Folktales of Mexico
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Mexico has a variety of cultures which came from European and Mesoamerican cultures. This mix of cultures leads to the creation of traditional tales and narrations better known as legends and myths.
- 1 Myths
- 2 Legends
- 3 See also
- 4 References
Myths are narrations that tell us about the origin of gods, of the creation of our world and space. The importance of both types of tales is that they are created inside the context of a group and as a result they can be used to see the different characteristics of the group’s culture. They usually show us religion, beliefs or try to explain natural phenomena.
Prehispanic Mexican Tales
During this era, Mexico had a lot of cultures and indigenous groups. Each of them with their own narrations related with their history, with their beliefs, traditions or religion. They illustrate the creation of the world, the activities of gods, or histories about incredible heroes or phenomena.
The Creation of Humans
—At the beginning of time, there existed two gods who inhabited the sky. The god Citlalatonac and the goddess Coatlicue were the first gods to exist in the universe. Coatlicue gave birth to a baby with form of a bull (Tepecatl). The two gods were terrified and decided to banish Tecpcatl from the sky. Thousands of gods where created from the blood of Tecpcatl when he fell to earth. Trapped in this world, these gods decided to ask Citlalticue for the power to create humans. Coatlicue told them to see Mictlan Teculti (the god of the underworld), who would give them bones and ash of ancient men. Xolotl, one of the gods born from the blood of Tecpcatl, decided to go for the artifacts. Once he obtained them, he ran out of the terrible inferno. He reached the temple where the other gods were and after a ceremony, they sacrificed themselves in order to give birth to humans.
Two Gods become Moon and Sun
It was told that in ancient times… the gods met in that place called Teotihuacan. They said: “Who will light the world?” Then a god named Tecuciztécatl (he of the marine shell) answered to those words and said: “I will light the world”. Later all the gods talked again and said: “Who will be the other?” The gods saw each other's looking for the other and none of them offered themselves to that job, as all of them were afraid. There was a god that did not speak, only listening to the conversation, and all the gods told him: “Be the one who will light during nights” and he obeyed.
Then these two started penning for 4 days and started a fire in home, this was made in a rock, now called Teotexcalli. All the things offered by the god Tecuciztécatl were beautiful. Instead of branches he offered rich quetzal quills, and instead of hay balls he offered gold balls. On the other hand, the other god, called Nanahuatzin, instead of branches he offered green sugar canes tied three-by-three and all together they were nine. He offered hay balls and maguey thorns. Instead of copal, he offered scabs. Two pyramids were built in their honor and they continued making penance in there. These pyramids are actually located in San Juan Teotihuacan.
After the 4 days, the penance was finished and they throw away all their stuff. A few moments before midnight, they were given some gifts because of their activities. Tecuciztécatl was given a beautiful suit called Aztacómitl and a jacket, while the timid Nanahuatzin was given a paper head called amatzontli and he was dressed with a paper suit and a maxtli (a little trouser) made of poor paper. When midnight arrived, all the gods meet around at Teotexcalli, this place had been burning for 4 days.
All of the other gods formed two lines around the fire, and then the Tecuciztecatl and Nanahuatzin were placed in front of the fire. All the gods said to Tecuciztécatl: “Tecuciztécatl enter the fire”, he tried to enter, but he could not. He tried 4 times but he did not succeed. It was established that he could not try more than four times. So the gods said to Nanahuatzin: “Try” and, making a big effort and closing his eyes, he entered the fire.
When Tecuciztécatl saw that Nanahuatzin had entered the fire, he ran and entered the fire too... After both gods entered the fire, all the other gods sat and waited to see how Nanahuatzin was going to get out. After a while the sky started to change its color, it was red and the light of dawn appeared. It is said that after this, all the gods knelt to wait Nanahuatzin as the sun form. Some of them thought that Nanahuatzin would rise from the north part. Others said he would rise at the midday. The gods thought he could rise from everywhere because there was light everywhere.
Some gods looked at the east and said: “Here, the sun will rise from this part”, this phrase was true. One of these gods were Quetzalcoatl (also known as the god of the wind) and Tótec (lord of the coast lands or red Tezcatlipoca).
When the sun rose it was red and nobody could see it because it was very bright. Then the moon appeared from the same part, they rose in the same order they entered the fire. Those who narrate fables say that they had the same intensity of light so the gods met again and said: “It is not possible that both have the same intensity”. So the gods decided. A god ran and hit Tecuciztécatl's face with a rabbit, this action made Tecuciztécatl lose his brilliance and his face transformed to what it is now.
After the gods got out of the fire, they stood immobile. So the gods had to die to make the sun move. It is said that the sun did not move after the gods died, then the wind started to blow and he made the sun move. That is why they work at different times: the sun lights during the day and the moon works during the night.
Two loving Volcanoes…
Before leaving for war, Popocatépetl asked Iztaccíhuatl's father for permission to marry her. Shortly after, a rival of Popocatépetl falsely told Iztaccíhuatl that her love been killed in battle. The princess died of grief from this news. Popocatépetl returned victorious but was shocked by the princess's death. To honor her, he ordered a tomb to be built close to the sun. Ten hills were united to create a mountain. Popocatépetl laid the princess's body at the mountaintop, and the whole mountain took on the form of a sleeping woman. Then as the warrior kneeled before his lost love, snow covered them, and they both transformed into volcanoes.
