The Old Gringo
is a novel written by Carlos Fuentes
Carlos Fuentes Macías is a Mexican writer and one of the best-known living novelists and essayists in the Spanish-speaking world. He has influenced contemporary Latin American literature, and his works have been widely translated into English and other languages.-Biography:Fuentes was born in...
over a period extending between 1964 and 1984 and finally published in 1985. In 1989 it was made into a film called Old Gringo
Old Gringo is a 1989 film directed by Luis Puenzo and co-written with Aída Bortnik, based on the novel Gringo Viejo by Mexican novelist Carlos Fuentes.The film stars Jane Fonda, Gregory Peck, and Jimmy Smits....
starring Gregory Peck
Eldred Gregory Peck was an American actor.One of 20th Century Fox's most popular film stars from the 1940s to the 1960s, Peck continued to play important roles well into the 1980s. His notable performances include that of Atticus Finch in the 1962 film To Kill a Mockingbird, for which he won an...
Inspired by the historical disappearance of American writer Ambrose Bierce
Ambrose Gwinnett Bierce was an American editorialist, journalist, short story writer, fabulist and satirist...
amidst the chaos of the Mexican Revolution
The Mexican Revolution was a major armed struggle that started in 1910, with an uprising led by Francisco I. Madero against longtime autocrat Porfirio Díaz. The Revolution was characterized by several socialist, liberal, anarchist, populist, and agrarianist movements. Over time the Revolution...
, the novel addresses such themes as death, cultural exchange, and Mexican identity.
An elderly American writer and journalist for the Hearst
William Randolph Hearst was an American business magnate and leading newspaper publisher. Hearst entered the publishing business in 1887, after taking control of The San Francisco Examiner from his father...
media empire decides to leave his old life behind and seek a glorious death in the midst of the Mexican revolution. A widower, whose two sons had earlier committed suicide, this unnamed old man eventually comes across part of the army of Pancho Villa
José Doroteo Arango Arámbula – better known by his pseudonym Francisco Villa or its hypocorism Pancho Villa – was one of the most prominent Mexican Revolutionary generals....
. This particular group, led by General Arroyo, has just liberated a massive land holding which had been owned by the Mirandas, a wealthy landowning family. Arroyo is the mestizo
Mestizo is a term traditionally used in Latin America, Philippines and Spain for people of mixed European and Native American heritage or descent...
product of the rape of his Indian mother by his Miranda father.
At that same hacienda, the old man meets Harriet Winslow, a woman from Washington D.C. hired to tutor the young Miranda children. However, by the time she arrived there, they had long since fled with their parents from Arroyo's army. At first, she has a patronizing view about the revolutionary army and the Mexican people, saying
"What these people need is education, not rifles. A good scrubbing, followed by a few lessons on how we do things in the United States, and you'd see an end to this chaos."
"You're going to civilize them?" the old man asked dryly.
As the novel progresses, Winslow begins to learn to accept the truth of her past, as well as to appreciate the Mexican culture she finds all around her. By the close of the novel, she decides that instead of attempting to change Mexico, as she had early wanted, she wants "to learn to live with Mexico".
The novel ends with the deaths of the old man and General Arroyo. When the 'old gringo' burns some historical documents as a means of encouraging Arroyo to leave the Miranda household and continue with the revolution, Arroyo responds by murdering him. Later, when Arroyo finally meets up with Pancho Villa's army, he is executed for this crime as a means of preventing any American response.