Un blog de mitos, leyendas, costumbres y tradiciones mexicanas

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Myths and legends from Sonora: The Devil Does a Good Deed

THE DEVIL DOES A GOOD DEED

Folk story from the State of Sonora

One evening, while having dinner with don Evaristo and doña Almanda, I asked our guest if he knew any stories from the state of Sonora. “You see, Emily and I are planning to drive to Sonora for the holidays,” I said.

“Now, let me think,” don Evaristo said and thought for a while. “Ah, yes. I’ve just thought of a good one. ‘The Devil Does a Good Deed’, it’s called.”

“The Devil.” said Emily, “Are you going to frighten us?”

“Not quite. This story is about an old lady named Eulogia, who lived all alone on a small ranch, in a forgotten corner in the middle of the Sonora desert. Eulogia had very few visitors. Maybe once or twice a year, a muleteer would take a wrong turning and come across the ranch by accident. And these chance visits were the only times Eulogia received any news from the outside world.” Don Evaristo began.

“Her husband had been a member of an infamous gang of bandits, feared throughout the territory. After one particularly dangerous raid against federal troops, the leader of the gang presented Eulogia’s husband with a dramatic painting of a devil. This was his way of thanking Eulogia’s husband for saving his life during the bitter encounter. Though he was not at all happy about the subject of the painting, Eulogia’s husband could not, of course, refuse a gift from his leader and friend. That day, when he arrived home, he placed the picture behind a door, and there it stayed. Even after his death, the picture stayed there; being one of the few things he left his solitary wife to remember him by.

“Now, when our story begins, Eulogia was still in good health, though advanced in years. She still kept her own house and did her own housework, and, whenever she went through the door on which the strange painting hung, she used to say, ‘Poor thing! You never see the face of God, do you?’ Then she would take a cloth and gently sweep off the dust from the painting. This daily ritual repeated itself, day after day and year after year. After her husband’s death, she even moved the painting closer to her room, so she would not forget to dust it off.

“All flesh is weak, and so it happened that, strong as she was, one day Eulogia fell ill. Now very old indeed and all alone in the desert, she made up her herbal remedies and tried to take care of herself the best she could. But it was all to no avail. As each day passed, she grew weaker and weaker, until finally, she just lay motionless on bed, unable to move a finger. Homero Adame’s folk stories.

“When the devil in the painting saw her sad condition, he materialized, came out of the picture and approached Eulogia’s bed. She knew very well that death was near. ‘Good-bye, old friend,’ she said to the devil. When the devil heard this, he rushed out of the house as fast as he could and ran and ran down the lonely desert road towards the nearest town.

“Once in town, he rushed inside the first church he came to. When the priest saw the devil, he recoiled in horror. ‘What do you want of me?’ he demanded, in a rage. ‘I just want you to come with me and give the last rites to someone who is dying,’ replied the devil. Homero Adame’s folk stories.

“The priest found very hard to believe the devil’s words, but the idea of saving a poor soul seemed more important to him than any devil’s trickery. So, he agreed to go with the devil, but not without carefully packing a holy cross, holy water, incense and all the materials he needed for the sacrament.

“Priest and devil together hitched the horses to a carriage and hurried off back to Eulogia’s ranch. When they arrived, they found the old lady smiling tranquilly. ‘I’ve just seen a beautiful lady dressed all in white,’ she whispered. ‘She was coming down a long tunnel to meet me and little children with wings were flying all around her.’ Leyenda sonorense en un blog de Homero Adame.

“The priest then gave the old lady confession, and soon after, Eulogia passed away peacefully, and well accompanied.

“Moments later, the priest asked the devil to leave, but first he remembered to thank him for his good deed. Before they parted, the holy man said to the devil, ‘Tell me, what made you want to save a soul? Why on earth did you do a good deed? Is this a devil’s work?’

‘Well, you know, that woman was extraordinarily kind to me. She even saved me from my prison in the picture! Besides, I already have her husband’s soul,’ the devil smiled and vanished. The priest, for his part, went back to the town and to all his priestly duties.

“When the authorities and gravediggers came to bury the old lady, they found a strange painting beside her. A painting of a silhouette – the outline of a figure, where the devil’s form had once been…”

“How strange, that the devil should do such a kind thing!” Emily exclaimed. “I can’t believe it.”

“Neither can I, but who knows? Maybe even bad spirits can do good deeds, from time to time.” Don Evaristo laughed. “And it’s only a story, Emily!”

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Folk story 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. 206-207.

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Myths and legends from Nuevo Leon: The sword

THE SWORD

Folk story originally heard near Galeana, N.L.

One Friday evening, we arrived at don Evaristo’s ranch. He and doña Almanda welcomed us warmly. Don Evaristo had a pile of dusty old books on the floor. When I asked him about those books, he said he was going through them because he wanted to compare the major elements of his latest story with the Arthurian Cycle from European Medieval Mythology.

