The story is set during the South American Wars of Independence. Simón Bolivar, the liberator, has escaped from Spanish custody with the aid of an idealistic Spanish officer, Captain Montserrat. The Spanish commander, Colonel Izquierdo ('left' in Spanish), threatens Montserrat with torture to find out where Bolivar can be recaptured. Izquierdo decides that this will probably not yield the information he wants and instead has six entirely innocent people brought into headquarters: The six are Salas Ina, a prosperous businessman; Arnaldo Lujan, a wood carver who makes the statues of the saints, Matilde, a mother who left two small children at home alone while she went to market; Juan Salcedo Alvarez, an actor from Cádiz; Felisa, a pretty girl whom Izquierdo finds attractive, but she only wants more to eat and the death of the Spaniards; and Ricardo, a boy who only wants to know that Bolivar is safe. Izquierdo tells these six people that they have precisely one hour to persuade Montserrat to tell them where Bolivar can be found and, if they fail, he will have them all shot.