Don Antonio’s Sombrero


(A folktale)
For a [a man] thinketh in his heart, so is he (Prov. 23:7).

Don Antonio Manuel de Garcia was a short, round man with a tall opinion of himself. “I am the wealthiest man in all of San Pedro,” he would say. “Therefore, I am also the most important.”

Yet when he went out onto the calles (streets) of San Pedro, nobody gave him the attention he felt that he deserved.

“Perhaps if you thought more of others instead of yourself, you would gain the respect of the people,” his wife said gently.

Don Antonio did not listen. “Why, they pay more attention to that peasant, Juan Mendoza, than they do to me,” he grumbled.

His wife smiled. “Juan is a good man. He grinds corn for the old women of the pueblo, for their tortillas. He has a kind word for everyone, and you can always see him coming, because of that large sombrero he always wears.”

“Ahhhh, his sombrero!” Don Antonio ignored everything else she had said.

The next day he rode to the big city. When he returned, he was wearing a new sombrero—but what a sombrero! It had red tassels that bobbed as he trotted by, and a shadow so large that it kept both Don Antonio and his horse in shade from head to tail.

Villagers filled the calles as Don Antonio rode by. They stared in amazement.

He smiled and waved.

“At last the people see how important I am,” Don Antonio told his wife when he returned home.

She looked at the sombrero, shook her head, and said nothing.

For days Don Antonio went out whenever he could, enjoying the crowds that gathered at the sight of his unusual hat.

Soon, however, the novelty wore off. People saw him coming and merely murmured, “Buenos días (Good morning),” before returning to their tasks.

Don Antonio was not pleased.

“Why even Claudia Sanchez gets more attention than me,” he complained to his wife.

“Isn’t she the one who tutors the children after school?” she asked. “Even so, she has time to grow that magnificent garden—and shares what she grows with the less fortunate.”

“Ahhhh, a garden!”

The next day he rode into the big city. When he returned to San Pedro, people flocked to the calles again, their jaws dropped in amazement. Don Antonio was wearing the same sombrero, but now above the red tassels were piles of potatoes, cascades of corn, and bunches of bananas. It was a most amazing sight.

“At last they see how important I am,” he told his wife proudly.

She sighed and said nothing.

For a week Don Antonio basked in the attention of the village. However, his fame did not last. Soon people grew accustomed to his strange sombrero. They no longer gazed in awe as he rode through the calles, and he began to feel smaller and smaller beneath his enormous, heavy hat.

“Why, they pay more attention to Carlos Ramirez than they do to me,” he complained to his wife.

“Ah, Carlos,” she replied. “Isn’t he the boy who carries water for half the women of the pueblo and never charges a peso for it? He sings in the church choir and has a parrot named Xiomara.”

“Ahhhh, a parrot!”

The next day he rode into the big city. As he returned to San Pedro, the people of the pueblo gathered to stare. His sombrero was still huge, with red tassels, and it still looked like a garden. But now four enormous parrots perched on the crown. Their tails dangled down over the sides of the sombrero, and they nibbled at the corn as they rode along.

It was a most unusual sight.

Don Antonio smiled as he rode through the crowd. At last they see how important I am, he thought proudly. But as he rode down the calle, enjoying the amazement of the crowd, he noticed that not everyone was watching him. Some of the children were playing a game.

He was angry. A man of his importance deserved the attention of everyone!

He waved his hands and shouted to make the children look at him.

The startled parrots fluttered from his hat. One landed on the horse’s head. The horse reared, and Don Antonio fell off—kersplash!—into a mud puddle nearly as large as his hat. The sombrero went rolling down the calle, scattering potatoes, corn, and bananas. The parrots winged their way to freedom.

The people of the pueblo sprang into action.

“Save the sombrero of Don Antonio Manuel de Garcia!” they shouted as they raced down the calle after the runaway hat. “Save that magnificent sombrero!”

Soon there was no one left but a short man sitting in a large mud puddle.

“Save Don Antonio Manuel de Garcia!” he cried, but nobody answered. So Don Antonio had to get himself out of the puddle and limp home with mud on his clothes and water in his boots.

“Even my sombrero is more important than I am,” he told his wife, sadly.

She looked at him and shook her head. “You’re the one who made the hat so important,” she pointed out. “If you spent as much time making friends as you did making a magnificent sombrero, you would not have been left alone in the calle. Never let what you wear become more important than what you are.”

For once, Don Antonio had nothing to say.

[illustrations] Illustrated by Julie F. Young