“What new story?” Emily asked.

“It’s about Excalibur, the mythical sword of King Arthur.”

“We know that story,” Emily and I said.

“Ah, that makes it easier for me, then! I will only have to tell you the Mexican version!” don Evaristo said, his eyes shining. “A friend of mine just told me this version. It’s amazing to find exactly the same motifs of the stone and the sword. It’s not such a common combination universal mythology, you know!”

“We’re all ears!” I said.

“Well, my friend recently went to a town called Galeana, in the south of Nuevo Leon, to buy some furniture. He chatted to the carpenter about this and that, and then the carpenter started to tell him about a magical sword, stuck fast in a stone, not far from Galeana. ‘It’s not far from here,’ said the carpenter. ‘Would you like to go and see it?’ And my friend replied: ‘Could we go right away? I have to leave again tonight.’

“So off they went, in search of that magical sword. After about an hour’s walk through thick woods and undergrowth, they saw a yucca tree and a mezquite tree, in a little clearing. And between these two trees, stuck up to the hilt in a large rock, was the mysterious sword. It was an old Spanish sword, now all rusty with age.

“The story goes that the sword did, in fact, belong to a Spaniard, way back in the times of the Spanish conquest. No one knows exactly how it came to be stuck in that rock, but nobody has ever been able to remove it, even though people have tried every possible way, with no luck. This seems to be because only a person who has divine powers and wisdom will ever be capable of removing it. When and if anyone ever does remove the sword, that person will become the master or mistress of the whole region!

“So, what do you think?” don Evaristo asked, still excited. “Isn’t it a wonderful story, rather similar to the story of King Arthur’s Excalibur and the founding of the city of Camelot?”

Though short, it was indeed quite similar to the legend of good King Arthur of ancient Britain, who pulled Excalibur out of a stone and then went on to unite the country and build the marvelous city of Camelot…

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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. 126-127.

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You can find more Mexican myths and legends on this link: Mexican folk stories.

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Myths and legends from Michoacan: The Beautiful Lady of the Zacapu Lagoon

THE BEAUTIFUL LADY OF THE ZACAPU LAGOON

(Folk story from Zacapu, Michoacan)

This story comes from Zacapu, Michoacan. The tale is important because it comes from Prehispanic times and it says that the lagoon of Zacapu, once large and glorious, was long ago witness to a dramatic romance. It is said that during the reign of Purembe, there lived a young lady, as beautiful as the morning dew, as bright and pure as the moon, and very much in love with a prince from another Purepecha tribe. The prince would visit the lady at the lakeside every afternoon, and they spent some very happy moments there, always waiting to watch the glorious red sunsets together.

But it seems that happiness cannot last forever, and one sad day, the prince had to go away on official duty. The weeks turned into months, and the Lady of Zacapu received no news from her beloved. Disobeying her mother’s advice, the brave girl impulsively decided to go and look for the prince. She first went to the lagoon, kissed the Uringuarapexo pyramid goodbye, and then took a canoe and sailed away across the water. But her fate, or maybe her lack of experience in the art of canoeing, led to a tragic accident, and the beautiful young woman drowned; the waters of the lagoon closed over her sweet body forever.

When the young prince Picture taken by Homero Adamefinally heard of his dearest love’s demise, he never came back to Zacapu again. He could not bear the pain of going there, now his beloved was dead. Tale written by Homero Adame.

But this is not quite the end of the story. Legend has it that even today, the spirit of the Lady of the Lagoon still appears at midnight, ever looking for her prince. She emerges from the lake and walks through the streets, all the way to the town centre. Whenever she sees a young man, she asks him to follow her to the lagoon. But the old people say that those who follow her never return. And the young women are afraid she may steal their sweethearts, too. Purepecha folk story found in Homero Adame’s blog at: https://adameleyendas.wordpress.com/2010/11/27/myths-and-legends-from-michoacan-the-beautiful-lady-of-the-zacapu-lagoon/

Written by Homero Adame and taken from the English textbook Activate! 2, by Carol Lethaby, Homero Adame, and Pat Grounds. Ediciones Castillo, S.A. de C.V. Monterrey, Mexico. 2003. P. 166.

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You can find more Mexican myths and legends on this link:

También puedes leer más leyendas indígenas en este enlace:

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Myths and legends of animals: John the Bear

JOHN THE BEAR

(Mexican folk story from the Sierra Madre Oriental)

One day, when we were at Don Evaristo’s ranch, we all rode up to the hills on horseback to look for some missing cattle. We spent a whole night in the woods. It was the perfect place to listen to stories, sitting under a starlit sky, eating wild rabbit, roasted slowly over our campfire…

Suddenly, we heard a strange noise. Emily and I immediately reacted and jumped to our feet, but Don Evaristo and the cowboys didn’t seem to pay any attention to the sounds. “I guess it’s a bear,” one of the cowboys commented, quite calmly.

