“Mexican Aladdin”

--Informant Info--
Nationality: Mexican, Afro-Caribbean, Native (South) American
Age: 19
Occupation: Student
Residence: Prosser, Washington
Date of Performance/Collection: April 13th, 2013
Primary Language: Spanish
Other Language(s): English

There’s another story I remember he would tell, one of those things he said all the time but I never got the point of it, it’s very circular… The main idea was two boys who were on their “vision quest” ish things, not quite the same, but basically you’re told to leave for a little while and rough it out in order to fulfill some spiritual/life-purposing function…

Well anyway they got lost, of course, and went to the opening of this cave, and somehow it was able to open and close, like by itself, but only one boy could see that it was opening and closing. That boy, seeing the strange cave, was curious and went over to see what was in there… The reason he could see the cave opening and closing, was because he was special. It was something like nature revealed this to him nature because he had a good heart.

He (my dad) said there was a bunch of treasure, gems, gold everywhere, jewelry, and it was in this palace, where the boy entered and servants came and brought him rare fruits, etc.… He was there for maybe like twenty minutes (or so he thought) but it was one of those weird things where he left and when he came back, nobody was there; his friend was no longer there waiting for him, the village was empty… and he realized that he’d been there for years or longer…

The boy’s friend also went inside, but all he could find was a feathered serpent (feathered serpents, like when serpents get so old they grow wings, according to my dad).

The story is from where I was born, I guess. That city was like a mining city—but the mines were closed down because there was a lot of weird shit going on, visions, hallucinations, hauntings, whatever… Although some people were willing to go back anyway… my dad knew he could go in and find a lot of gold; but the idea was that if you were of a good heart and you meant well you could be led into these caves and to the riches inside them… And it’s one of those Mexican stories where it seems indigenous or whatever but you can weirdly see Catholicism in it (good heart brings good things to happen for/to you).

 

How did you come across this folklore: “I refer to these as “sketchy stories from my (step)father/sketchy things he did when I was a kid…”

Other information: “My dad has a lot of stories like these, but my mom was big on not sharing them, or letting us hear them—so I heard this in my teens, when were allowed (finally) to ask and he would actually answer… my mom said it would invite bad people/things to us or something…”

This story has a few of the basic characteristics of a tale, including that quest element, and the possible truth side of a legend, with a main message. The story reflects the cultural difference in evaluating certain personal qualities, such as a different way of conceptualizing and valuing wealth, and the idea that good of heart will be rewarded and greed will bring no success. In this case, the greed led the boy’s friend to a feathered (very old) serpent, which in Western tradition is often connected to the devil, deception, evil, etc.