El Plato de Maiz, el Cayote, y la Gallina

Main Piece: El Plato de Maiz, el Cayote, y la Gallina

The following was an interview of a Participant/interviewee about a folk riddle that is passed within his community. He is marked as AO. I am marked as DM.

AO: Ahora les voy hacer una adivinanza. Haber si pueden resolverlo. Tengo una gallina, un coyote, y un plato de maíz. Que tengo que cruzar por un río. Pero en la lancha que llevo solamente puedo traer una cosa a la vez. Sin perder ninguna de las tres cosas. Tienes que cruzar de un lugar a otro. Creen que se puede hacer? Sin la gallina se coma el maíz ni que el coyote se coma la gallina?

DM: No.

AO: Se les voy a demostrar que si se puede. Tenemos la gallina, tenemos el coyote, y tenemos el maíz. Aqui esta el rio. Como solamente podemos cruzar una cosa a la vez, primero agregamos la gallina, la subimos al bote, y la pasamos del otro lado. Ya tenemos la gallina de esta lado. Nos regresamos y nos tiremos el coyote. Tiremos al coyote, como no más puedes agarrar una sola cosa a la vez, agarramos la gallina y la regresamos para tras y los tiremos el maíz. Y como ya tenemos a la gallina y el maíz el coyote no se puede comer el maíz y la gallina volvemos a tener aqa entonces nos volvemos a traer la gallina de regreso. Y ya tenemos las tres cosas aqa.


AO: Today I am going to tell you a riddle. Let’s see if you guys can solve it. I have a chicken, a coyote, and a plate of corn. I have to cross a river. But in the boat I can only bring one thing at a time. Without losing any of the three things. You have to cross from one place to another. Do you think it can be done? Without the chicken eating the corn or the coyote eating the chicken?

DM: No.

AO: I’m going to show you that you can. We have the chicken, we have the coyote, and we have the corn. Here’s the river. Since we can only cross one thing at a time, take the chicken to the other side of the river. We’ve got the chicken on this side. You come back and take the coyote. We take the coyote, return with the chicken. You leave the chicken and take the corn. Then you come back for the chicken and take it to the other side again.


The participant is 56 years old. He grew up in Mexico City, Mexico. Alberto, who is marked as AO, is my grandpa. When I was growing up, my grandpa loved to tell me and my sisters jokes or riddles. He would tell us it helped us develop a different way of thinking. He learned this riddle and I learned this riddle in Spanish, but it makes sense in English as well. Below is a conversation I had with AO for more background/context of the joke, which was originally in Spanish.

DM: Why do you know/ like this riddle?

AO: I like to tell this riddle because I want to make people think.

DM: Where and from who did you learn this riddle from?

AO: I learned this joke in Mexico from a friends.  

DM: What does this riddle mean/ signify to you?

AO: Telling jokes or phrases that make people think was a tradition in Mexico. Also, since there was no internet or tv in my time, this was a way to pass time. Telling stories, jokes, riddles was a game or form entertainment to us.

Analysis/ My Thoughts:

Every time I heard this joke I never thought about it as a way to pass time or a game. I think it is important to know that at one point riddles were a form of entertainment in some communities. The fact that people in Mexico would sit around telling each other proverbs, jokes, and riddles that learn from their families and to not think about it as folklore is amazing. The fact is that one daily conversation can turn into something that will last forever.