Chapter 13 Summary

Señora Teresina Cortez has eight children by the time she is thirty. She first gave birth at fourteen, surprised by the appearance of a baby at a ball park. She wrapped the baby in newspaper and left it for the night watchman to find.

At sixteen, she married a man by whom she had two more children. After the second one arrived her husband left, seeing that life with Teresina would not be easy. After that, she kept giving birth, never sure who the father was or even if a father was necessary.

Her mother Angelica, who is almost forty, cares for the children. They survive on beans, which they gather in fields after the pickers have been through. They often find several hundred pounds of beans, enough to keep them alive.

At school one of the boys, Alfredo, is asked by the school nurse what he had for breakfast. He tells her that he had beans and tortillas. He had the same thing for lunch and also for supper. The nurse is horrified to find that all the Cortez children eat nothing but beans and tortillas. When she tells the principal, he is concerned also, but the children are to be found in perfect health.

The only thing that worries Teresina is the possibility of a failure of the bean crop. One year, the rains continue to fall and the bean crop is ruined. Teresina’s mother lights candles to the Virgin Mary, praying for the rain to stop, but it continues to fall. She decides that she has no use for the Virgin, her doubt even leading her to question the Virgin Birth, saying that Teresina sometimes forgets who the father was too. She switches her prayers to Santa Clara.

Jesus Maria is horrified at the older woman’s sacrilege and vows to do something about it. Over the next few days there is a minor crime wave in Monterey as food begins to disappear. Teresina’s home, however, becomes flooded with all sorts of fruits and vegetables. The Cortez children become sickly, which Teresina blames on all the green vegetables and fruit.

One night, four figures sneak into the local warehouse. The next morning, Teresina finds four hundred pounds of beans in her house. She calls it a miracle, and her mother asks the Virgin Mary for forgiveness for her doubt. Teresina soon discovers that she is pregnant and wonders which one of Danny’s friends is the father.