The author paints a slow, subtle picture of life for the ordinary people in Mexico during this time. Here is a minute sample:
One of the oddest things about the world these days was that there were no clocks - you could go a year without hearing one strike. They went with the churches, and you were left with the grey slow dawns and the precipitate nights as the only measurements of time.
Amidst this desolation, the main character, a hunted priest with a sinful, haunting past, comes across the old cemetary where his parents are buried, a cemetary now broken with vandalism and desecration:
The wall of the burial-ground had fallen in: one or two crosses had been smashed by enthusiasts: an angel had lost one of its stone wings, and what grave-stones were left undamaged leant at an acute angle in the long marshy grass. One image of the Mother of God had lost ears and arms and stood like a pagan Venus over the grave of some rich, forgotten timber merchant. It was odd - this fury to deface, because, of course, you could never deface enough. If God had been like a toad, you could have rid the globe of toads, but when God was like yourself, it was no good being content with stone figures - you had to kill yourself among the graves.
It's a common theme throughout history. Keep fighting against the thing you simply can't escape. One modern example is the insistence on using B.C.E. (Before the Common Era) and C.E.(Common Era) in place of B.C. and A.D. I know people get really angry about these things, but to me it's sadly laughable. Yes, it is an attempt to take God out of the picture, but instead it almost highlights further the centrality of the Incarnation. They can't really rid the calendar of this recognition even if they try to hide it in a thin veneer. All they're really doing is giving different names to a system, ingrained in our culture, steeped in Christianity, that perpetually bows to the Word made flesh.