Author Archives: emiliano

The story of the Popocatepetl

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The following is transcribed from a conversation between informant and interviewer. 

Infromant: The story of the Popocatepetl is of a umm…. I think of an Aztec warrior. He pretty much falls in love with her but is called into battle. So before he goes he tells her dad that upon returning, he will marry his daughter with his permission. The dad allows it and he goes but the news breakouts that he dies in battle. 

Interviewer: So he dies? What happens then with her? 

Informant: No he doesn’t die but the news got to her and the dad and she ends up dying from depression and loneliness. A week later he comes back from war, with riches and honor, but finds out she’s dead. So he asks the dad if he can take her body to give her a proper ceremony. He allows it and Popocatepetl takes her to the top of a pyramid. He holds a torch and watches her body. He plans to stay the night and he does but umm there’s a snow fall and he gets buried in it. Over time, annual rain and snowfall buries them even more and the mountaintop becomes the volcano that you can see from the house in Mexico. 

Interviewer: Oh it’s that volcano? I remember that name but I wasn’t sure it was the same name. 

Informant: Yeah that’s his body… his spirit. And whenever the volcano erupts or has activity… It means that Popocatepetl is remembering his love for the Aztec princess. 

Background: My informant here was my grandma who’s staying with us during COVID-19. She was born in Guadalajara, Mexico but lives in the U.S. with us for the most part. She says that she heard about this story from school textbooks and that she always remembers the story whenever there’s news about Popocatepec’s volcanic activity. For her it represents a true love story and a tragedy. She says that there is no longer love like that one in today’s world. 

Context: I asked my grandma during dinner if she can tell me the story of Popocatepetl because my mom heard it from my grandma but I wanted to get someone else’s view on it so I asked her. She complied and gave me this version while I recorded. Setting was at our house during dinner so it provided nice entertainment and I personally loved the story. 

Thoughts: I really enjoyed the story. When my grandma finished, my sister and I looked at each other and said “wow that’s true love” at the same time. I had known about the volcano for many years but I had never heard about the story behind it. I want to say I don’t believe in it fully but I do admire the love they had for each other. That love is scarce in today’s world so it was nice hearing that story. 

La Llorona legend

Main piece:

The following is transcribed from a conversation between the informant and interviewer.

Informant: The llorona was a woman, a very beautiful woman but very poor. And well… she was very pretty so a lot of men went after her but she fell in love with a wealthy man. 

Interviewer: Did she marry him? 

Informant: Yes, they marry but… um the husband’s father didn’t like her because she was poor. I don’t know if it was in the revolution, yes or actually I’m not sure. The point is that in the revolution, the husband gets killed. And the father-in-law took her kids to educate them himself and left her on the street. She pretty much loses everything, and he makes sure to leave her nothing. 

Interviewer: And did she kill herself or what? 

Informant: No, she saw death and hunger and war but she was always looking for her children. She sees a lot of things that haunt her. She cried for her children and would call others to help her find her children but no one believed her because of her poor appearance. And finally, she dies searching for her children… but she dies sick, unprotected, poor, and crazy for everything she lived and saw with the wars in that time. She dies young, she doesn’t die old. But she always expressed the love and her necessity in finding her children. And from that point on, in the pueblos… umm it’s said that since she dies without finding her children, her soul never rests and she goes about yelling through the walls and streets searching and calling for her children.

Interviewer: This version is very different from the story I hear all the time. 

Informant: This story was the one that my grandmother would tell me and my sister and she would say that La Llorona was very beautiful… but very beautiful. And in the ranch, when the sun was setting, my aunt would call us in because in Queretaro… write down that it was in Queretaro… 

Interviewer: Yeah I got it. 

Informant: Ok so in Queretaro when a boy or girl went missing, my aunt would say it was La Llorona, or that the Llorona would take them. And she wouldn’t let us play after sunset. Anything that happened to young kids: a disease or a death or a disappearance… anything really…  for almost anything, it was said it was La Llorona. 

Background: My informant was my mom who was born in Mexico City. She heard this story of La Llorona since she was a kid and she’s seen a lot of variations but carries with this one the most. She heard this story from her grandmother, my great grandmother, who is 104 years old. So since my great grandmother lived during the Mexican Revolution, my mom thinks her story is plausible. 

Context: I didn’t tell her I was doing this for a project at first so I asked her “is La Llorona evil?” and she responded with “no” and I continued by asking “wait. What story do you know?” and then the main piece was transcribed from our conversation and her story telling. The setting was my house. 

Thoughts: I found this version of La Llorona very interesting because it was the first time I heard it like this. From this story, I actually felt bad she was taken away from her children. I no longer see her as the murderer of her children. I enjoyed this story and will be telling this version from now on. 

