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Myths and Legends from the State of San Luis Potosi: Don Pantaleon – A ‘Diablero’

DON PANTALEON – A ‘DIABLERO’

Folk story from El Sabino, in Santo Domingo, S.L.P.

Here in El Sabino, there was once a man named Pantaleon, who brought the skeleton of a dead bull back to life. This is a true story, I tell you, because I saw it all with my own eyes!

Don Pantaleon was well-known for his amazing tricks. One day, just for fun, looking at a dried-up, white heap of bones, he said, “Look, guys, I’m going to fight that old, dead bull!” Who knows what magic spells he uttered, or what magic dust he threw up into the air, but sure enough, the skeleton slowly stood up. Then, little by little, new red flesh began to cover the white bones and strong black hair began to grow over the flesh, and very soon the bull began to snort and to prance and dance about again! And don Pantaleon, true to his word, grabbed a red blanket and began to fight the bull!

We sometimes think that in the old days, people were much poorer and more ignorant than nowadays, but the truth is, they also had a lot of knowledge of things that have now been long forgotten. Don Pantaleon was, in fact, a ‘diablero’ and he knew how to do real magic.

People in the past were more aware of the supernatural; they could speak with the spirits. They learned all these things from the Indians that lived in these lands long before the Spanish conquerors arrived. The Huachichiles, Caxcanes, and Coyoteros used to observe all natural phenomena with great attention, and experimented with many hidden arts.

Much of this knowledge is now lost forever. For example, people say that the ‘diableros’ – a type of sorcerer or wizard, like don Pantaleon – even knew how to speak to all the spirits of nature, and how to make rain! But all of this has become just one more part of our great history…

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Written by Homero Adame and translated by Pat Grounds. Originally published in the English textbook Activate! 2. By Carol Lethaby, Homero Adame, and Pat Grounds. Ediciones Castillo, S.A. de C.V. Monterrey, Mexico. 2003. Pp. 180-181.

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Myths and legends from the State of Colima: The Ghost Train

THE GHOST TRAIN

Folk story from Manzanillo, Colima

We were all having a festive dinner at don Evaristo’s ranch, because the next day we planned to leave. It was already time for Easter vacations and Emily and I wanted to go to the Copper Canyon, in Chihuahua. So there we all were, chatting pleasantly to doña Almanda and don Evaristo about our vacation plans.

“Ah! So you’re going by train!” said don Evaristo, enthusiastically. “Hardly anybody travels by train in Mexico nowadays.”

“Why is that?” Emily asked.

“Well, times have changed,” don Evaristo replied. “Now people prefer to drive to places, to take a bus or even to fly. The passenger train is just about history now. But it so happens that I know a very nice folk story about a train,” he said.

“This story is common in many parts of the country. It’s even told in areas where there never was a railway, like in the municipality of Arista, in the state of San Luis Potosi,” don Evaristo began. “What’s more, this type of train story is by no means unique to Mexico, since the ‘ghost train’ is a neo-motif in the whole world; that is to say, a new motif in universal mythology. Trains were only invented early in the 19th century, you see, and only a few years later, people started telling tales that involved trains in different countries. Written by Homero Adame.

“Now, coming back specifically to Mexico, these ‘train tales’ are generally related to the days during and after the Revolution, when many trains were robbed and derailed. One good example took place in Linares, Nuevo Leon, when the train going to Monterrey, from Tampico, was really robbed in an isolated part of the state. Many different folk stories were born from that one event.

“Anyway, the story I’m about to tell you apparently occurred between Guadalajara and Manzanillo, in the state of Colima. And it’s not about a robbery. At least, I don’t think so. Written by Homero Adame.

“Legend has it that one night, the Picture taken by Homero Adametrain to Manzanillo left Guadalajara exactly on time. All the station staff and telegraph officers saw it depart. The train was not very full that night, but it was expected to stop in a number of places, including Ciudad Guzman, in Jalisco, and Colima City, before reaching its final destination. The telegraph officer in Guadalajara wired his colleagues with a smile, informing them that, for the first time in many moons, the train had actually left on time that evening!

“Early the next morning, the train full of passengers arrived, equally punctually, in the Port of Manzanillo. All the passengers got off the train, and at first sight, everything seemed quite normal. Except for one small detail: the train didn’t stop at a single station on the way. Not only that, nobody, but nobody at all saw the train at any point on its route! Written by Homero Adame.

“It was a complete mystery. Not one telegraph officer or station employee in places like Sayula, and Ciudad Guzman in Jalisco; or in Colima and Armeria, in Colima, saw the train that night. It didn’t make any of its scheduled, obligatory stops. On every platform, a stationmaster waited, assuming that the train had been delayed, even though they knew from the Guadalajara telegraph office that it had started its itinerary on time.