“Yes, it’s a bear,” Don Evaristo replied, “and it’s a pretty big one.”

Emily and I felt really nervous. We have heard hundreds of terrifying stories about dangerous bears and innocent tourists. But Don Evaristo calmed us down, saying the bear would never come near the fire. Sure enough, almost immediately we heard the bear going off into the forest, probably more afraid than we were! Our host was thoughtful for a moment. Then his eyes shone as he remembered a new tale to tell. Folk tale written by Homero Adame.

“Ah, thank you for reminding me, Brother Bear,” he laughed. “It is time to tell the tale of John the Bear, or Juan Oso. It’s one of the most common tales from the Mexican mountains, and it seems that it came to these lands with the Spanish conquest, for the same story is also told in Spain and other parts of Europe.

“Not long ago, there was a rumor that a very big bear was wandering around near a small country town by the foothills somewhere in the State of Nuevo Leon. Very few people saw it. Those who did thought it was very strange, because it was not a time of famine, the rains had been good, and there was plenty of food for all the wild animals up in the mountains. ‘What is the bear doing around here?’ they wondered. Of course, they were a little scared at first. But as the days went by, and the bear showed no form of aggression, they gradually lost interest in it, and went about their business as usual. Folk tale written by Homero Adame.

“One afternoon, however, a rumor that a young girl was missing immediately created a state of alert. ‘Who has kidnapped the girl?’ ‘Where have they taken her?’ ‘Has anyone asked for any money?’ Nobody could give an answer. Finally, the girl’s little brothers, crying desperately, managed to explain: ‘A big bear came and took our sister off to the mountains!’ They cried. Someone saw her going down to the river to do the washing. The boys saw the bear. Later on, when the men searched along the river bank, sure enough, they found the double footprints of a bear and a girl, and a solitary basket full of dirty clothes, still waiting for someone to wash them… The children were telling the truth, it seemed.

“An angry crowd of people noisily followed the footprints well into the mountains, but they found nothing. Not a trace! The trails became hard to follow, and after a couple of river crossings, they finally lost track of the footprints completely.

“Time passed, and after about three years, the sad event became just a vague memory for most of the village. Just imagine everyone’s surprise when one afternoon, a pretty, young woman appeared in town with a baby in her arms. Picutre by Homero AdameOf course, it was the same girl, a little older and perhaps wiser, too. The neighbors hurried round to hear her story. She said the great bear captured her and took her to his cave, far off in the mountains. He took very good care of her and fed her well. Although he was very kind to her, she was always afraid of him. What she really hated, was being his prisoner, a helpless captive in the dark, smoky cave. Early in the mornings, the bear used to go out hunting, but whenever he left, he always closed the cave entrance with a very large, heavy rock. There was no escape.

“A few months later, the bear and the girl had a healthy baby boy. The girl loved the baby more each day. But then, so did the bear. One fine day, when the bear went off to hunt, for some reason he forgot to block the entrance to the cave. Maybe he trusted his young ‘wife’ at last. Nevertheless, she seized the opportunity at once and escaped back to her town, taking her darling little baby with her, of course.

“It seemed like a real happy ending. The big bear was never seen in the area again, though some hunters said they often heard a bear crying alone in the mountains at night. The baby grew tall and strong, though a little more hairy than the other village boys. No one knows why, but one day, many years later, when he was a man, Juan Oso disappeared. People say he decided to go back to his real home, high up in the mountains. But nobody can tell if he ever found his loving father — the great bear — still crying for his wife and son in his dark and smoky cave…” Folk story found in Homero Adame’s blog at https://adameleyendas.wordpress.com/2010/11/19/myths-and-legends-of-animals-john-the-bear/

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. 67-68.

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You can find more Mexican myths and legends on this link: Mexican folk stories.

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Myths and legends from Sinaloa: The Seven Golden Cities of Cibola

THE SEVEN GOLDEN CITIES OF CIBOLA

Folk story from the State of Sinaloa

One evening I was having dinner with some friends in Choix, Sinaloa –don Evaristo started saying–, when one of them mentioned the Seven Golden Cities of Cibola. She said they lay somewhere in the mountains that divide Sinaloa and Sonora. Then somebody, Ruperto was his name, said he had actually seen those cities when he was a child. And this is what Ruperto told us that night:

“When I was a child, I used to help my father with the sheep and sometimes he took me with him on trips to buy supplies. One day we traveled up to El Fuerte in the farm cart, did some business in town, and then went on horseback all the way to Alamos. Somewhere between Las Cañadas and Cerro Colorado, we met an old friend of my father’s, quite by chance. He was from Los Mochis and he was working with some miners and had two local Indian guides! They invited us to spend the night at their camp. The men told us they were looking for the seven lost cities of Cibola. We were very excited when the miners invited us to join their expedition.

