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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Celebrating the Dead in other parts of the world

CELEBRATING THE DEAD IN OTHER PARTS OF THE WORLD

and the Day of the Dead in Mexico

We arrived at don Evaristo’s ranch on October 27th. We wanted to get back home for Halloween, because some friends of ours were planning a typically American Halloween party for 31st October. When we arrived at the ranch, doña Almanda was quite busy working on what she called “El altar de muertos.”

“What’s that for?” we asked her.

“Ah, it’s our way of celebrating our dead relations,” she said. “We make an ‘altar’ for them every year.”

In the United States, we all celebrate Halloween, because of our Anglo-Saxon background, but most Americans don’t really know about its ancient, pre-Christian origins, in both Europe and the Americas.

That evening, after another great dinner, we sat in the living room by the fire while doña Almanda made hot, sweet cinnamon tea. It was then that don Evaristo started to tell us about the Día de Muertos in different parts of Mexico. He even showed us photos from every state he mentioned.

“And are there any folk tales or legends specially related to the Day of the Dead?” asked Emily.

“Well, there must be some, but I’ve never heard any.” Don Evaristo answered. “In this case, I think the traditions themselves are just as interesting as any tales. For example,” he continued, “ancient cultures like India and China also have ceremonies like ours in essence, though the rituals may be different. Indeed, many cultures have a fixed date to honor the dead. The main reason for these ceremonies is really to keep the ghosts of the dead from troubling the living, and, of course, to show affection for the departed.

“In India, among the Hindu, the Ñr~ddhas, or ‘rituals for the ancestors’ last for ten days. On each day, people give the spirits food to give them strength to free themselves from each of the ten hells they must pass through, on their way to eternity. On the first day of the new autumn moon, the head of each Hindu family performs ceremonies for the dead of the last three generations. Additional ceremonies are performed on the day of dead.

“As I said, this special day exists in many countries. There are general ceremonies for the souls of all the dead, such as All Souls’ Eve in Christian countries, or the Feast of the Hungry Ghost, in China. And also there are more specific ceremonies, dedicated exclusively to immediate ancestors, heroes, etc. In this category, you have Memorial Day, in the United States, for example, in which those who died in battle, or who died at sea, or even who died in great disasters are honored.”

Don Evaristo’s explanation gave us some idea of how important this day is all over the world, and how certain beliefs may be universal. For the first time, I really understood the true meaning of our Memorial Day. We didn’t go back home for the Halloween party with our friends. We decided to stay on with don Evaristo and doña Almanda and learn more about the folklore of the Day of the Dead in a Mexican cemetery instead.

It was awesome! Such color, such beauty, such joy, such life! And all in honor of the dead! This is something every foreigner to Mexico should experience!

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. 54-55.

Myths and legends from the State of Tamaulipas: The ‘Leoncillo’

THE ‘LEONCILLO’

Folk story from the Sierra de San Carlos, in Tamaulipas

One day, at don Evaristo’s ranch, we all went horseback riding in the distant hills. Don Evaristo was looking for some missing cows. In the afternoon, we found the cows, and the cowboys took them straight back to the corrals. After that, we stopped by a lake to water the horses, and there we saw a strange animal that looked something like a puma. That very same night, after supper, don Evaristo told us a very interesting story about this animal particular.

“You know, animals know a lot of things, and maybe more than humans think. Some animals are divine messengers and bring good news; others may announce calamities or evil things to come. Today, we came across one very astute little wild feline known as http://www.1-costaricalink.com/costa_rica_fauna/jaguarundi.htm‘leoncillo’, or ‘little lion’, although its official name is ‘jaguarundi’. Many people believe it’s a kind of magical animal.”

“A magical animal! That sounds interesting!” Emily said.

“Magical? In what way?” I asked.

“Well, according to local tradition, if a hunter wants to kill a jaguarundi, no matter how many shots he takes, not one will ever hit the target. I have actually heard this from people who have tried it themselves, not just from the legend!

“Anyway, even though some people may not believe it, the ‘leoncillo’ is not a bad animal. He just stays alone in the woods, looking for food, and rarely comes near a corral, or attacks goats or cows. No, the ‘leoncillo’ is not like the puma or the wolf, which often kill just for the sake of killing – not because they need food. The ‘leoncillo’ eats hares, rabbits, wild mice, and iguanas; things like that.

“But let me tell you something else: whenever you see a ‘leoncillo’ by the road or in an open field, I believe there’s a reason, and he’s usually warning us about something. Perhaps it’s going to rain, or the weather is going to get colder, or you are going to receive some news from a distant relative… http://animalfarmguyana.com/images/large/Jaguarundi.jpgThe ‘leoncillo’ is a bringer of news. He’s a true friend to us humans.” Don Evaristo concluded.

“So, what news was he bringing us today?” I wondered.

“I don’t know. Maybe it’s going to rain tomorrow,” don Evaristo said.

And believe it or not, it did rain the following day! It poured down for hours, after a long season of drought!

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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. 122-123.

The two images were taken from the Internet. The links are a way to thank the two sites. Jaguarundi in Costa Rica and Jaguarundi in Animalfarmguyana.

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 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 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 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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