San Diego is not run by the figures one might expect. Captain Tiago, for instance, is influential but doesn’t have control. Even the mayor doesn’t command much power, as he does whatever he’s told. Not even God controls the town, since the citizens of San Diego hardly ever think about Him, despite their frequent church visits. As such, there is a constant struggle for power between the town’s priest, Father Salví, and its military ensign. Father Salví takes his job very seriously, but the ensign finds this characteristic aggravating, thinking Salví is “too diligent.”
Once again, the tension between the church and the government manifests itself in the relationships between opposing figures. Though the ensign and Father Salví should conceivably be able to respect one another and allow each other to do their jobs in peace, they find themselves in a perpetual state of competition because their respective institutions are so often at odds.
To undermine the friar, the ensign imposes a curfew that interferes with the citizens’ ability to attend church services at the appropriate times. In retaliation, Salví lets his goat run free on the ensign’s property. When he sees the ensign enter the church, Salví orders the sextons to lock the doors so that he can preach for hours on end. In addition, it is well known that the ensign allows himself to be controlled by his wife, Doña Consolación, a Filipina woman who tries to act more sophisticated than she actually is and with whom the ensign frequently physically fights.
The ensign and Father Salví both use their institutional powers to interfere with one another. It’s worth noting that their energies would be better spent serving the town of San Diego, but they’re too concentrated on spiting one another to care about how they’re treating the townspeople. As such, the community they ostensibly work for suffers. Indeed, the townspeople find their various freedoms cut short by the ensign’s curfew or by the priest’s insistence that sermons last long into the day.