El Viejo
El Viejo
Storyrocket Number


Intended Medium

Movie, Television



Registering Entity


Material Type


Funding Platform




Northwestern Mexico and Arizona

Recent Past

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Submited by: Terry L Craig (Rights holder)
Writer(s): Lou Seyler
1 Appreciations

El Viejo becomes the reluctant guide of seventeen campesinos who were evicted from their rancho in Northern Mexico and abandoned by a hired smuggler in the middle of Arizona's merciless Tule Desert. Based on an actual event, El Viejo is more than a tale of survival, it is the story of a man who finds himself at the center of a struggle to define character, compassion, and virtue for future generations.


Rancho Sierra Verde
Sonora, Mexico, 1993

In Mexico, remnants of vast, Spanish land-grant properties that predated the nation were known as ranchos. The ranchos developed their own self-sustained single-owner villages, aka rancherias, clusters of small casas and casitas built around the main hacienda. There, the trabajadores (workers) and their families lived from birth to death, and their lives revolved around the rancheria. Over the centuries, most of these properties were divided when they passed from generation to generation, and some grew into Latin America's towns and cities. Others in remote locations continued, and a few ranchos still exist today.

Tiko, or "el Viejo" as he is known to the residents at Rancho Sierra Verde, has made tiles for their roofs for over four decades. Sometimes, after a long day, he entertains the children of the rancho with stories. He tells of cowboys and Indians, merchants and miners, and of a crazed prospector who stands guard over his mysterious desert well.

"I was only twelve, then . . ." el Viejo, the storyteller begins, and the children fall silent; for, although they know the tale by heart, they never tire of hearing it. The story is crafted from his knowledge of the desert and memories of a journey with his father to trade with the Papago Indian tribe in Arizona.

But the old ways cannot withstand the pressure to yield to 20th-century life. As profits from the drug industry skyrocket, the cartels increase their choke-hold on the nation and "el patrón," the aging patriarch of Sierra Verde, must decide if he will sell out to a cartel, have his land forcibly taken by the government, or fight. Sierra Verde is a mere shadow of the grand rancho of the past, and Guillermo, el patrón's errant grandson, hates the low-tech, difficult life there, so members of a cartel promise to set him up with their contacts across the border.

A series of tragic events forces the loss of the rancho that existed for hundreds of years and many of the trabajadores have no idea how they will eke out a living elsewhere. While they have no love of the el patrón's grandson, Guillermo, a few are willing to risk everything to get across the border and seek a better life for their families. A "coyote" (smuggler) will take Guillermo across, and as many as twenty others. El Viejo isn't planning to go until the wife of el patrón makes one last request of him: Since he is the only one who has made the trip before, will he accompany the ones who are determined to go? So, sixty years after his boyhood journey, el Viejo becomes the reluctant shepherd in an arduous trek to el Norte.

When the smuggler takes their belongings and water and abandons the group in the Tule Desert, all but one of the able-bodied men reject el Viejo’s advice; opting instead to join the rebellious Guillermo's suicidal march to reach civilization.

El Viejo is left to lead the faltering remnant of parched stragglers through an inferno of shifting landscape, guided by the stars and a childhood memory. Can he find the secret well of a mysterious prospector from the 1940s? Or, is his tale of von Seiger's well only a leyenda?—a legend he has repeated so many times that he has come to believe it himself?


Once a hotshot reporter, Morgan Bass, is now the morning man at KHOT, Nogales Arizona's most popular radio station. Twenty-odd years of excessive drinking have lubricated his slide from prominence to the lowest rung on the ladder, a nothing job in an end-of-the-world town. So, he often dreams of a story that would catapult him back to the top. When a woman requests that he use his radio show to help her find her son who may be lost in the desert with a group from Rancho Sierra Verde, his instinct tells him this may be the beginning of a much larger tale.


Border Patrol pilot Roy Cole is determined to do his job, but like others, he's risked his life more than once to find and rescue victims of heartless coyotes who offer to take undocumented immigrants across the border for a high price, then leave them to die. Cole fears the migrants have wandered onto the Barry Goldwater Air Force Firing Range—an area in regular use for target practice—in the middle of the most desolate region in the Tule Desert (a wasteland larger than some eastern states). Driven by compassion, he continues to look—even when the search is officially called off.

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Cast Wish-List
  • Edward James Olmos
    Edward James Olmos as Tiko, known as "el Viejo" and the old storyteller
    Male 0 Years old
  • Morgan Bass
    Male 0 Years old
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