what happened when the Indians attempted to market their pearls collectively
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Juan Tomas warns Kino and Juana to get the best price for the pearl, and tells him how their ancestors got an agent to sell their pearls, but this agent ran off with the pearls. Kino had heard the story told as a warning of punishment against those who try to leave their station.
From the text:
"Before you were born, Kino," he said, "the old ones thought of a way
to get more money for their pearls. They thought it would be better if
they had an agent who took all the pearls to the capital and sold them
there and kept only his share of the profit."
Kino nodded his head. "I know," he said. "It was a good thought."
"And so they got such a man," said Juan Tomas, "and they pooled the
pearls, and they started him off. And he was never heard of again and
the pearls were lost. Then they got another man, and they started him
off, and he was never heard of again. And so they gave the whole thing
up and went back to the old way."