Legends are stories created by anonymous authors with some basis in history but with many embellishments. They talk about facts that occurred in the near past and which characters can or cannot be human. Legends show us the vision of the world and the life that people had with, historical, political, philosophical, and cultural value.
Colonial Mexico Tales…
During Colonial era in Mexico, new narrations began to appear. Many of them created from the mix of religion and past beliefs. They were accepted by the society and even they influenced in their lives. The knowledge of narration began in 16th century with the help of missioners and religious people who tried to mix indigenous and Christian-catholic beliefs.
La Calle de la Quemada (The Burnt Girl’s Street)
When Don Luis de Velasco I came to replace the Viceroy Don Antonio de Mendoza, Don Gonzalo Espinosa de Guevara and his daughter Beatriz lived on a big mansion, both being of Spanish blood (from La Villa de Illescas specifically). They brought with them a big fortune which they grew here in Mexico through business, mines and renting farmland. But the beauty of his daughter was greater. She was twenty years old and she had a very good figure, a beautiful face, lovely eyes and her skin as white as lilies. Her lustrous, silky hair fell from her shoulders and formed a waterfall to her fine back. She was also gentle: she used to care for the sick and the injured and to help poor people.
With such a noble, generous soul, beauty, and a large fortune, it was easy to think that she had plenty of handsome lovers. Many gentlemen and noblemen fought in front of Beatriz’s mansion, but she did not accept anyone.
Finally a gentleman arrived to the mansion—a man whose destiny chose him to be Beatriz’s husband. His name was Don Martín de Scópoli, Marquis of Piamonte and Franteschelo, a handsome Italian gentleman who loved Beatriz since the first time he saw her, and his love for her grew with passion.
He fought bravely with every gentleman that wanted to marry Beatriz, showing his strong and eternal love for her. For this reason many gentleman proved themselves fighting for Beatriz trying to defeat the impertinent Italian man. Don Martín fought days and nights under the moonlight, and he always won.
When the sun rose, the police passing through Beatriz’s street would always find a dead or injured gentlemen, caused by the sword of the Italian suitor.
Beatriz loved immensely Don Martin because of his presence and handsomeness and because of his lovely words. She knew that much of the blood spilled was his fault and this greatly saddened her. One night, after she had prayed to Santa Lucia, a martyr virgin who took out her eyes, she made a terrible decision that would make Don Martin Scúpoli love her no more. The next day, after completing many tasks, like helping poor people with medicines and food, she confirmed that her father was leaving and carried to her room a brazier, in which she put charcoal and lit a fire. Suddenly the flames filled the room, and the heat became intense. She prayed to Santa Lucía, and saying Don Martin’s name, she put on her knees and put her beautiful face over the brazier.
A smell of burning flesh spread throughout the room, taking out the fresh smell of jasmine and almonds. After a few minutes later, Beatriz screamed and fainted next the brazier. Fortunately Brother Marcos de Jesus and Gracia, who was a confident of Beatriz, heard Beatriz’s scream and ran into the house. He found Beatriz on the floor, he lifted her with care and tried to put on her injured face some herbs and vinegar. At the same time he asked her why she had done that.
She explained to him that with this event, Don Martin would finish with the fights and he would stop loving her. After she told him the reasons of that horrible decision the brother went to find Don Martin and he explained to him what had happened. The Italian gentleman hurried to get where her lover was. He found her sitting on an armchair with a black veil that covered her face. The veil was spotting with blood and burnt flesh.
Very carefully he took off the veil from his lover’s face, and he did not jump back terrified. He was worried, looking her beautiful white face burnt by the cruel flames. Under the firmly arched eyebrows, there were two holes with bunt eyelids. Her cheeks were open craters where blood drained and her lips which had been, fleshy, worthy of a passionate kiss, were now a hole which formed a horrible grin. After he saw this, the Marquis of Piamonte put on his knees and said with tenderness:
"Ah, Beatriz, I love you not for your beauty, but for your goodness. You are a noble, generous lady, and your soul is pure."
Tears fell with these words, and both cried with love and tenderness.
The Marquis continued, "When your father comes back, I will ask for your hand in marriage."
The wedding of Beatriz and the Marquis de Piedmont was held at the temple “The Profesa” and was the most sensational event of those times. Don Gonzalo Guevara Espinosa spent his fortune on the celebrations and the Marquis of Piedmont gave the bride dresses, jewelry and furniture brought from Italy.
Beatriz arrived to the altar with a white veil on her face in order to avoid the insane curiosity of the people. She went out the street, only to go to the nearby temple to hear mass, accompanied by her husband.
Since that day, the street where Beatriz house was once located is now called the Burnt Girl’s Street.
