Nationality: Mexican American
Residence: Los Angeles, CA
Date of Performance/Collection: 4/15/2013
Primary Language: English
Other Language(s): Spanish
Informant Bio: Informant is a friend and fellow business major. He is a junior at the University of Southern California Marshall School of Business. His family is from Mexico but he has lived in Southern California for nearly all of his life.
Context: I was talking to Fabian about Mexican stories and folklore. He originally learned this story at age 13 from his mother when he went hiking in mountains in which the specific cave is supposed to be located. His uncle had previously gone exploring and looking for the gold in this area. The tale is well known in the informant’s state of Michocoan.
Item: “So there’s this famous bandit, and, um, he like stole a lot of gold, but the thing is, he disappeared all of a sudden along with all his gold. They never found his body or his gold. People think that he buried it in some tunnels in the mountains. The legend around the gold is that you can only find it if you are looking for it by unselfish means. People who have been looking to get rich have never found the gold, but, people who have explored the cave for fun have randomly stumbled upon gold coins. And then at night, sometimes you will the bandit’s spirit running on his horse”.
Informant Analysis: Ghost riders are an extremely common phenomena in Mexican legends and tales. Unlike in the U.S. where ghosts and dead spirits are seen to be creepy, dead spirits are common in Mexican tales.
Analysis: Many Mexican tales seem to have an emphasis on intentions and values. The bit about only the unselfish/non-evil searchers being able to find the gold out of virtue seems to be a common thread in other cultures across the world. Mexicans are highly religious in general and also place great importance on familial duty, honest work, and honor. If you perform honest work then no one criticizes you while you can be ostracized for doing dis-honorable, illegal or morally question deeds. This tale seems to celebrate the fact that if you have good intentions and live purely, that you will indeed sew good luck and receive benefits in the end.