of Navajo turquoise jewelry. As he reaches the central plaza and prepares to enter the kiva, he anticipates the coming ceremony. The statue of the Virgin will preside over a ritual that is an amalgamation of agrarian fertility rites, signified by a bower of pine boughs and greenery, of Spanish commemorations of the expulsion of the Moors rendered in a mock battle with boys in blackface, and of a dramatic reenactment of the legend of Saint James. With great effort, he climbs the ladder and enters the kiva through the rooftop opening; inside is the compelling, overwhelming vibration of drumming and chanting.
With the other celebrants, the old man emerges from the kiva, and the pantomime drama of horse and bull takes place as the storm reaches the village. Both animals are portrayed by specially chosen dancers. The "horse" is a fine Arabian, and the dancer moves in aristocratic, high-strung steps, dancing among the clan priests and receiving their blessings. The "bull," in contrast, is a clumsy figure of fun chased by clowns. Francisco recalls having performed this part honorably several times in the past; he again remembers Mariano, whom he once bested in a ceremonial race.
The narration now moves to nightfall, after the ritual is concluded, and to a bar called Paco's, where Abel and the albino man are engaged in a murmured conversation, ignoring the inebriated Navajo men who have spent the afternoon there. The albino is described as an unnatural creature with an old woman's high unpleasant laugh and an evil mouth. Abel and the albino man leave and walk towards some vacant land across the highway and near a telephone pole. The narrator describes, in erotically charged language, how the white albino lifts his mighty arms to embrace Abel and how Abel draws a knife and stabs him repeatedly — just as the albino earlier lashed repeatedly upon Abel's body with the bloody rooster. The albino continues his macabre embrace of the young, angry man until he falls lifeless to the ground. The chapter ends by noting that Abel knelt for a long time over the corpse.
Mass the main worship ceremony of the Catholic religion, in which bread and wine are believed to be transformed into the body and blood of Christ.
parish the area and population which a given church serves.
druidic pertaining to the druids, followers of a prehistoric nature worship in England and Ireland.
San Ysidro a village in New Mexico, named for Saint Isidore, patron of farmers.
Dîné Navajo word for "the people"; Navajos call themselves Dîné, not Navajo.
squaws, bucks pejorative and insulting terms, used to describe those degraded by drink.
clansmen Clan identity is of first importance to Navajos; naming and introductions always involve reciting maternal and paternal clans.
Angelus a prayer to the Virgin recited at morning, noon, and dusk, signaled by the ringing of bells.
dervishes devotees of certain Muslem religious societies, some associated with ecstatic practices such as whirling, howling, and the like.
Aesop the legendary African teller of fables in ancient Greece.
Genesis the first book of the Bible; it contains the Hebrew story of the creation of the world.
fabulous exotic and strange, but also pertaining to a fable — that is, a story with a strong plot and clear moral message.
advents and passiontides Preparation during the four weeks before Christmas (Advent) and the two weeks before Easter (passiontide) involves penance and discipline of fasting and prayer.
oracle In Greek tradition, this person is a medium who carries messages from the gods; it can also be the message that is carried.
swaddle a large diaper-like wrapping wound around an infant.
Padre Spanish for father; a title for a priest.
piki a corn bread made from fine thin batter baked on heated rocks into large, paper-thin rounds.
sotobalau yeast bread.
paste sweetened bread.
posole hominy stew.
squash blossoms The reference is to a necklace design consisting of a string of small, silver blossom-shaped beads on either side of a large central pendant.
Arabian an Arabian horse.
Moors Muslims from Morocco, rulers of Spain from the early Middle Ages until 1492.