Representatives of the banana company that briefly takes over Macondo, these men head up the company's plunder, exploitation, and eventual massacre of 3,000 workers.
It's interesting that we are introduced to two men from the banana company. After all, there's no particular plot reason why the character who comes and first tastes the bananas has to be a different guy from the one who later runs the show on the plantation. So why have two gringos instead of just one?
Okay, Shmoop is about to get a little deep here, so bear with us. Perhaps these guys represent the bookends of the colonial/expansionist experience in Latin America as García Márquez sees it.
On the one hand, you've got polite Mr. Herbert, all smiles and praise for the local produce, promising nothing but blue skies and pockets full of money for the locals from the development of the plantation. His enthusiasm and the up-market cachet he brings are totally infectious.
But then comes the reality: Mr. Brown, with his total lack of concern for the local people. When workers demand better pay, Mr. Brown does the easiest, least moral thing: he simply has the army kill them all, packs up his stuff, and pretends like nothing ever happened.