Table of Contents
- Don Anselmo: Protagonist and the oldest and most respectable man of the village
- Storyteller: An unnamed real estate agent who says he is handling a transaction in New Mexico between personal friends and an elderly gentleman, Don Anselmo.
- Americans: The buyers who bought the land from Don Anselmo
Gentleman of Rio en Medio is a short story written by Juan A.A. Sedillo about Americans who want to buy a piece of land in Mexico. The owner refuses the extra amount of money offered to him. The Americans than are disturbed by children who come to play in the orchard to which the Americans are forced to buy the trees too.
In the short story, an old man named Don Anselmo has agreed to sell his house and land in New Mexico to some Americans who want to live there. When it is revealed that much more land is involved, he is offered a much larger price. But he refuses the extra money and settles for the original amount. Later, when the American owners have taken residence in the house, they are upset by the village children who continue to run onto the land to play in the orchard. Don Anselmo says that although the land was his, the trees belong to the people of the village, mostly his relatives, for whom the trees were planted. The Americans, faced with his irrefutable logic, buy the trees from their rightful owners, the descendants of Don Anselmo.
The hero of the lesson is Don Anselmo. He was the most respectful old man in the village. He had a small house and orchard. The storyteller is the mediator between Don Anselmo and the American people. The Americans wanted to buy Don Anselmo’s property but he didn’t want to sell it as he was an old man who has been living in this house for a long time, this was his ancestral land.
He harvested in the same land his ancestors used to harvest, his house was small and unpleasant and built in an old fashion way. There was a small narrow stream flowing throughout his land and a lot of trees grew in his orchard which looked beautiful. After much effort and negotiation with the storyteller, the Oldman agreed to sell his property. The old man came to the office on the day it was going for sale wearing a green faded coat which reminded the storyteller of Senator Catron, a senator from New Mexico (1912-1917) who had the great power to control the mountain people.
The old man’s coat looked similar to Prince Alberts which means the old man was wearing his old, long, double-breasted coat. He wore old tom gloves from which his fingertips were visible. He carried a cane which was only the skeleton of a worn-out umbrella. The Oldman was followed by his relative who was a young dark man with beautiful large eyes.
The old man had a different approach to greeting others, he bowed to all the persons in the room and removed his hat and gloves. This action seemed similar to that of Charlie Chaplin’s role that he did when he was a janitor of the bank. The old man gave his belongings to his relative boy and sat on the chair. The conversation started about the rain and his family, he was very proud of his large family.
The mediator finally came to the topic, the old man had agreed to sell his property for twelve hundred dollars in cash. The buyer got the survey of the land and came to know that the land extended which was almost double of what they wanted to purchase and had agreed to. They were very good people and thus ready to pay twice the amount and kept the money ready in front of the old man.
The old man thought for a moment and the storyteller’s proposal made him feel insulted as he was a man of his principles. He didn’t agree to take more money from them, he said that he was ready to sell his house and land for twelve hundred dollars only. The storyteller argued but the old man was determined and did as he had promised. Finally, he signed the deed and took the money, and went away.
After a month the buyers renovated the house and orchard and moved in to live there but the children of the village would often overrun their property. They came every day to play under the trees and built little fences and even took flowers. The buyers warned them but the children did not take it seriously and simply laughed and talked good-naturedly in Spanish. The buyers had no choice so they complained back to the office.
To solve the problem, the storyteller had to send a message to call Don Anselmo. It took almost a week to arrange a meeting. The problem was discussed with the old man and was questioned why couldn’t stop the children from being the most respectable man in the village. Don Anselmo explained that he sold his property to the buyers because they seemed like good people but he didn’t sell them the trees in the orchard. The storyteller tried to explain to the old man that if the land is sold then the possession of the trees in that place also belonged to the buyers.
The old man accepted the matter and continued that as he is the oldest man in the village, everyone in the village is his relatives and all the children are nieces, nephews, and grandchildren. Every time a child was born in Rio en Medio, he planted a tree for that child. The treen in the orchard does not belong to the buyers, it belongs to the children of the village. So, since he had no right to sell them, he didn’t sell.
Legally the buyers owned the trees but the old man was generous enough and refused to accept the fortune from them. Afterward, the buyers bought all the trees individually from the descendants of Don Anselmo which took most of the following winter.
‘Gentleman of Rio en Medio’ makes subtle references to the question of external conflict. We see external factors affecting internal happiness and traditions. The story makes it clear that even when no one is at fault, there might be conflict because of external factors. In the story, we see the Americans cannot understand the idea of the old man planting trees for all his descendants.
They buy the trees from the descendants to avoid disunity, everything seems to be settled in a friendly manner. However, one cannot completely overlook certain other possibilities. Although there are no more references to the descendants, one point becomes apparent that the descendants have been attracted by money which is the first sign of commercialization. This was the indication of traditional values giving way to commercial factors.