“Early the next morning, long before sunrise, we walked and walked in the dark until we came to a line of low hills. Suddenly, the Indian guides stopped and said we must wait for the sunrise. And, as the sun’s first rays fell on those enigmatic hills, we saw the dazzling beauty of a city of pure gold!

“Some of the miners could not control their curiosity and ran straight towards the place! My father’s friend from Los Mochis was one of them! Strangely enough, the Indians didn’t take a single step in the direction of the golden domes and we, affected by their silence and immobility, stayed just as motionless beside them.

“And thank heaven we did! Just a few minutes later, we watched the golden city fade away, leaving nothing but a line of low hills in its place. We never saw my father’s friend or any of the other men again. They vanished from the face of the earth forever!”

“That’s a wonderful story, don Evaristo!” I said. “I’ve heard of similar phenomena in the Sahara Desert.”

“Yes, indeed,” don Evaristo responded. “Disappearing cities are common motifs in universal mythology. I once read something similar in a book about myths and legends from the state of Nuevo Leon; a story called El pueblo festivo”.

“So what happened to all those men who disappeared?” Emily asked.

“Well, who knows?” Don Evaristo answered. “But the usual thing, according to mythological conventions, is that they can come back at some special magical date, when the place opens up once again. Once every hundred years, for example.”

“It’s a fantastic story. A bit hard to believe, though,” I said.

“You’re right. But it’s a folk tale, after all. However, never forget that myths and legends are based on some kind of essential truth or reality. Look at the ancient stories of Troy, or King Arthur,” don Evaristo explained. “But sometimes our minds can only believe in what our eyes see. Videre est credere – as they say in Latin! Nevertheless, maybe it’s possible that Ruperto and his father did see something that existed in another dimension; something that those Indian guides knew about; something similar to what Cabeza de Vaca probably saw, more than 450 years ago.” Folk story found in Homero Adame’s blog at: https://adameleyendas.wordpress.com/2010/11/18/myths-and-legends-from-sinaloa-the-seven-golden-cities-of-cibola/

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. 99-100.

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You can find more Mexican myths and legends on this link:

También puedes leer más leyendas indígenas en este otro enlace:

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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You can find more Mexican myths and legends on this link:

También puedes leer más leyendas indígenas en este otro enlace:

Myths and legends from the State of Mexico: The Mermaid of the Volcano

THE MERMAID OF THE VOLCANO

Folk story from the State of Mexico

One evening, Don Evaristo was telling Emily and me some new stories from different parts of Mexico about fabulous animals. Doña Almanda suddenly suggested: “Evaristo, tell our friends that beautiful but sad story about the mermaid.”

“Which one?” He wondered.

“You know. The one we heard when we went to see the ‘Nevado de Toluca’.” She explained. Tale written by Homero Adame.

“Ah, yes! A beautiful, but very sad story!” He said, and was very quiet for a long minute. “Near Toluca, in the State of Mexico, there is a beautiful volcano called ‘The ‘Nevado de Toluca’, because it always has snow on top,” he began. “At the top, in the crater, there is a lake. People say that a mermaid now lives there. She was once a quite normal young girl, but one day, she walked up the volcano with her father, who wanted to get some snow. While he was collecting the snow, the girl suddenly decided to go for a swim in the lake. Suddenly, as she was washing her hair, she felt something pulling her down, down, down, deep into the impenetrable black waters of the icy cold lake.

Shortly after, her worried father started to look for her, but of course, he could not find his beloved daughter anywhere. He became more and more anxious. Then, all at once, he heard his daughter’s sweet, clear voice, saying: ‘Dearest Daddy, please don’t look for me any more. I am safe, but I am under a spell, and it is my destiny to stay here in the lake, forever. I can never leave the lake again, because my body is now half human and half fish. I am a mermaid. A mermaid who lives at the top of a mountain…’ The man searched and searched until he fainted from exhaustion, not wanting to believe his ears. But he never, ever saw his child again.”

“Oh no, that’s very sad!” Emily exclaimed.

Don Evaristo, why did she turn into a mermaid?” I asked.

“Hmmm. That’s a good question.” He said. “Nobody can really tell why, but I assume the spirit of the lake decided to take her at once, because she was a beautiful, fresh young girl, with a pure soul, who would bring him great joy…”

“So the father never saw her again. But has anyone else ever seen her?” I asked.

“Apparently they have.” He said. “The story became a legend when, quite frequently, people began to swear they had seen a mermaid, at the top of the volcano…” Folk story found in Homer Adame’s blog at: https://adameleyendas.wordpress.com/2010/11/06/myths-and-legends-from-the-state-of-mexico-the-mermaid-of-the-volcano/

Written by Homero Adame and taken from the English textbook Activate! 2. By Carol Lethaby, Homero Adame and Pat Grounds. Ediciones Castillo, S.A. de C.V. Monterrey, Mexico. 2003. P. 100.

