February 5, 2009
Posted by Michael Fong
Maria Amparo Ruiz De Burton, "The Squatter and the Don"
"'Speaking about cows, brings us at once to the object of this meeting,'-Don Mariano, still smiling, went on, saying: 'You know that I have lost many, and that it is natural I should wish to save those I have left. To do this, and yet not ask that you give up your claims, I have one or two propositions to make to you. The reason why you have taken up land here is because you want homes. You want to make money. Isn't that the reason? Money! money!'" (Ruiz, The Squatter and the Don Chapter V)
In Chapter V of Ruiz's The Squatter and the Don, Don Marliano attempts to negotiate with the squatters on the issue of land and how it is used. Don is losing a significant portion of cattle to the squatters; they are either killed or stolen by the squatters as no fences surround either the Don's cattle ranch nor the squatter's crop field. Don makes the proposition in that he will provided the squatters with cattle, and tries to persuade them to take up growing fruits, making wine, butter, and milk. The squatters, however, remain skeptical of the practicability of the proposal, promptly refused, and at the end of the chapter Don leaves and persuades them to think about the matter once more.
Throughout history, one can notice that at the center of most conflicts, it will be upon the issue of money. Of course, race still plays a big part, but at the end of the day, it is the money that does the talking. In this chapter, I think Ruiz did more than depicting the conflict at that time over land before the readers' eyes; she is presenting certain sides of human nature, the sides where greed and instincts come in. In this case, as I am not entirely familiar with this section of American history, still I think that what Don proposed is a very good idea, actually, it's a win-win situation for both parties.
I think the portrayal of the skepticism and distrust of the squatters is presented accurately, and although this story was written approximately a century ago, the situation between the don and the squatters could be seen even nowadays. We have countries, both strong and weak, negotiating with each other, trying to get the best possible profit for themselves. Sometime one cannot help but wonder if both parties agree on less and trust and cooperate with each other, the results may be even better. I could not help but think if the squatters agree with the Don's proposal, both them and the Don would have been rich soon enough, and satisfied as well. But then again, this brings us back to the issue of human nature. When it comes to one's own benefit, most of the times one becomes extremely distrustful when working with one another. As much as I would like to see harmony, peace, and cooperation exercised when the interests of two parties, countries or individuals likewise, converge and conflict, I realize that this only exists in a utopian society, and most probably could not be realized.
The story also led me to think upon the issue of sacrifice. Clearly, in an ideal trade, both parties have to get what they want, and should be satisfied by it. But what if it's impossible? What if one party has to suffer in order for a trade to be made? It is this mindset that is lacking now in both the story and the present day society, on top of lack of trust towards others. People are unwilling to sacrifice, or in other words, they want to get at least equal to others in a trade; they want everything to be fair. Ultimately, countries, governments now are struggling for the top position of a pile of bodies. Look, for example, at America's constant war in other countries. Iraq, Vietnam, Panama, Cuba, Mexico, Iran, Persian Gulf, and a lot more. Some say that maybe it's all about opening a McDonald's or selling a coke in the streets of Iraq, to expand the market of American enterprises and also, in the case of certain Middle-East countries, for the oil. It's one thing to read in a story of conflicts between two groups of people on land and money, but it's really quite frightful to see similar parallels now in the society, aggravated and expanded to ten times the scale.