The paisanos are free of commercialism, free of the complicated systems of American business, and, having nothing that can be stolen, exploited or mortgaged, that system has not attacked them very vigorously.

In the Preface, the narrator of Tortilla Flat makes these comments about the paisanos. It explains not what they lack, but what Steinbeck finds beautiful about them. He sees the advances in American business and technology as corrupting influences on freedom loving people. The fact that the paisanos are untouched by this system, that they do not crave convenience and fortune, and that they have nothing to offer the system that would cause it to pursue them, is a beautiful thing to the author. In their simplicity, they are not blinded by the false promises and pursuits of modernity, and are free to examine the very essence of life. Steinbeck finds the things that engage the paisanos: companionship, free living, and humanity, to be much more worthwhile pursuits than those dictated by 1920's American society, which were economics, status, and comfort. Steinbeck would be likely to sum those things up in two words: greed and pride. The closest to a modern person living in Tortilla Flat is Torrelli, and the majority does not like him.