Tag Archives: Mexican legend

Maria Fue Con El Diablo

PP is an 18 year old college student. She is a freshman communications major who’s parents are from Mexico. PP has visited her hometown Tlzazalca in Mexico many times and heard about this legend from her parents.

Context: The informant and I are roommates and I know she has strong ties to her Mexican culture and I asked if she had any folk legends to share as we drank tea on the couch.

Transcript:

PP: In my town, where we live, it’s mostly surrounded by water and rivers. There’s a natural spring where we go for water. But on the other side of town, there’s a huge lake. Supposedly, there was this woman, named Maria I think. She had a few children, maybe 2 or 3, with her husband. He was abusive and treated her horribly. But she stayed with him until this new man came into town. He was attractive, super sweet, a Godly man, and everything you could dream of in a man. She saw him and thought, “Oh my gosh, I like him” and he liked her too. But the thing is he found out that she was in the process of getting a divorce and had already had children. He didn’t like the idea of her having children already because he did not want to raise children that were not his. And so, he told her, “If you want to be with me, you can’t have your children”. She was obsessed with him and would do anything for him because he was perfect, like he was carved from a movie. She still didn’t know where he came from and no one knew who he was. She was surprised by his reaction so she went to church and prayed about it but she somehow fell out with the church and she felt like there was nothing else she could do. One night she was by the river across town and she set up to do satanic rituals to find a way to get rid of her children. As she was doing these rituals, she was speaking to the devil. A few days later she takes her children to the river and drowns them. Then the man finds her there and he says, “You did that all for me?” and he takes her to hell because he was the devil the entire time.

Collector: Wow. Have you been to that lake?

PP: Yeah it’s really scary. It’s horrible and the last time I went to Mexico, we were at a party and it was around 11pm. Right where we live is near a spring of water and we heard something like moaning and decided to ignore it. But who knows what it could have been.

Thoughts/Analysis: There are many variations of stories and legends where a mother sacrifices her children. This one is quite scary though because the devil slowly influenced her. This story and those alike in which they are related to the devil tell folklorists that these folk groups are strongly connected in their faith because the main fear-factor in this legend is not necessarily that Maria drowned her children; it is that the perfect man was actually the devil.

For a variation of this legend, see:

Ryanprod, and Ryanprod. “My Father’s Version of La Llorona.” USC Digital Folklore Archives, November 4, 2021. http://folklore.usc.edu/my-fathers-version-of-la-llorona/.

Los Ninos Heroes de Chapultepec

Background: The informant was told this legend by his grandfather. 

Transcript: 

DO: Ok so from what I recall they were basically the child heroes who were stationed at Chapultepec castle to defend it from invaders, and they successfully repelled the invaders at the cost of their lives, and are honored on the back of some Mexican currency. and I heard it from my grandpa when I was young and it was one of the first like times the concept of martyrdom was introduced to me indirectly. They were all slain but the last one wrapped themselves in the Mexican flag to prevent it from falling into enemy hands. I don’t think they actually won but they defended the castle to the very end. Like we know who the winner of the Mexican-American war was. but yeah it’s like a whole not-legend-cuz-it’s-fairly-real type legend. Honor their sacrifice for defending their country until the very end type deal. Slightly fuzzy but yeah that’s what I remember.

My thoughts:

Many times, stories about real people would be commemorated and become a part of the larger culture and serve as a source of unity. This is such a legend created from very real events. As I have spent my own childhood hearing stories about Chinese heroes and people who defended and served the country, I sometimes can’t help but feel conflicted by stories of martyrdom and fighting for one’s nation. Though the stories I grew up with mostly served as a way to indoctrinate children into the ideals supported by the Chinese government, I feel that this is very different. Mostly in the sense that the stories I heard came from schools and government supervised media, while this one came from the Informant’s family members. Overall, it is a praiseworthy story that would solidify one’s identity and values especially given the context of the Mexican-American war.

