As Luis Cervantes tends to the gunshot wound in his leg, Camila, the young girl who has been caring for Demetrio, chatters next to him. Lost in his thoughts, Cervantes worries that the revolutionaries whom he was so excited to join are “nothing more than a bunch of bandits.” He ultimately persuades himself that “the revolutionaries . . . were going to topple the government” and that he made the right choice by defecting from the Federales.
As Cervantes walks away from Camila, María Antonia yells that Camila should slip Cervantes some “love powder” so that he will fall in love with her.
Señora Remigia is visited by Señora Pachita and another neighbor. The three women gossip familiarly, eventually making enough noise to awaken Demetrio. Señora Remigia slices open a small pigeon that she holds above Demetrio’s stomach, then puts each half of the pigeon onto Demetrio’s wound; she tells Demetrio that the blood will help him heal.
As Demetrio rests, Señora Fortunata relates the story of how the Federales took her daughter. She tells Demetrio that she hopes he and his men “do not leave a single one of those damned Federales alive.”
Anastasio Montañés, impressed by how Cervantes cured himself, encourages Demetrio to have Cervantes tend to him, despite Venancio’s protests. Demetrio agrees to be seen by Cervantes, who thoroughly cleans and rebandages the wound. Demetrio sleeps easily through the afternoon and evening, and when he awakens the next morning, he praises Cervantes. Venancio, however, wants Cervantes gone, and Demetrio, who “blindly [believes] in the science of the barber [Venancio],” tells Cervantes that he can move on after Demetrio is healed.
Two weeks pass, and Demetrio’s men don’t see any Federales. They patiently wait for Demetrio to fully recover. During this time, Demetrio starts “to grow fond of Cervantes” and begins “taking an interest in [his] welfare.” He ensures that Cervantes is given enough to eat and that he is welcomed into the group of rebels.
One evening, Venancio tells the men a story from a book he has read. Cervantes tells Venancio that he has “quite a beautiful talent . . . You shall be a doctor. You have such skill.” Immediately, any ill will Venancio feels for Cervantes disappears.
Camila has been suffocating Cervantes with her attention, and he has become annoyed. She mysteriously disappears for several days, then reappears and continues her lovesick behavior. Cervantes is indifferent to her flirting. Eventually, Camila asks Cervantes to teach her the lyrics to the song “La Adelita” so that she can sing it after the rebels have moved on. She goes on to describe “how mean” Demetrio is because he grabbed and pinched her when she brought him food. Upon hearing this, Cervantes laughs, then tells Camila that Demetrio behaves this way because he “wants [her].” Upset that Cervantes won’t fight for her, Camila runs away.
Demetrio has finally fully healed, and the rebels begin discussing how they will head north, where other revolutionaries have won against the Federales. Anastasio sees Cervantes “sitting on a peak overlooking the Sierra” and asks why he is so sad. When Cervantes doesn’t answer, Anastasio answers for him, proclaiming, “You miss all the sound and excitement of your city.” Anastasio describes the riches he possesses back home and claims that he is fighting because he doesn’t have any needs and just wants to help his friend Demetrio.
Pancracio and Lard, who have been playing cards nearby, erupt in a dispute. They insult one another’s families until it seems as though they will come to blows, but...
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instead “the game was called off; they placed an arm around each other’s shoulders peacefully and walked off together.” Anastasio says, “I like to make sure that I’m respected,” then draws Cervantes’s attention to a cloud of dust rising in the distance. Assuming they’ve finally seen the Federales, the men are excited.
The “Federales” turn out not to be Federales at all, but mule drivers with a herd of burros. The news they bring to the rebels is good: the Federales are preparing to defend Zacatecas but are expected to fall to the revolutionaries, led by Pánfilo Natera. With much enthusiasm, Cervantes declares that they “must get there and join the ranks of General Natera.”
The next day, Demetrio speaks with Cervantes, worried that Cervantes is “water of a different river than we are.” He begins to explain to Cervantes why he is fighting in the revolution.
Demetrio says that he is from Limón; there he had a house, cows, and land to farm. Each week, he and the other rancheros would go into town to hear mass, buy food, and have a drink at the tavern. Usually “everything’s good and no one’s doin’ no one any harm,” but sometimes “they start to bother ya,” and a fight breaks out. Occasionally the fight is just words, but other times “the knife comes out, or ya draw your gun.”
Demetrio’s own fight resulted from his spitting on the beard of Don Mónico because “he wouldn’t mind his own business . . . After that he had just about all the federation come down on me.” Don Mónico roused an army squadron to arrest Demetrio, claiming Demetrio was going to join the revolution. Demetrio’s friends warned him of the danger, so Demetrio was able to escape before the Federales arrived. Slowly, other men begin to join him, and thus his group of rebels formed. Though Demetrio is fighting for the rebel cause, what he most wants is to be left in peace so that he can go home.
Taking in what Demetrio has just told him, Cervantes tells Demetrio that they should present themselves to Natera and join his forces. Demetrio protests, saying he “don’t like to bow down to no one,” but Cervantes explains that without joining a larger army, “you will never be more than a small-time rebel leader.” He elaborates, adding his concern that once Francisco Madero becomes the president, he will only proliferate the “daily struggles” that the lower classes are rebelling against. He asks Demetrio, “What a pity it will be . . . all that spilled blood! All of that and for what? So that a handful of indolent rogues can grow rich, while everything else remains the same as before, or even worse?” Using his powers of persuasion, Cervantes tells Demetrio that he can’t abandon his country, for “the motherland will need all the selflessness of its most humble children to save her . . . We must not forget the most sacred things a man has in this world: his family and his country!”
In his passion for the cause, Cervantes uses powerful rhetoric to make one last, central point to Demetrio: that he has “risen up against the cacique system itself” and is part of “a great social movement that will lead to the exaltation of our motherland . . . We are fighting a fight against tyranny itself. And that is what it means to fight for one’s principles, to have ideals.”
Anastasio and Demetrio agree that having a man with them who can read and write has led them to “wake up and see what’s what.” They determine to leave the next morning, after a farewell dance. Demetrio tells his men that he doesn’t want them to “leave behind any dark memories, as the Federales always did,” so although they have feelings for some of the beautiful local women, they will leave them in peace.
That evening, Cervantes seeks out Camila. He tells her that Demetrio will soon be very rich, that he loves her, and that she would be foolish to turn him down. In response, she tells Cervantes that he is the only one she loves. They part, Camila crying as a dove cries on a branch above her.