The House of the Spirits
The House of the Spirits Chapter 12 Summary
- The Socialists win the Presidential election as part of a Leftist coalition.
- On election day, Senator Trueba and his party prepare for the celebration of their victory.
- Blanca, Alba, and the servants watch the election results on TV. Soon the results indicate that the conservatives don't stand a chance. Blanca and Alba know that Senator Trueba is going to flip out.
- The conservatives have to cancel their parties.
- The people of the working class neighborhoods, on the other hand, take to the streets. Whole families get dressed up in their Sunday best and walk towards the center of the city, carrying radios to follow the election results. Everyone waits with baited breath…
- At midnight the election results are announced. The Left has won. There's dancing in the streets.
- The jubilant crowds march through the ritzy neighborhoods singing. The rich people cower in their mansions, afraid of rioting, but the marchers remain peaceful.
- When the crowd passes by her house, Alba runs out to the street to join them.
- Alba finds Miguel in the crowd, and they share a steamy celebratory kiss. Miguel reminds Alba that they'll have to defend their victory.
- The next day there's mass hysteria. The wealthy storm the banks to withdraw their money and start shipping it overseas. All the flights out of the country are booked as people try to flee, afraid they won't be able to leave once the Socialists come to power. The people who voted for the Socialist candidate watch the conservatives freak out and laugh.
- The country has split into two irreconcilable groups.
- Senator Trueba and his allies are convinced that they can prevent the Socialist candidate from assuming the presidency through legal means. He meets with "other politicians, a group of military men, and gringos sent by their intelligence service" to plot to destabilize the new government through economic sabotage.
- (Historical context note: Following the election, the Nixon administration and CIA officials supported Salvador Allende's political opponents in an attempt to destabilize his government. According to the Chilean Constitution of the time, if the winner did not secure an absolute majority of the votes, the Congress got to determine which of the top two candidates would serve as President. Salvador Allende's opponents hoped that they could convince members of Congress to vote for the candidate with the second highest percentage of votes by sabotaging the Chilean economy.)
- At their secret meeting, Senator Trueba and his political co-conspirators sketch out a plan.
- General Hurtado, a representative of the military, puts his gun on the table and suggests that, if economic sabotage doesn't work, violence will.
- The head of Embassy intelligence (read: gringo) says they're not interested in a military coup, and that they'd rather make Marxism look like an economic failure so that people in the region lose interest. He recommends bribing members of Congress to vote against the Candidate's confirmation.
- Esteban Trueba insists that "the Congress and the armed forces are above corruption," and suggests that they use their money to buy the mass media and attempt to sway public opinion instead.
- The other men at the meeting worry that the Marxists will do away with freedom of the press, but Esteban reminds them that the Leftists have sworn to "respect democratic rights."
- The narrator informs us that Senator Trueba is right in the end. The conspiring politicians fail to successfully bribe members of Congress, and the Candidate's government comes to power.
- Pedro Tercero García's life changes after the election. The new government is in need of skilled people to fill ministerial positions, and they recruit Pedro Tercero for a desk job because of his huge popularity. Pedro Tercero is exhausted by his new job, and barely has the energy to make love to Blanca when he gets to see her.
- Pedro Tercero proposes marriage to Blanca again, giving her an ultimatum: now or never.
- Blanca won't accept, and she and Pedro Tercero separate angrily.
- The narrator tells us it will be two years before they see each other again.
- Blanca waits for Pedro Tercero to come crawling back to her like he always does. When he doesn't contact her after a few days, she calls his office at the Ministry. His secretary says Compañero García isn't in, and Pedro Tercero never returns Blanca's calls. Blanca goes to his apartment, but her key no longer fits the lock. She's turned away by the doorman.
- Blanca comprehends that she's lost Pedro Tercero, and bursts into tears.
- Blanca busies herself with her ceramics classes and starts participating in political activities in the city.
- Opponents to the new government, with the support of "the gringos," are mobilizing to sabotage the economy. They have plenty of financial resources and control the mass media (12.34).