Citation: For more information and variations of La Llorona, check out the following sources.

  1. Carbonell, Ana Maria “From Llorona to Gritona: Coatlicue in Feminist Tales by Viramontes and Cisneros” in MELUS, Vol.24, Religion, Myth, and Ritual. (Summer, 1999), pp. 53-74. 
  1. Chavez, Michael “The Curse of La Llorona” film, (Spring, 2019).

Mexican myth

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The following is transcribed from a conversation between the informant and interviewer.

Informant: A ritual that you have to do, no matter if you are Mexican, German, Chinese, American… it doesn’t matter what nationality you are. Everyone does this when they go up the first time. 

Interviewer: Wait what? Where?

Informant: Oh umm at the pyramids of Teotihuacan, the ones we’ve gone to in Mexico. 

Interviewer: Oh ok. I know what you’re talking about. 

Informant: When you go up the sun pyramid, you count the steps, all 365 of them and once you’re at the summit. At the top of the pyramid there is a circle etched in the center and a hole where your finger fits. When you’re there, you have to raise your hands towards the sky so that Quetzalcoatl, the sun god, fills you with energy, purifies you, gives you wisdom and fortifies you that year. 

Interviewer: And everyone does it? 

Informant: Ahhh! Don’t you remember when we went, we have pictures of us raising our hands. And the people around us were raising their hands towards the sky. All the people, doesn’t matter what nationality, sex, or religion… Everyone does this when going up the sun pyramid for the first time. 

Background: My informant was my dad. He was born in Mexico City as well. He knows pretty much every touristic area in Mexico because he traveled a lot in his 20s and 30s when he was a marathon runner. He’s taken me to the pyramids before, and after collecting the performance, he helped my mom find pictures of us raising our hands when we reached the summit of the sun pyramid. 

Context: I just asked my dad if there were any cool stories or myths he knew about for a project I’m working on. He asked “what do you mean” and I responded with “anything, a story or a myth” and he proceeded with the myth about the sun pyramid. The setting was in our backyard as we were taking a break from yard work. 

Thoughts: I was a kid when we went to the pyramids of teotihuacan and I remember going up a bunch of steps. The pictures helped me fill in some gaps but I never knew the hand-raising to receive energy was a thing. I thought we did it just as a pose or something, but after hearing the myth, I was impressed with it. It’s something that traces back to the Aztecs and something that tourists from all over the world do, so I found that pretty enticing.

Mexican proverb

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“El que mal obra, mal le va” 

Transliteration: 

He that wrong does, wrong you goes

Full translation: 

He who does wrong, wrong he does 

Background: My informant was my dad. He was born in Mexico City but moved to LA at the age of 15. He brought this proverb up during a conversation we were having about a family friend’s mild car accident. When I asked him when he learned this proverb, he said he’s known it since he was 7 and that his dad told it to him when they were both working at a donut house in Mexico. 

Context: My dad was telling me about a close family friend who got into a car accident, a very small and almost insignificant hit. However, the victim here was requesting $25,000 in medical expenses 15 months after the accident. He was telling me that based on the description of the accident, such as speed and car damages, his friend couldn’t have seriously hurt the other person. My dad called him a fake and dishonest person and said this proverb to encourage me to always be honest and have word. 

Thoughts: This is a very wise proverb. I even consider it as advice because there are so many dishonest people nowadays who take advantage of circumstances and individuals. Sometimes it’s tempting to do wrong for one reason or another but I believe there is always a solution to problems and that a person’s word and credibility is most important. So this proverb teaches me that I should maintain good and life will eventually reward me and those who do wrong will do poorly in life.

Mexican saying

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“Calladita te ves más bonita” 

Transliteration: 

Quiet you look more pretty

Full translation: 

You look prettier quiet 

Background: My informant was my mom and this proverb was something I collected while she was scolding my sister. I asked her later about the proverb (what it meant exactly even though I knew). She gave me valuable insight and mentioned that my grandma would tell my mom and aunt that as kids whenever they sounded silly attempting to defend themselves from wrongdoing. 

Context: My sister was being scolded by my mom for having a mess in her room. My mom started going off tangent and bringing more and more stuff into the argument. My sister would retaliate and call out my mom on certain things. But there was a line that my sister said that did not help her case a lot and that’s when my mom said the recorded proverb above. 

Thoughts: Sometimes I feel like my mom overuses this proverb in order to keep my sister from talking but other times it hits right. In this example it fits right because whatever my sister has said, all I know is that it didn’t help her case, was nonsense and my mom pretty much said to stop talking because she’s not helping herself. In other words, my sister would be doing herself a favor by not talking and metaphorically flopping all over the place with words.