João Magalhães (zhoh-OWN mah-gahl-YAYS), a gambler and drifter who claims to be a captain and military engineer who has participated in several revolutions. Although he won his engineer’s ring at a gaming table, he agrees to survey the Sequeiro Grande (see-KAY-roh GRAHN-dee), a rich area of fiercely contested tropical forest. While working for the Badaró family, he falls in love with the only heir, Ana. João’s shadowy background notwithstanding, Ana’s family considers his ability to reinvent himself and adapt to his circumstances a useful asset in a land that is in the process of self-creation, and they approve the match. He agrees to change his surname to Badaró and continue the family line.
Colonel Horacio da Silveira
Colonel Horacio da Silveira (oh-RAH-see-oh seel-vay-EE-rah), a former mule driver who by hard work becomes the wealthiest of the cacao plantation owners. Widowed, he marries the young and cultured Ester, with whom he has one son. Like other “colonels” of the region, he employs many bodyguards and ruffians to protect his life and to forward his interests. With their aid, he launches a bloody campaign to claim the Sequeiro Grande as part of his already extensive cacao holdings, using his hired guns to assassinate those who stand in his way. He survives the fever that kills his wife, has his principal rival assassinated, and, when political power shifts to his party, even wins the legal battles related to the acquisition of the forest.
Ester Silveira, Horacio’s wife and the mother of his only son. She does not adapt well to the roughness of plantation life. She falls in love with Horacio’s lawyer,...
(The entire section is 783 words.)