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You can find more Mexican myths and legends on this link: Mexican folk stories.

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Myths and legends from the State of Morelos: The virgin that decided to leave home

THE VIRGIN THAT DECIDED TO LEAVE HOME

(Legend from Tlayacapan, Morelos)

Traveling in Mexico is wonderful. We like going to new places whenever the opportunity arises. One day, Emily and I decided to go down to Mexico City. We spent ten days there, and visited the pyramids in Teotihuacan, the city of Puebla, the charming mining town of Taxco and also a small town called Tepoztlan in the state of Morelos. That is a great place to visit! There’s so much tradition and there are lots of things to do. We even climbed a pyramid on top of a mountain!

Next time we visited our dear friend don Evaristo, we told him all about our trip and Emily showed him and doña Almanda some wonderful photos she took. Don Evaristo was really interested in the pictures of Tepoztlan.

“I’ve never been to Tepoztlan,” he said. “Even though we’re getting too old now for real traveling, next time we visit our son in Mexico City, we plan to get down to Tepoztlan.” Legend written by Homero Adame.

Doña Almanda went to get the lunch and we sat in the garden, chatting with don Evaristo, as usual. “Did you go to Tlayacapan?” he asked.

“No, we didn’t. Where’s that?” we wondered.

“It’s a little town in Morelos, very near Tepoztlan. And there’s a beautiful convent where there is a statue called ‘The Virgin of the Transit’,” he said, “and there’s a tale attached to Virgin of the Transit, a fine Colonial story. Legend has it that one day she decided to leave her original home in Tepoztlan, and went to find a new home in another town.” Legend written by Homero Adame.

“We’re all ears!,” Emily exclaimed.

“Well, it is said that this Virgin of the Transit was the patroness of Tepoztlan,” don Evaristo began, “and one day the Tepoztecos took her to Tlayacapan. The statue was in bad shape and there was a man from Tlayacapan who knew how to restore these Colonial figures. The statue was soon as good as new and the Tepoztecos started out on their journey to take it back home, but they were caught on the road at nightfall and had to sleep out under the stars. Imagine their consternation when they woke up the next morning and found that the image was gone! Vanished into thin air! They suspected that the inhabitants of Tlayacapan, envious of such a beautiful image, stole the figure while they were all asleep.

“So, they went straight back to Tlayacapan and… there was the statue! They were furious, and threatened their neighbors with war if they tried to steal the image of their beloved Virgin again. The Tlayacapanese were speechless! They could not explain the return of the figure!

“So the Tepoztecos set off again to take the image home to Tepoztlan. It was quite a long journey, so of course, they had to camp in the mountains again. This time, however, they decided to leave someone on guard all night. But in the morning, they found the figure was gone again! And the guard could not explain how it disappeared!

“The now extremely angry Tepoztecos saw some little footprints and decided to follow them. And, of course, the trail led straight back to…Tlayacapan! From the fresh tracks around the pool on Tlatoani hill, it appeared that the ‘Virgin’ had recently stopped to have a drink of water there…

“Their anger melted into incredulity at the discovery, since they realized that no one had stolen the statue at all! It walked back to Tlayacapan on its own two feet! This time, they were not in the least surprised to find the ‘Virgin’ back in the convent again! And there she is, to this very day!”

“What a sweet story, don Evaristo!” Emily said.

“Yes, isn’t it? And, since the conquest, similar legends of virgins or saints deciding to stay in a certain place, with slight regional variations, have become common all over Mexico,” don Evaristo explained.

“What happened in the end?” I asked. “Was there a war between the two villages?”

“No, not at all! From that day on, the people from Tepoztlan go on special pilgrimages to Tlayacapan, to honor their own patroness!” Legend found at https://adameleyendas.wordpress.com/2010/11/06/myths-and-legends-from-the-state-of-morelos-the-virgin-that-decided-to-leave-home/

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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. 112-113.

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You can find more Mexican myths and legends on this link: Mexican folk stories.

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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 Tamaulipas: The Deer

THE DEER

Folk story from San Carlos Mountains, in Tamaulipas

One afternoon, Emily and I went off horseback riding near the ranch while Don Evaristo was dealing with some other visitors. Suddenly, without warning, we were surprised by a magnificent deer, standing right in the middle of the path in front of us! We stopped in our tracks, and he didn’t move a muscle! Slowly and deliberately, we moved our horses closer and closer to the deer, but apparently neither the horses nor the deer felt at all nervous. Our animals were almost touching noses with the deer, when it finally reacted, and trotted off into the bushes. Emily even managed to get some photos!

