Poverty is shown in "The Pearl" as an inevitable accompaniment to colonial oppression. Like other indigenous folk, Kino and his family occupy the lowest rungs of the social ladder. For centuries, their people have been kept down, confined to the most menial jobs, their culture gradually eroded by their Spanish colonial overlords. In such an environment, it's a daily struggle just to survive.
Little wonder, then, that Kino is initially so excited when he discovers a valuable pearl in the sea. All of a sudden, it seems that he and his family are set for life. No longer will they have to endure the humiliating grind of poverty; they will be able to live the kind of life previously denied to them. Unfortunately, it's not as simple as that, as Kino and his family soon discover. The pearl attracts the attention of greedy, unscrupulous traders who don't want to give Kino a fair price for his find. Aside from their greed, the traders are motivated by racism. They know that poverty is a way of keeping the indigenous people in their place. If Kino is paid his due for the pearl and becomes rich, then it will set—for the traders—a dangerous precedent, potentially giving other indigenous people ideas above their lowly station in life.