- One major effect of their efforts to "tear the economy to shreds" is a shortage of pretty much everything in the grocery stores (12.34). People wait in long lines to buy whatever they can, even if they don't need it. The black market flourishes.
- Gasoline is rationed, and people have to wait for days to fill up their tanks. City workers have to go to their jobs by foot or by bicycle.
- The right organizes a teamster (or trucker) strike, meaning no one can ship goods around the country. Produce rots in the fields. The army can't take control, because the truck drivers have dismantled their engines.
- The President appears on television and blames the teamster strike on his political enemies. He tells the public that the truck drivers are "in the pay of the imperialists," and advises them to plant their own vegetable gardens (12.35).
- The people on the political left keep their spirits up in the face of surmounting economic pressure, but they begin to squabble amongst themselves.
- Esteban Trueba is invigorated by the new challenge of ousting the Socialists from power. He travels all over the country and makes "numerous conspiratorial trips abroad" (12.35). At first he clings to his democratic principles and insists upon using legal means to overthrow the government, but when that doesn't work he gets over his qualms about using illegal ones. He starts calling for a coup.
- Esteban Trueba starts trying to provoke the military into revolting. He has to hire a couple of bodyguards to protect him from the people who he irritates.
- He tries to hire a bodyguard for Alba as well, but she refuses. He doesn't insist, because Alba is the only member of his family with whom he still gets along.
- Blanca organizes a system for obtaining goods through the black market, and starts storing them in the abandoned rooms of the big house on the corner. She keeps the provisions under lock and key, and carries the key around her waist. Alba says she looks like a jailer.
- Jaime tries to convince Blanca to donate, trade, or sell perishable items before they rot, but Blanca stubbornly refuses to share her treasure trove of food.
- Alba develops a method of sneaking food from her mother's pantries by cutting a hole in the wall. She gives the food to Miguel, who distributes it throughout the poor neighborhoods.
- Miguel warns that "the right is arming itself!" (12.40).
- Alba believes Miguel's prediction, because she's seen enormous wooden crates unloaded in the courtyard of the big house in the middle of the night. Esteban Trueba stores these crates in a locked room and carries the key with him.
- Alba tells Uncle Jaime about her grandfather's mysterious crates, and Jaime tries to ask Esteban about it at the dinner table.
- Foreshadowing alert! Jaime's days are numbered. The narrator mentions here that Jaime will be preoccupied "until the day they [kill] him" (12.41).
- Esteban Trueba angrily refuses to talk about the boxes, so Alba and Jaime decide to sneak into the locked room to investigate. When they manage to pry open the boxes, they find guns. Lots of guns.
- Jaime and Alba steal the guns and fill the boxes up with rocks so no one will notice their absence. They hide the weapons in Jaime's room until Alba can smuggle them out of the house in her cello case.
- Jaime and Alba decide to bury the guns in a secret location. They plan a camping trip and drive out to the mountains. After hiding the weapons, they spend the rest of the weekend fishing, building campfires, and drinking wine.
- Alba jokingly tells Jaime, "If you weren't my uncle, I'd marry you" (12.44). This makes Jaime sad, because he's secretly in love with his niece.
- Jaime's in a relationship with Amanda, even though he doesn't love her anymore. Amanda is off drugs, living more healthfully, and is completely in love with Jaime. But Jaime's only dating her out of compassion.
- To make matters worse, Jaime actually likes Miguel a lot. He thinks Miguel's political ideas about revolution are ridiculous, but he respects Miguel's conviction, courage, and generosity. Still, he worries about Alba being in love with Miguel, because he sees Miguel as an idealist fated to bring danger into the lives of those close to him.
- Jaime's secret crush on Alba makes his relationship with her uncomfortable.
- Tres Marías is expropriated under "the agrarian reform" (12.50).
- (Historical context note: As President, Salvador Allende continued a program of land seizure and redistribution that was actually started earlier by a more conservative party, the Christian Democratic Party of Chile. The government seized large haciendas and either nationalized them or turned them over to cooperatives of workers.)