Later that evening, during supper, we told don Evaristo about our encounter with such a magnificent animal. He was all ears. At the end of our tale, doña Almanda said: “I bet it was El Viejo.” Legend written by Homero Adame.

El Viejo? Who’s that?” we asked.

“Oh, it’s a very old deer that’s been around for many years. We see him from time to time, and he’s never afraid of anyone.” She answered. “Evaristo, tell them the story about the magical deer. Remember?” She suggested to her husband.

“Yes, of course. It’s a very nice story, and we always like to make a connection between this tale and our dear viejo, here on the ranch! You will remember that in universal mythology the deer is an extremely beneficent animal, by all accounts.

“Now, in the woods and mountains all over Mexico and Central America, you can hear similar stories about a poor hunter who makes the spirit of the woods angry, because he has shot and wounded too many animals. Of course, the story varies, according to the area or the type of landscape, and in many cases the spirit locks the hunter in a cave and won’t let him out until he has cured all the poor animals. I’ve heard this story in the mountains of Puebla and Oaxaca, but this version comes from the Sierra de San Carlos, in the state of Tamaulipas.” Don Evaristo explained.

“Not so many moons ago, there was a young man who used to go hunting every single afternoon. There was never a day when he didn’t return home with a rabbit, an ocelot, a coyote, a boar or something that used to run on four legs in the forest. He would shoot any animal that crossed his path in the woods. Much more than he could ever eat. But his favorite game of all were the deer. He was a good hunter, but, one day, the hunter himself became the prey!

“This is what happened: one afternoon, the weather was too bad to hunt. Early the next morning, however, he took his rifle and set off for the mountains, where he found a trail that led him deep into a canyon. He crossed the river several times. Always alert — like the good hunter he was —, he suddenly heard something moving close at hand, and then he saw it. It was the biggest deer he had ever seen in his life! Folk story written by Homero Adame.

“Very quietly and carefully he lifted his rifle and… bang! He shot at the deer. But the deer did not fall to the ground. By no means! Instead, it walked a few paces towards the hunter! The hunter shot again! And again! And he knew for sure he had hit the animal three times! But that brave deer just moved slowly but surely, closer and closer to the hunter! When the deer and the hunter were only about one meter apart, the animal jumped up, leaped over the hunter’s head and disappeared into thin air! The hunter was so scared that he gave up hunting that very moment and never shot another animal again. He realized in a flash that the guardian spirit of the mountains was warning him to stop hunting animals, or face the consequences.”

“What a beautiful story,” Emily said. “And I agree with the moral: the hunter became greedy, and killed many more animals than he needed for food. When his hunting became an obsession, it became a vice, instead of a natural means of subsistence!”

“Why do you say that the deer we saw, el viejo, is related to the story?” I asked don Evaristo.

“Well, it’s just that we have never ever seen such an old deer anywhere else! And there are so many hunters around. But not one of those hunters has ever managed to shoot our dear viejo. But we’re sure he can sense when people are just out in the woods in search of natural beauty and peace of mind, like you two, this afternoon. He has come up to us too, so many times… Story found at: https://adameleyendas.wordpress.com/2010/11/01/myths-and-legends-from-tamaulipas-the-deer/

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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. 192-193.

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You can find more Mexican myths and legends on this link: Mexican folk stories.

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Myths and legends from San Luis Potosi: Saint Francis of Assisi

SAINT FRANCIS AND THE “FONDERAS”

(Legend from Real de Catorce, S.L.P.)

Many years ago, when Real de Catorce was still a very rich mining town, a procession of women used to arrive through the tunnel every morning, with donkeys carrying baskets full of home-made food and churns of milk to sell to the miners.

Picture by Homero AdameAll the way from Puerto de los Aguadores Gate, to the Cemetery Gate, there were fondas, tiny little restaurants, where you could buy home-made food. The keepers of these places were all women, and we used to call them fonderas.

One of these fonderas was an old woman, called Jezabela, whose fonda was in a tiny, dark room, near the cemetery. Jezabela was a strange old thing. She never said a word to anybody, so nobody ever spoke to her, either! Not even to say, ‘Good morning!’

In those days, the statue of Saint Panchito still had a special place in the cemetery church, just down the road from the fondas. Whenever the fonderas were cooking, Panchito would climb down from his niche in the church, and go to check that the fonderas were doing a good job.

As time went by, old Jezabela got angrier and angrier with the ‘stranger’, who would always stand and watch her while she was working. One day, she just couldn’t stand it any longer. When the ‘stranger’ arrived, Jezabela was stirring a pot of boiling hot mole. She stopped working and shouted something very rude at him. Then, when he came in the door, she took a spoonful of hot mole and threw it straight at him! The steaming liquid landed on his bare hand!

