The short story "Nos han dado la tierra" ("They Gave Us the Land") is a dismal portrayal of the Mexican government's land reform in the mid-20th century. A group of men are given a barren wasteland by an official, and as they walk through it they discuss how completely worthless it is.
But near the end, it's suddenly revealed that one of the men is carrying a hen under his coat:
I hadn't noticed Esteban very closely. Now that he's speaking I notice him. He's wearing a coat that reaches down to his navel, and under his coat something that looks like a hen's head is peering out.
Yo no me había fijado bien a bien en Esteban. Ahora que habla, me fijo en él. Lleva puesto un gabán que le llega al ombligo, y debajo del gabán saca la cabeza algo así como una gallina.
When pressed, Esteban explains why he is carrying the chicken:
I brought her along to take care of her. Nobody was left at my house to feed her; that's why I brought her. Whenever I go anyplace very far I take her along.
la traigo para cuidarla. Mi casa se quedó sola y sin nadie para que le diera de comer; por eso me la traje. Siempre que salgo lejos cargo con ella.
My question is – what relevance does this chicken have? Is it meant to show the poverty or loneliness of the men somehow? Why include it in the story at all?
English quotations from The Mexico Reader (2002), 468–69. Spanish from Toda la obra.