Last Updated on September 5, 2023, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 375
Doña Bárbara by Rómulo Gallegos centers around a feudal relationship surrounding the Altamira Ranch and the two heirs who own it. Doña Bárbara is a main character in the story. She is the mestiza mistress of Lorenzo Barqueros and takes over his half of the ranch. She is a determined character, as she tries to expand the boundaries of the ranch by taking over the second ranch of Altamira. Santos Luzardo is the offspring and male heir to the second half of Altamira ranch. He was raised in Caracas with his mother and returns to the land when he decides to sell it. Upon discovering the situation with Doña Bárbara and the disarray the land has fallen into, he realizes he must try to get the ranch back and properly care for the land.
First, Luzardo makes peace with the Barqueros and squashes an old feud between both family names. He then takes the appropriate measures through the legal system to begin disputing the lost parts of the ranch. In a twist of events, Doña Bárbara and Santos Luzardo are able to reach a middle ground in determining the boundaries of their ranches. The surprising civility of the meeting is determined to be a result of Doña Bárbara's secret admiration and love for Santos Luzardo. Matters are further complicated when Marisela, Doña Bárbaras' daughter, also falls in love with him.
In the midst of making preparations to begin financing the fence building around his property, Luzardo is thwarted by Doña Bárbara's rogue henchmen. As things begin escalating to murder and violence, Doña Bárbara is torn between her love for Luzardo and her longing for ownership and power. She ultimately disposes of her trusted henchmen and is deserted by the rest of her crew. As she becomes aware of her daughter's love for Luzardo, Doña Bárbara disappears. She leaves a deed that transfers her land ownership to Marisela, provides the money for the fence, and returns the land she had taken over back to Luzardo. In the end, the marriage between Luzardo and Marisela combines the two ranches, and the history of the family feud is forgotten.