Photo by Homero AdamePanchito didn’t move an eyelash. He just asked Jezabela, very kindly, to kiss his hand. But she had no intention at all of doing that! “You just get out of here, you dirty old rat!”, she screamed. So Saint Francis turned round and started to walk away. But just as he was going out of the door, Jezebela threw another great spoonful of boiling hot sauce at him, and this time it splashed him all over his back!

So, this is why the statue of Saint Francis of Assisi in the church of Real de Catorce is burnt on the back of his hand and all over his back, too – because of the mole and the hot chili sauce that the horrible old fondera splashed him with!

People hated Jezebela even more after that, and legend has it that, that same evening, after hearing what had happened, her own husband, Jacinto, took out his great old machete and killed her, stone dead – and all because she had terribly offended Saint Francis. Everybody really respects Panchito here in Real, you see…

.Libro de Homero AdameThis legend was narrated by the late “Doña Carlitos”, who lived in Real de Catorce, and published in the book Mitos y leyendas del Altiplano potosino. Editorial Ponciano Arriaga. San Luis Potosi. 2004. (This book was selected by the Programa Libros del Rincón para las Bibliotecas de Aula y Escolares 2007-2008, for its collection “Espejo de Urania”.)

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You can find more Mexican myths and legends in another blog: Mexican folk stories.

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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.

If you wish to read more Mexican legends, just follow this link, surf and enjoy!

Myths and legends from San Luis Potosi: The ahuichote

THE AHUICHOTE

Folk story heard in Las Carboneras, Matehuala, San Luis Potosi

A long time ago, I was doing some work in the highlands, in the Altiplano Potosino, and of course I took great interest in the local myths and legends. Every evening I spent time talking to the local people and hearing their stories. It was very surprising to learn about an ahuichote ― a sort of animal spirit that announces death. In the Aztec folklore there’s a mythological animal called “ahuizotl”, but its description and its purpose has nothing to do with the ahuichote (also referred as “ahuizote”, “agüichote “or “güichote”) I found in the Altiplano. In the end I concluded that this spirit was “new” to universal mythology, and should be included.

Anyway, I heard different stories of this ahuichote, and all of them spoke of how such spirit was the messenger of Death. One night, while drinking hot chocolate by the fire place, and old lady told me: “Years ago, for several days we heard a strange howl and we knew something bad was going to happen. A couple of days later we learned that Chencho died in Monterrey. His corpse arrived at midnight and we all went to his poor house to veil him. All the time we were veiling Chencho, we kept hearing a strange noise. It was like a cry of a coyote, but not quite the same. It was an inhuman howl; not from this world. We could hear it, and we all knew what it was. Yes, it was the howl of the ahuichote itself, because he was saying that there was a dead person in the village. And that dead person was Chencho, who was from this village but living in Monterrey. The ahuichote cried all night. Legend written by Homero Adame.

“Next morning, after the service offered by a priest from Matehuala, we all went to the cemetery for Chencho’s funeral. And the frightening howl of the ahuichote was harder and sadder than ever. When the grave was covered with soil, the howling stopped. We didn’t hear the ahuichote again that day, and not for many days.

Here we all know that when the ahuichote howls, somebody is going to die”. Homero Adame’s folk story found at: https://adameleyendas.wordpress.com/2010/10/22/myths-and-legends-from-san-luis-potosi-el-ahuichote/

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You can find more Mexican myths and legends on this link: Mexican folk stories.

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Myths and legends from the State of Tamaulipas: The Snake

THE SNAKE

Folk story from Padilla, Tamaulipas

One cool evening, we were sitting on the porch at don Evaristo’s in the moonlight. We had been talking about Quetzalcoatl, the ‘Plumed Serpent,’ the Mayan counterpart, Kukulkan, and the very similar figure of Viracocha, among the Incas. After a long, pensive silence, don Evaristo said:

“Yes, the snake has traditionally been a very strong motif in most cultures of the world. It’s a symbol of wisdom, but at the same time, it’s often also a symbol of death or trickery.”

“Do you know any modern stories about snakes?”, asked Emily.

“Oh, sure! Here’s one from the state of Tamaulipas – from the reservoir that swallowed up the town of Padilla. Padilla, incidentally, was once a prosperous city, which played an important role in Mexico’s imperial past. At the time, Padilla was the capital of Tamaulipas, believe it or not! Folk tale written by Homero Adame.

“On July 19th, 1824, Agustin de Iturbide, ex-president and emperor of Mexico, was executed there, by a Federal Government firing squad. It was, in fact, just after Iturbide’s return from exile. Then, 171 years later, this town wrote its last page in history: it disappeared under the waters of the Vicente Guerrero reservoir. Nowadays, when the reservoir waters are at their lowest point, you can just see the remains of Padilla – a ghost town, no more than the ruins of the former church and the schoolhouse. Nothing else is left of its illustrious past.

“Anyway, back to the snake story – a fisherman who works on the Vicente Guerrero reservoir said to me one day:

‘You know what, Evaristo, all those things they say about the snake in the middle of the reservoir are true! I’ve seen it with my own eyes!

