Last Updated on May 6, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 1112
Nuns and soldiers snatch two Indian girls out of the jungle to civilize them. They are taken to the mission school. There, Bonifacia takes pity on them. Corporal Roberto Delgado goes to Bagua, taking Adrian Nieves for a pilot. The Leons tell Josefino that Lituma is out of jail and wants to celebrate. Bonifacia feels sorry for the two new girls because they want to leave. When they leave, the other girls will follow them. Bonifacia will be blamed, expelled, and left homeless. A trader with the Indians, Fushía needs a partner, so he makes friends with Aquilino, a water vendor. When the other three“champs”—the Leons and Josefino—arrive, they and Lituma begin drinking.
Bonifacia finds the two new girls in the pantry, speaks to them in Indian, and feeds them. Bonifacia loves the sisters and does not want to be considered a heathen, but the children do not seem evil to her. Don Anselmo buys some desert land on which to build a house. Against Nieves’s advice, Delgado orders the men to loot an Indian village and to camp there for the night. Josefino tells Lituma that Bonifacia has become a prostitute.
Don Anselmo builds the Green House, a bordello named after its color, on his land. The Aguarunas, led by Jum, attack Delgado and the porter. Nieves, eager to leave the military, swims to an island, where Fushía and Lalita promise him work and safety from the authorities. Don Julio Reátegui plans to take a nursemaid and a servant from among the orphans at the mission. One of the girls offered is Bonifacia. She cries, however, and Don Julio will not take her against her will. The soldiers cannot find the missing students. Nieves invites the sergeant to dine with his family and meet Bonifacia, who has been expelled from the mission.
A baby girl, left for dead when her guardians are murdered, is attacked by buzzards that devour her eyes and tongue. Juana Baura, a washerwoman, raises the girl, Antonia.
Corporal Roberto Delgado and the Captain find Jum and the Urukusas. A little girl clings to Jum’s legs. At Chunga’s, the new Green House, Lituma looks for Bonifacia. At Nieves’s house, Bonifacia is too frightened to come out until Fats announces that the students have been found. Lalita insists that Bonifacia greet the sergeant. Fushía’s disease makes him impotent. He is abusive to Lalita, and she flees to Nieves for comfort.
One day, when Juana leaves Antonia at the town square as usual, the girl disappears. Jum tells Reátegui that the corporal tried to steal from him, so he beat him and then gave him a canoe. Delgado contradicts the story. The girl with Jum is Bonifacia. Josefino reunites Wildflower and Lituma; the couple dance. While Lalita and Nieves are away, Lituma visits Bonifacia. She runs; he corners her and rips off her clothes, but she resists him. She does, however, return his embrace before he leaves.
Don Anselmo tells Juana Baura that Antonia, who has been living with him, is dead. Corporal Delgado lashes the Indians with a whip for their actions. Jum will be punished in Santa María de Nieva. Don Julio protects the little girl. The Leons stage a distraction in the bar; Lituma and Bonifacia slip out. Josefino looks for them, and when he finds Lituma outside, Lituma and the Leons savagely beat him for lying about why Bonifacia became a prostitute. When a new lieutenant comes to Santa Maria de Nieva, Jum, like many times before, asks that all his property taken by Reátegui be returned. The lieutenant would give Jum back his...
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possessions, but they cannot be retrieved.
The new minister orders a search for the bandits who stole rubber and hides from the Indians. When Lituma goes to get Nieves for the trip, the pilot feigns illness to avoid going and being recognized. The sergeant proposes marriage to Bonifacia while he is there. After Antonia’s funeral, Father García and some women set the Green House on fire. Don Anselmo is distraught until Angelica Mercedes, the cook, appears with his infant, Chunga.
Don Anselmo tells Wildflower why Lituma has been sent to prison. The Leons and Josefino are drinking and singing when Seminario insults them. They placate him because he has a gun. Then Lituma and two other patrolmen come into the bar. After Juana Baura sees Chunga for the first time, she starts bringing the child dresses, shoes, and food. Finally, she takes Chunga to raise. When the other two patrolmen leave, Lituma joins the champs. Seminario keeps insulting them and threatens to throw them out.
The soldiers hunting for bandits find an intoxicated man and take him to Borjas to see if any of the Aguarunas recognize him as a bandit. Lituma challenges Seminario to a round of Russian roulette. The lieutenant learns that Fushía is the bandit and Nieves is his pilot. Drunk, Lituma prepares his gun for the game. The sergeant survives his round, but Seminario does not. The sergeant returns from the bandit search and marries Bonifacia at the mission. The sisters have forgiven her. Don Anselmo falls in love with Antonia.
Lituma slaps Bonifacia for removing her shoes in public. When Lituma goes to sleep, Josefino tries to seduce Bonifacia. Although Lituma secretly tells Nieves to escape, the pilot refuses and the sergeant has to arrest him for piloting Fushía’s boat. Anselmo steals Antonia and takes her to the Green House and keeps her there as his wife. He longs to know how she feels about him. Josefino persuades Bonifacia to stay in Piura while Lituma is imprisoned in Lima, and he tries to convince her to abort Lituma’s child.
Lituma and Bonifacia move from Santa Maria de Nieva to Piura. Lituma is excited, but Bonifacia is sad to leave Lalita and the sisters.
Upon learning that Antonia is pregnant, Anselmo is excited but later wonders if he has acted morally. Reátegui takes the girl found with Jum to the mission. The Mother Superior is angry about Jum hanging in the square, his body whipped and his head shaven, but Reátegui says Jum was an example to the other Indians.
Fushía screams that Aquilino has not visited him in a year. Both men are old, and Fushía’s teeth have fallen out. Aquilino, sickened by the smell and irritated by Fushía’s screaming, reports only news of Lalita. Fushía becomes sad, and Aquilino promises to visit again next year. Father García grudgingly hears Anselmo’s confession. Anselmo, however, dies peacefully.