Isabel Allende’s ‘‘The Gold of Tomás Vargas’’ was first published in Barcelona in the story collection, Cuentos de Eva Luna, in 1990. A year later, it was translated into English and published by Atheneum as The Stories of Eva Luna. The collection was inspired by Allende’s 1988 novel, Eva Luna, in which the title character is a storyteller and screenwriter who alludes to many stories that she never tells. At the beginning of the short story collection, Eva Luna is responding to the request of her lover from the novel, Rolf Carlé, to tell him one of her stories. Instead, she tells him twenty-three. Like the other stories in the collection, ‘‘The Gold of Tomás Vargas’’ takes place in an undetermined time in the fictional village of Agua Santa, which resembles a South American town.
The story concerns the buried gold of Tomás Vargas, a wife-beating, adulterous miser who is disliked by everybody in the town. Vargas receives his come-uppance when one of his adulterous affairs comes back to haunt him, and his wife and concubine team up against him. The story, which reads like a moral fable, cautions against greed and promotes a life in which women are respected, not taken advantage of. Although it is less prevalent in this story, many of Allende’s other writings are known for their use of magical realism, a technique where fantastical elements combine with realistic elements. This was used to greatest effect in Allende’s first novel, 1982’s La casa de los espiritus, which was translated as The House of the Spirits in 1985. A current copy of ‘‘The Gold of Tomás Vargas’’ is available in the 1992 reprint edition of The Stories of Eva Luna, which was published by Bantam Books.