“But that is not all. Legend has it that the train left Guadalajara half empty, but when it arrived in Manzanillo, it was packed full of passengers! Where did all those passengers come from, if the train did not stop anywhere on the way?

“Well, the obvious thing to do was to ask the passengers, right? So, after a day or two, when speculation was at its highest point, a newspaper reporter interviewed some of the passengers. To his great confusion, everyone he spoke to said they could not remember a thing about the journey! They couldn’t even remember getting on the train, and certainly nothing about the trip! It had been so peaceful, people said, that they had slept all the way. They only knew that they were going to Manzanillo and to Manzanillo they arrived, right on time.”

“That’s a really strange story, don Evaristo,” said Emily. “But all the same, I hope that our ride to the Copper Canyon is not on a ‘ghost train’!” And we all laughed merrily in the candlelight… Folk story found at https://adameleyendas.wordpress.com/2010/11/02/myths-and-legends-from-the-state-of-colima-the-ghost-train/

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Written by Homero Adame and translated by Pat Grounds. Originally published in the English textbook Orbit 3. By Homero Adame, Pat Grounds and Carol Lethaby. Ediciones Castillo, S.A. de C.V. Monterrey, Mexico. 2000. Pp. 85-86.

.Book by Homero Adame

.This story has been published, in Spanish, in my book “Mitos y leyendas de todo México”, by Editorial Trillas.

The book is for sale in all Trillas’ bookshops, but it can also be ordered through their online store (just follow the link).

The direct link to the book is this one: Mitos y leyendas de todo México.

Myths and legends from the State of Hidalgo: The Turkey

THE TURKEY

Folk story from Alfajayucan, State of Hidalgo

Don Evaristo’s apparently endless repertoire of stories from all over Mexico never ceases to surprise us! In a single evening he can choose any topic, such as animals, saints, or witches, or whatever, and then go on to tell us stories about that topic, from numerous different states, for hours!

The other night, for example, Don Evaristo started telling us some terrifying stories about sorcery, witches and wizards. For some reason, my pocket cassette recorder, which usually records everything, didn’t record a single thing that night! Maybe it was afraid too! However, I do recall one particular story, from a place called Alfajayucan, in the State of Hidalgo. And this is more or less the way that Don Evaristo told it: https://adameleyendas.wordpress.com/2010/10/25/myths-and-legends-from-the-state-of-hidalgo-the-turkey/

“Now, we all know that there are many animals of the night, which some people believe really to be witches or sorcerers, who know how to take on the shape of an animal. This practice is called ‘nagualism’, and it is a fairly common motif in Mexican mythology.”

“Yes. There are similar beliefs among some of our American Indian tribes, too.” I said.

“Of course there are!” Don Evaristo replied. “Don’t forget that most elements of mythology are universal. That’s why stories with similar content are told all over the world in different cultures. Anyway, the typical animals occurring in ‘nagualism’ are coyotes, crows, and owls.” He continued.” In Mexican mythology, there’s also the turkey – the ‘guajolote’, as we call it here. In many parts of the country, you can hear tales of ‘guajolotes’ who are really men or women who practice the art of ‘nagualism’.” Tale written by Homero Adame.

“Can you give us an example, please?” Emily asked.

“Well… there’s one place in the State of Hidalgo, Alfajayucan, where many people say they have seen a huge, strange light in the dark. For example, they may be just walking across a field at night, when suddenly this enormous light shines out from nowhere. And, according to some beliefs, those lights are used to disorient the person, who immediately feels lost, even if he knows the path perfectly well. As a result of his confusion, he gets really lost and can often walk all night without finding his way home. However, there is a magical way to break the spell.

The person has to embrace a tree and stay there with his eyes closed for as long as he can. The light turns into a ‘guajolote’ and starts to hit its victim really hard with its wings. Shortly after this, the ‘bird’ will go away and the person will finally find his way home.” Legend written by Homero Adame.

“What happens if that person opens his eyes and sees the turkey?” I asked.

“Well, according to some legends, if he sees the ‘guajolote’, he will also see the real face of the sorcerer or witch, but the sad thing is, he will not live long enough to tell anyone about it!”

“Is that true?” Emily asked.

“That I cannot say.” Don Evaristo replied. “But legends are legends, and many people say they know of people who were found dead, embracing a tree, their bodies bruised by some inexplicable blows – the blows of the ‘guajolote’s’ wings, perhaps?” Folk story found at https://adameleyendas.wordpress.com/2010/10/25/myths-and-legends-from-the-state-of-hidalgo-the-turkey/

  • Written by Homero Adame and translated by Pat Grounds. Originally published in Activate! 2, by Carol Lethaby, Homero Adame and Pat Grounds. Ediciones Castillo, S.A. de C.V. Monterrey, Mexico. 2003. P. 134.

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