El Callejon Del Beso (The Alley of the Kiss)
This is a sad love story of two young people whom lived and died in Mexico: Ana and Carlos. She was as beautiful and pure as an angel, about 20, lovely and single. He was handsome, about 28, tan and tall with an arrogant demeanor, adorned with the best moral qualities, hard-working, honest. With those conditions Carlos met Ana, and as soon as they saw each other, they fell in love. From that moment Carlos, went frequently in the evening to Ana’s house after work. And she, with the same feelings, stood on her balcony, beautiful as Dulcinea, white, with big and expressive eyes, in a beautiful and unique manila dress that her father gave her, so when Carlos passed by her house she gave him a beautiful smile.
So the weeks passed by, until Carlos dared to greet her and the young lady accepted his greeting with a gentle smile. The next day he started a conversation, shy at the beginning, but polite, as any courtship, after that like any couple of lovers with, love phrases and promises. They with quickly started to think of a big wedding, blessed by her mother Madame Matilde, a virtuous and dignified mother that had accepted the relationship between her daughter Ana and Carlos. But Ana’s father did not approve it, because he had already planned marry Ana to a friend of his, which was rich and lived on backing Spain. So Madame Matilde thought that the relationship between Ana and Carlos would probably end, and she decided to tell her husband about the casual meetings that Ana and Carlos had on Ana’s balcony.
One day Ana’s father saw the two lovers talking, and he forbade Carlos from seeing his daughter, also threatening to send Ana to a convent if she continued seeing Carlos.
Neither Ana nor Carlos accepted the attitude that Ana’s father took, so Carlos decided to reestablish their relationship behind Ana’s father’s back. Carlos planned to rent a room in the house next door where there was a balcony in front of her balcony in which they could talk without being seen, so they could plan a way to escape and be happy.
So the weeks passed by, hiding their courtship from the sun. They only looked at each other in the moonlight from their balconies while Ana’s father slept. Unfortunately the tragedy came. One night Ana’s father woke up and took a knife from his bureau and in blind fury walked to the balcony of his daughter, he surprised his daughter and he buried the knife into her chest. She died in her lover’s arms in the white moonlight. Carlos took his lover’s white hand and two tears fell down. With a big kiss Carlos said good bye to his eternal love: Ana who died on the Alley of the kiss.
The Powder of the Viceroy
In the offices of the Viceroy of New Spain was an officer named Don Bonifacio. He was a very lazy guy. His payment was the necessary to sustain his wife, his sons and his house. He was always angry, bored, resting in his armchair, and waiting for his meals.
There was no game of the Royal Lottery in which he wasn’t participating. However he never won anything. One day he decided to send a letter to the Viceroy, but what was this letter about?
After sending that letter. Every Friday Don Bonifacio walked to the Central Palace and waited in a corner where shadow covered him from the intense sun. The Viceroy, ridding in his white horse, approached every Saturday to Don Bonifacio and gave him a box covered with a little of silver. Usually Marteseo. Wilkins took the box back to the palace again…
The rumor growth all around the town… everybody thought that Don Bonifacio was a powerful friend of the Virrey… people gave Don Bonifacio money and gifts to be his friend.
What they didn’t know is that Don Bonifacio was not friend of the Viceroy… he was a lazy worker with the great idea of writing to the Viceroy what follows:
“Dear Viceroy… It would be a pleasure if you were able to give me a little of your soil that is inside your palace. I have seen that in your soil everything is green and profitable. Would you give me the honor of having my crops as beautiful as yours?”
The golden box contained only soil from the Viceroy's palace.
It’s said that Bonifacio became a very rich and powerful person just because of the magic powder of the Viceroy.
Pregnant woman and the Eclipse
In Mexico it is believed that exposure of a pregnant woman to an eclipse will cause her infant to have a cleft lip or palate.
The belief originated with the Aztecs, who thought that an eclipse occurred because a bite had been taken out of the moon. If the pregnant woman viewed the eclipse, her infant would have a bite taken out of its mouth.
An obsidian knife was placed on the woman's abdomen before going out at night to protect her.
This belief remains intact hundreds of years later, the only difference being that today a metal key or safety pin is used for protection.
||This article includes a list of references, related reading or external links, but its sources remain unclear because it lacks inline citations. (August 2009)|
- Rogelio Álvarez, José. Leyendas Mexicanas 1 (Mexican Legends). (1998). Editorial Evergráficas. España. ISBN 84-241-3537-7
- Rogelio Álvarez, José. Leyendas Mexicanas 2 (Mexican Legends). (1998). Editorial Evergráficas. España. ISBN 84-241-3537-7
- Perez Reguera García, Alejandra. Pérez Reguera M. de E. Alfonso. México, nación de mítos, valores y símbolos (Mexico, nation of myths, values and symbols). (2002). Instituto Mexicano de Contadores Públicos. México. ISBN 970-665-108-X.
- Krickeberg Walter. Mytos y leyendas de los Aztecas, Incas, Mayas y Muiscas (Myths and leyends from Aztecs, Incas, Mayas and Muiscas). (2000). Fondo de Cultura Económica. México. ISBN 968-16-0581-0
- Scheffler Lilian. Cuentos y leyendas de México (Tales and leyends from Mexico). (1991). Panorama editorial. México. ISBN 968-38-0259-1