A day after arriving in San Pablo, Ernesto and Alberto finally visit the leper colony they’ve traveled so far to see. The colony is comprised of 600 patients who live not in a hospital, but in independent cabins, taking care of themselves. The colony has an informal government with a judge, a policeman, and local officials. Still, it lacks “basic amenities” like microscopes and daytime electricity.
Dr. Bresciani shows Ernesto and Alberto around the colony. He tells them about his own research, which examines patients’ nervous systems, because the disease in this region typically causes nervous disorders. Ernesto notes that colony still doesn’t have a surgeon who knows how to operate on nerves.
The leper colony, in which those who need public resources the most don’t get them, is a grim illustration of social inequality. While this is disheartening, it also makes the colony’s high morale and internal organization all the more impressive and significant.
When they aren’t touring the medical facilities, Ernesto and Alberto go fishing and play football and chess. Besides Dr. Bresciani, they befriend the rest of the medical staff and the nuns who work in the colony.
Even though it’s a place of exile and poverty, the leper colony is a seemingly happy place, where Ernesto and Alberto feel right at home. This shows Ernesto that the best communities are predicated on justice and principles rather than wealth and power.