Ernesto and Alberto hitchhike to Juliaca, where they meet a drunk police sergeant who takes them out for drinks. After getting progressively more inebriated, the sergeant fires his gun into the wall. The owner of the bar calls the police, but because the sergeant is a member of the Civil Guard and Ernesto and Alberto are foreigners, no one gets punished. This outcome disgusts the owner, who shouts at Alberto that “these Argentines think they own everything.”
Despite his growing preoccupation with social equality, Ernesto still takes advantage of occasions where his privilege allows him to act above the law. He relates this scene as a funny escapade, but what really happens is that reckless destruction of local property is covered up because the police are corrupt and Ernesto and Alberto are comparatively wealthy foreigners. Ernesto’s tone-deaf assessment of his own bad behavior shows that he’s still not capable of applying his blossoming political ideals to himself.
In their next truck ride, the men are sandwiched between a group of Indians and some young white men from Lima. The white men are intent on demonstrating their higher social status by teasing the Indians, who in turn are too wary respond to Alberto’s attempts at conversation. Ernesto and Alberto feel sympathetic to the Indians, but their race and language mean that everyone else in the truck groups them together with the men from Lima.
Ernesto scorns the behavior of the men from Lima, even though he wasn’t acting terribly different from them the previous night. He’s much better at analyzing other people’s actions than his own. He’s also finding that sympathy isn’t enough to transcend barriers of race and class. Even though he and Alberto feel that they identify with the proletariat, the Indians have no reason to trust that, as white men, they will treat them with dignity or respect.
A police officer pays for their hotel room, saying that doctors shouldn’t have to sleep in the cold. The next day in the town center, before they continue on to Cuzco, they observe a traditional funeral procession wending through the village. Although it’s a Christian ritual, it’s very different from those Ernesto has seen before and he remarks on the exotic dress of the people, the disorder of the procession, and the “interminable babbling” of the officials during the ceremony.
Here, Ernesto uses the technique of describing an ordinary event in language that makes it seem strange or surreal. Stressing the exoticism of the ceremony and his inability to understand even the words, Ernesto describes a Christian ritual much as European writers often describe indigenous practices. In doing so, he suggests that conceptions of some cultures as normative and others as exotic are dependent on perspective, not fact.