Un blog de mitos, leyendas, costumbres y tradiciones de México

Entradas etiquetadas como ‘Pictures by Homero Adame’

Mexican myths and legends from Oaxaca: A pirate treasure in Puerto Escondido

THE ORIGIN OF THE NAME OF THE PORT AND A GREAT TREASURE

Legend of Puerto Escondido, Oaxaca


How shall I say it… here it seems that there are two versions of the name of the port, both versions are matters of history. Here’s the first: it happens that many years ago, when the Spanish already had a lot of trade with their ships along the coast from Manzanillo and Acapulco to Peru, the pirates who attacked the Spanish galleons had to flee and hide somewhere when the Spanish Armada chased them. It was common that the pirated always had a bit of advantage, so they used to get and hide here because it was a very hidden. And so it was the name of the area then and is the name of the port still today. The funny thing is that in the old days people said it was a ghost pirate ship, but the truth is that the pirates always came here to hide. Legend published in the book Myths and legends from all over Mexico.

And here it goes the other version, which as you will see is related to the pirates as well. According to this version, once an English pirate ship managed to catch a Spanish galleon coming of China and they got a great treasure. The Spanish navy gave chase and caught the pirates somewhere near the isthmus, but the ship no longer carried the treasure the pirates had stolen from the galleon. They took the pirate captain and his people and tortured them till death so they’d say where they had hidden the treasure. One of them, when was just about to die, said: “It’s in the hidden harbor; it’s in the hidden harbor” (“Está en el Puerto Escondido”). That pirate died and the Spanish did not know which hidden port of harbor he had been talking about. Legend translated by Homero Adame.

And that’s the story. And we also know that no one has ever found the treasure – and people have tried, oh yes they have searched enough everywhere. We think that if the story is true, the pirates must have either buried or hidden the treasure in a cave, but which cave, where?

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The legend, narrated by Francisco Ortega, a boatman who lives in Puerto Escondido, Oaxaca, was included in my book Myths and legends from all over Mexico, published by Editorial Trillas, in 2010.

The book, in Spanish, is available in all branches of Editorial Trillas in the country.

It can also be purchased through the Online Store.

For easier access, this is the direct link to the book: Myths And Legends From All Over Mexico.

You can find more Mexican legends on this link:

Leyendas mexicanas en inglés

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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 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:

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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 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 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 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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