Juan Tomás is Kino’s older brother and a source of rationality, wisdom, and caution throughout the narrative. Juan and his wife Apolonia are the only people in La Paz who remain truly trustworthy to Kino and Juana once they find the pearl. Juan helps Kino take the pearl to the market, warning Kino that the pearl buyers will try to cheat him. But Juan also understands that it will be nearly impossible for either him or Kino to actually know if they’re getting a fair price. Juan Tomás, like Kino, is an intelligent man who realizes the extent of his people’s exploitation and oppression. He knows that they lack the resources and knowledge required to make informed decisions, and he worries that Kino is in over his head. When it becomes clear that Kino does not intend to sell the pearl, but rather will journey to the capital in search of a better price, Juan understands his brother’s reaction but voices his belief that the wisest course of action would be to sell the pearl now, even for a low value. Juan senses the danger in keeping the pearl, and the unlikelihood of Kino ever reaching the capital or attaining the money he expects to make from it. 


When Juan Tomás reminds Kino of a cautionary tale about pearl divers who make the mistake of trying to sell their pearls in the capital, the brothers’ contrasting reactions to the story serve to further characterize them. The story is clearly a tool that the Catholic church uses to deter the natives from resisting the colonial system, and it only bolsters Kino’s sense that he must stop at nothing to pull his family and his people out of oppression via the pearl. On the other hand, Juan understands the injustice that their people face, but he believes that rebelling against the system will only end in Kino’s destruction. He warns Kino that the violence and evil the pearl has brought will not stop once it has been sold – Kino will continue to be a target for the wrath of the colonizers, and his newfound wealth will bring problems that no one in their community has ever faced. Juan worries that Kino will inevitably be punished for his transgressions against the system, even if he gains money and power. He understands why Kino is intent on selling the pearl in the capital, that this chance at wealth and freedom is too great to pass up, but he doubts that any good will come of it. However, at his core, Juan is a loyal older brother – he will protect Kino as well as he can, and ultimately support his attempts to sell the pearl and give Coyotito a better life.

Juan Tomás’s character is tragic in a different way than Kino’s. While Kino puts his life on the line to fight his colonizers, Juan Tomás exists in the painful position of being entirely aware of the system’s horrors and exploitations but knowing that rebellion would only endanger their community and increase their suffering. Juan’s rationality and restraint juxtaposes Kino’s fervor and risky behavior. We can both sympathize with and criticize each brother’s behavior and mindset, but Kino and Juan ultimately exist in unimaginably difficult circumstances in which they have almost nonexistent power as individuals. The Pearl’s conclusion shows that Juan’s submission to the system is warranted, as it ensures his and his family’s survival. Kino has lost everything, while Juan retains his home, his livelihood, the trust of his wife, and the survival of his family.