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In mid-18th-century Mexico, rebel bandit León Alastray escapes from government troops by taking sanctuary in an old Franciscan church. When Father Joseph refuses to turn Alastray over to the authorities, the old priest is sent to the remote village of San Sebastián as punishment. Disguised in a friar's robes, Alastray joins Father Joseph in the long desert trek at the end of which they find the village deserted following a raid by marauding Yaqui Indians. After Father Joseph has been killed by a bandit, the returning villagers mistake Alastray for a priest. Teclo, a halfbreed who rides for the Yaquis, demands that the villagers give up their Christian faith or risk further Indian attacks. Though aware that Alastray is not a priest, a village girl, Kinita, saves him from being hanged and persuades him to become the spiritual leader of the village. Alastray helps the peasants build a dam to ensure irrigation for their crops and, knowing the Yaquis will attack again, uses his influence with the governor's wife, Felicia, who was once Alastray's mistress, to obtain guns and ammunition. When the Indians finally raid the village, they are routed by the bravely defiant peasants and Alastray's dynamiting of the dam. After Alastray has killed Teclo in hand-to-hand combat, Kinita convinces him that he must say mass for the peasants. Then, when an escort of government troops arrives with a real priest for San Sebastián, the grateful villagers help Alastray and Kinita escape.