A village on the Venezuelan coast, a place of fishermen and big haciendas. Aquiles Vargas, a white aristocrat in somewhat reduced circumstances, fights with Cruz Guaregua, a humble black fisherwoman, and mother of his only son, a half-caste 'mestizo'. Vargas takes the Mestizo away to raise him as a white, with his Aunt Milita as foster-mother. As an adolescent, the 'mestizo' Jose Ramon is propelled by his bohemian Uncle Ramon towards poetry, but Aquiles takes him to be 'civilized' in the local courthouse. There he is taken into a perverse relationship with the judge's wife, while the judge watches. Jose Ramon escapes, horrified, but in his naivety finds himself in love with the judge's wife. But the situation is impossible. Jose Ramon tries in vain to be a fisherman, but fights with his mother. Aunt Milita sends a servant girl to seduce him and bring him back home. Everybody, beginning with Cruz, tries to save him. But the social and sexual conflicts, power, culture and the Law, and ...