Chapter 1

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Last Updated on March 9, 2020, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 1715

Esperanza, Fe, and Caridad, Sofia’s eldest daughters, slept through the “howling and neighing” of the dogs, cats, and horses on the night La Loca died, but Sofia did not. She checked on her pets as they ran around “with their ears back and fur standing on end,” but she couldn’t understand why they were agitated. She checked on her eldest daughters in their bedroom, finding them undisturbed. Finally, she checked on her youngest daughter, La Loca, who shared Sofia’s room. La Loca would have looked like she, too, was asleep if not for the way she jerked and thrashed. Sofia screamed as La Loca’s seizure caused her to tumble from the bed and onto the “hard stone floor, white foam mixed with a little blood spilling from the corners of her mouth.” The older girls ran in to see what was happening just as three-year-old La Loca fell perfectly still. 

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Friends, godparents, and neighbors all came to La Loca’s funeral mass in Tome, New Mexico. The only person who did not attend was her father, Domingo. His and Sofia’s marriage had “a black ribbon on its door from the beginning.” Domingo was a gambler, and Sofia’s family had refused to give the couple their blessing. The night they eloped, it was Sofia who had chosen to gamble. When she returned, her family no longer criticized her decision; instead, they waited for the inevitable divorce. It never came. One day, Domingo simply left. 

Father Jerome told the pallbearers to set the casket down in front of the church’s doors, reminding the congregation before entering that it was not for the faithful to question God’s will. Sofia wailed and threw herself beside the coffin, rejecting the priest’s advice and demanding to know why she deserved such punishment. She cried until distracted by the screams around her: first of Esperanza, then of the entire funeral party. By then, only Father Jerome had refrained from moving away from the casket, which lay open with La Loca sitting upright inside, rubbing her eyes like she had just awoken from a nap.

Father Jerome sprinkled holy water, “too stunned to utter so much as a word of prayer,” and moved toward La Loca, who in return “lifted herself up into the air and landed on the church roof” and warned him not to touch her. He implored the child to say whether her resurrection had been the work of God or Satan, which brought Sofia out of her shock and into the defense of her “blessed, sweet baby,” whose presence could only be the Lord’s response to her prayers.

La Loca announced from the rooftop that on her “long trip,” she visited hell, purgatory, and heaven. She said that she was sent back to help and to pray for those in the audience who, like the priest, would otherwise fail to reach heaven. When the priest reluctantly agreed that it was possible that La Loca had returned from heaven to guide those around her, “the child brought herself back to the ground, landing gently on her bare feet, her ruffled chiffon night-dress, bought for the occasion of her burial, fluttering softly in the air.”

La Loca was soon diagnosed with epilepsy by a doctor in Albuquerque, though this condition could not explain all of her abnormal behaviors. People who had heard about her resurrection traveled to see her, La Loca Santa, in the hope of being blessed or witness to a miracle. They left disappointed because La Loca could not go near them: she had come to hate the odor of humans, which reminded her of the place she had been during the time she was dead. Pilgrims stopped coming, and the strange girl from Tome was no longer their “Santa,” just “La Loca.”

She has answered to La Loca for so long now, at twenty-one, that even her mother and sisters have forgotten her real name.

Unlike La Loca, whose aversion to people has intensified in the years since her...

(The entire section contains 1715 words.)

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Chapters 2–3

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