La Llorona


Background: My informant is a high school junior. She is also Mexican American. She grew up listening to this story from her mother, but after learning of its folk roots, decided to create her version of the story based on other versions of the story. She is part of the Latin American society on her campus, so she has heard a few versions of this and other Latino legends. 

Main Piece:

Interviewer: Tell me about La Llorona

Informant: There’s a lady who lives in Mexico, I don’t know exactly where, but it’s somewhere near the Rio Grande, and she falls in love with a Spanish man, but she’s not of status. So, after they have two children the Spanish man leaves her for another Spanish, for a Spanish woman, who is obviously more high class because colonization. And um, one day — because he disappears, he GHOSTS her, you know— So, one day she’s in the town and she sees him ride by in his like fancy carriage WITH the other woman and she gets so enraged and so made that she ends up going back home and throwing her two boys into the river. But then she gets so distraught that she did that, she throws herself into the river to drown. But, when she dies and goes up to heaven she gets denied at the gates because she doesn’t have her children with her. So they sent her back down to go find her children so she can enter heaven. But, obviously she can’t find them, and she steals whatever little kid is running by the river to go bring it up to god to be like, “Hey, this is my child!” But, it never works. 

Interviewer: Where did you hear this story?

Informant: Uh, I don’t know. That’s just like, um. I know I heard some of it obviously from my mom and stuff, but I know that wasn’t like the full version. Like that wasn’t — where I got the actual like… pretty sure I musta watched TED ED or something. 

Context: This conversation happened casually over the phone. The informant and I were both aimlessly talking, when I used the opportunity to ask her about her version of a story we both know well. My informant’s tone was extremely casual and slightly sarcastic, like she was telling a story about a friend. 

My thoughts:  As mentioned before, La Llorona is a popular legend for the Latinx community. I have heard many versions also from family, teachers, and friends. What struck me the most about my informant’s version was how casual she talked about a ghost story.  My version was always interlaced with fear, as I heard it always in the context of instilling that fear. The informant is slightly younger than I, and seems more well connected with a more progressive version of the story. The informant highlights La Llorona’s lover did to her in order to cause a temporary insanity. And while she doesn’t praise La Llorona for having some agency as some versions I’ve heard do (see in ‘Annotations’ below), she doesn’t judge the character. Her words were void of emotion in the sense that she just explained what happened. Matter of factly linking action to consequence but not claiming anything. This balanced view of the story was refreshing. Especially since it is a glimpse that the younger generation hopefully sees La Llorona as someone who is not necessarily in the right, but who also did what she had to do and paid the price for it. My version was always interlaced with fear, and I’m thankful to be introduced to versions of this Legend fused with a quiet power, and undeniable agency. 


Annotations: For another version of this Legend that explores feminist themes please see page 54 of MELUS Vol. 24, No.2  (The Society for the Study of Multi-Ethnic Literature of the United States, 1999) for Ana María Carbonell’s “From La Llorona to La Gritona: Coatlicue in Femenist Tales by Viramontes and Cisneros”

El Cucuy

Context:

MV is a 2nd generation Mexican-American from New Mexico. Half of her family is of Japanese-Mexican descent and the other half is mestizo. Much of her extended family lives in Mexico. I received this story from her in a video conference call from our respective homes. She learned this story from her grandmother, who told it to her when she was a child.

Text:

JS: Tell me the story of El Quiqui (alternatively el cucuy)

MV: All right so el quiqui lives in tunnels in the mountains. And he’s a really creepy guy who takes away bad children and eats them. There’s this girl, her name is Rosa or some other Mexican shit it doesn’t really matter (laughs). And she’s such a good kid, always does her chores, is obedient and all that. Her sister, though, her name is… Margarita (laughs), she’s awful, just a bad kid all around. So one night el quiqui comes and takes her to the mountains. Rosa goes up and just as he is about to eat Margarita, she saves her, and also finds all these other kids in his tunnels and sets them free.