‘One weekend, we all went out fishing as usual, and we were taking the boat out to the middle of the reservoir because that’s where the biggest fish are. So, there we were, cruising gently along, when one of my friends said: “Look! Over there! There’s a rattlesnake in the water!” Now, that was a very strange sight to see, because any child knows that rattlesnakes only live on land, right?

‘But we hadn’t seen anything yet! We stopped the engine, to stare at the snake, and imagine our surprise! Before our very eyes, the snake rose up in the water, up and up till it was standing up, as straight as a rod, on its tail! We were all struck dumb with amazement! Then the snake bent its head back down towards the water, dived in, and disappeared from sight! We just didn’t know what to think! If anyone else had told me the same story, I would have thought he was inventing it. But I swear to you, I saw the whole thing with my own eyes, and it’s as true as I am standing here today!

‘None of us could stop talking about that rattlesnake, not that day, nor for many days to come. Most people thought it was just a typical fisherman’s tale, and that we were making it all up, but then another fisherman confessed that he had once seen the snake too. It was in the very same spot, and he saw it standing up on its rattle, too!’ Folk story from Padilla, Tamaulipas.

“And that was it!” said don Evaristo. “To be honest, I don’t know what to think, either. There are many tales of sticks and staffs turning into snakes, but I have never heard of a real, live rattlesnake standing up on its rattle before! And even less, in the middle of a lake!” Folk story found in Homero Adame’s blog at: https://adameleyendas.wordpress.com/2010/10/18/myths-and-legends-from-the-state-of-tamaulipas-the-snake/

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. 178-179.

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You can find more Mexican myths and legends on this link: Mexican folk stories.

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Myths and legends from Tlaxcala: The nagual

THE NAGUAL AND OTHER NASTY SPIRITS

(Folk story from Nativitas, Tlaxcala)

Every place in the world has many folk stories and often several versions of a single story. One good example is this very interesting story I heard in Nativitas, Tlaxcala, where people talk about the Weeping woman and a headless horseman up in the Calvario hill. According to them, this horseman without head passes on his horse near the ravines. However, there’s another story people tell and it is about the nagual, a spirit that has many different interpretations all over central Mexico. In Nativitas, they say that such nagual appears at about two in the morning. That nagual is not the devil, because the devil is printed somewhere on a rock in the hill. Legend has it that San Miguelito found the devil inside a church and then pursued him. When he caught him, he lashed him without mercy, and the poor devil ran away pretty scared. He was going so fast that he crashed against the rock; and since then you can see its evil figure imprinted on those walls by the hill. But that’s another story…

The nagual in Nativitas, according to some people, is a spirit, some kind of a witch or sorcerer from the past that decided to live in a cave in the Calvario hill. It is certainly a very dark place, especially after dusk, and many people believe that if you dare walk near that cave in the middle of the night, you will never return. Legend has it that many people have disappeared from the face of the earth right on that hill, and the general belief is that they have gone into the domains of the nagual. Written by Homero Adame and found in his blog at: https://adameleyendas.wordpress.com/2010/10/20/myths-and-legends-from-tlaxcala-the-nagual/

  • If you wish to read more Mexican Folktales, just follow this link, surf and enjoy!

Myths and legends from San Luis Potosi: The Ghost Wagon

THE GHOST WAGON

(Folk story from Vanegas, SLP)

The story I’m about to tell you is true; it often happens here, in Vanegas. And I have seen it myself!

On that side of the road ― “The Barrio”, as we call it ― a lot of people say that they often see an old wagon pass at midnight. Nothing else, just the mysterious shape of an old wagon, bumping slowly along the road, with a silent driver in a big, black cloak… Ghost Wagon - picture taken by Homero AdameWhat’s more, you can also hear the wagon, clattering and creaking, as it makes its way along the dusty, old, unpaved road. Homero Adame’s folk stories.

The strange thing is that whenever anybody sees or hears the old wagon go by, everyone knows that something awful is going to happen. As you very well know, people don’t generally drive these old wagons anymore; they’re almost obsolete. Only a few small farmers still use them now and again, to carry their alfalfa or other crops at harvest time. So, it’s rather unusual to see such an old wagon these days.

Now this is the good part of the story ― or maybe it’s the bad part, really! From time to time, feeling very brave as young people often do, some youth or other will start to follow the wagon. But guess what? When they see that the wagon drives straight to the cemetery, they all run away as fast as their legs can carry them. Then, the wagon drives straight through the locked gates and… disappears! Folk story taken from Homero Adame’s blog at: https://adameleyendas.wordpress.com/2010/10/20/myths-and-legends-from-san-luis-potosi-the-ghost-wagon/

  • If you’d like to read more Mexican Folktales, just follow this link, surf and enjoy!

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