Winner of the 2002 Sor Juana Inés de la Cruz Prize
This story of love and revolution takes place during the Argentine struggle for independence (1810-1820) and focuses on the character of the national hero, Manuel Belgrano. Belgrano's story is told through the voices of the real heroes of the novel—María Kumbá a mulatto healer-priestess, fighter, and nurse to the common soldiers; and Gregorio Rivas, mestizo son of a well-to-do Spanish businessman.
Heaven of Drums (Cielo de tambores) is filled with political and personal intrigue. At the core of the novel is the issue of racial discrimination. Belgrano is blinded to the love María has for him and the good counsel she has to offer because of his contempt for blacks. His open contempt for Rivas as a mestizo leads to his death. Rivas becomes María's lover but is always haunted by María's evident adoration of Belgrano. The manner in which the love-hate triangle plays out is filled with surprises and cuts to the heart of Argentina's troubled identity.