JS: What do you think the story means?

MV: Classic. Classic! “Do your chores or you’re gonna get eaten (laughs)”

Thoughts:

The practical utility of this legend, as the informant stated above, is obvious. It is a tool for persuading children to take care of household duties. Paradoxically, to give them a sense of responsibility, the story scares them into obedience. The informant’s response, “classic,” suggests that household duty and obedience are important parts of being a woman in a Mexican family. Interestingly, in this informant’s account, the two children were girls. This gendering of the objects of El Cucuy’s aggression suggests that young girls are more often trained at a young age to assist with chores around the house than young boys. The faithful Rosa is a model child, one with a sense of responsibility to her sister and to her family. She is a model of domesticity and virtue. Additionally, El Cucuy is masculine, suggesting that a girl who is not obedient will be taken away and consumed by a mysterious and dangerous man. The story can be used to scare children into doing their chores, but it also contains a gendered lesson of matronly duty and selflessness, that if one does not practice obedience, she will end up with an unfavorable man and meet her demise.

For a more comprehensive look at El Cucuy and other Mexican children’s folk legends, see Domino Renee Perez’s book There was a woman: La Llorona from folklore to popular culture

Perez, Domino Renee. There was a woman: La Llorona from folklore to popular culture. University of Texas Press, 2008.

Santo Toribio Romo and Protection

Background

Informant: A.G.  22 years old current senior in undergrad at USC, third generation from Honduras/Mexico

Location: Los Angeles, CA

Context

A.G. learned this story from his mother who had friends that had crossed the border into the United States from Mexico. Given that Catholicism is a popular religion in that region, many people look to the patron saints for guidance in times of confusion or fear. The saint, Toribio Romo, has become one that immigrants pray to for assistance while crossing the boarder, and has become a widely known figure in the Mexican domination of religion as a result. I have transcribed A.G.’s telling of the story below:

Main Piece

“Before my mom’s friend crossed the border from Mexico to the United States, he did a lot of preparation and praying for the trip. He also talked to a lot of my friends about people they knew that had gone and arrived safely and one of them told him a story about the Santo Toribio Romo. His friend’s  family had traveled across the boarder with another group of their friends. They traveled throughout the day and the night and only stopped when it was necessary but one day, they got lost and then ran out of food and water for a couple of days. They kept walking but had no idea which way to go. As they were walking tough, one of the people in the group said that he saw an oasis and a man who looked like a priest standing next to it telling them to go where he was. Everyone figured that the man was hallucinating from the desert, but they all followed him and hoped it was the way to go. When they went towards the oasis direction, they found out it was the right way to go and eventually made it to the United States. When they all arrived and settled down, the man who claimed to have seen the oasis called his wife and told her what he saw. She told him that it was because she prayed for Santo Toribio Romo to guide them and he was the one who appeared to them near the oasis.”

Thoughts

This story impacted A.G. in its general message of family and the strength of family ties, even in times of separation and turbulence. The initial fear that is experienced when a family must separate in order to immigrate is captured in the story itself, but also the strength and love that is expressed, especially by those that are not making the initial journey with their family. A.G. remarked that the story gave him hope, because to him it illustrated the importance of having family and people who care about you to pray for you and be there for you when you need them, even if they can’t be physically present. It also meant a lot to him, given that his family had experienced something similar and he felt a particular cultural tie to the experience.

There are many stories and variations of stories in which a saint or a guardian angel comes down and intervenes of behalf of the believer and to their benefit. I find that these stories, and belief in them serve the purpose of both inspiring hope, and in validating the religion and the existence of supernatural or other-wordy occurrences that are related to Christianity. Stories like this are important for the morale of people in difficult times, as they can offer a glimmer in an otherwise incredibly difficult situation, yet they still benefit the religion overall if people experience or hear of experiences related to saints.