- When the peasants take control of Tres Marías, the foreman gets scared and leaves. No one is left in charge of the hacienda.
- When Esteban finds out that the government is forcing him to sell his hacienda to the state, he grabs a machine gun and orders his chauffer to drive him out to Tres Marías. This can't go well.
- When he arrives, the peasants knock him out with a blow to the head and tie him up. Esteban wakes up in a locked room. The peasants inform him that he's being held hostage.
- Esteban's bodyguards, members of the Conservative Party, television crews, and the National Guard show up at Tres Marías. The peasants guard their hostage with the machine gun that Esteban Trueba brought.
- Blanca and Alba learn of the showdown on the news. Blanca drags Alba to the Ministry to ask Pedro Tercero García for help.
- Blanca storms into Pedro Tercero's office, despite protests from his secretary.
- Pedro Tercero has grown old and haggard, and he misses Blanca.
- Blanca says they're going to Tres Marías to rescue Senator Trueba. She also spills the beans about Alba being Pedro Tercero's daughter. Finally.
- The trio leaves for Tres Marías, armed with Pedro Tercero's guitar.
- The peasants welcome their old hero Pedro Tercero García, and allow him to see the Senator. Pedro Tercero convinces the tenants that it's better for him to take Senator Trueba home now than to allow the National Guard to come in the next day and carry him out like a hero.
- When Pedro Tercero García and Esteban Trueba come face to face, it's the first time they've seen each other since Esteban cut off Pedro Tercero's fingers. The two men know that they should hate each other, but neither one of them can muster up "the old fire of hatred in their hearts" (12.78). They're too old and tired for that stuff.
- Pedro Tercero tells Esteban he's come to get him out of there because Blanca asked him to. Esteban tells him to go to hell. Pedro Tercero says, "Fine. That's where we're going. You're coming with me" (12.83).
- Pedro Tercero leads Esteban Trueba to the gate of the property. Esteban drags his feet dejectedly until Alba hugs him and manages to cheer him up a little bit.
- Playing chess with Jaime that night, the President brings up Senator Trueba's situation, but Jaime gives no indication that he's related to the crazy old conservative.
- Alba notices that the city has been transformed. The streets are full of garbage, lights are broken, and lampposts are covered in political propaganda. Night watchmen patrol the streets, protecting government buildings from roaming gangs of right-wing vandals.
- "Youth brigades" of idealistic communists wage graffiti wars with the opposition. They're unaware of the significance of the word "Djakarta" painted in enormous letters (12.91).
- (Historical context note: Djakarta, known today as Jakarta, was the site of an anti-Communist purge in which about half a million people were killed in 1965 and 1966.)
- Alba thinks about the "Djakarta" mural and all the people who died in the political violence in Indonesia, and worries about Miguel.
- School at the university has been postponed indefinitely because the professors are on strike. Alba spends her free time volunteering at the hospital with Uncle Jaime. They need all the help they can get because the school of medicine has ordered them to stop work in order to sabotage the government.
- Amanda volunteers at the hospital, too, to be close to Jaime.
- Rumors and allegations fly back and forth between the government and its opposition. The political right charges the President with drunkenness, sexual immorality, and corruption; the President accuses his opponents of intentionally trying to subvert the economy and provoke a military coup.
- Luisa Mora, the only surviving Mora sister, rings the bell of the big house on the corner. Clara's ghost is with her.
- Luisa warns Esteban Trueba that, according to her astrological predictions, the future looks bleak. Lots of people are going to die, she says. Esteban will be on the side of the winners, but winning will make him miserable.
- Luisa has a second and more important message for Alba from her grandmother Clara. She warns Alba, "Death is at your heels," and advises her to leave the country.
- Esteban thinks Luisa Mora is a crazy old bat, but (major foreshadowing) ten months and eleven days later Alba will be taken away by force in the middle of the night, and he'll remember Luisa Mora's prophecy.
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