The Mulatto Woman of Córdoba

Mulata

There’s plenty of known stories of witches and sorceresses, but none like the legend of the Mulata (Mulatto Woman) of Córdoba: a woman born in the city of Veracruz when the Holy Inquisition undertook the mission of terminating any and all who comitted acts of sorcery.

Legend says her name was Soledad, but everyone knew her better by her ‘healing powers’. She earned her fame in Veracruz for brewing potions that healed even the most mysterious ailments. It’s also been said that she could make a bad husband to return home, gave jobs to the poor, found what had been lost and healed those left for dead.

Her popular and ‘magical’ services were known from the main streets of the State capital all the way down to the last boardwalk of the pier, and that’s how the Holy Inquisition found out about her. However, finding her was not easy, and neither was holding her captive.

When the Mulata was finally arrested, she was tried and condemned to burn in a pyre in the public plaza for witchcraft and sorcery. Between the trial and her execution she was imprisoned in the deepest, darkest and coldest cell in San Juan de Ulúa, a prison built on an island close to the port of Veracruz.

The story says that one night the Mulata approached a guard with a charming smile and asked him for a lump of coal to draw with. No one was ever capable of denying anything to a face as beautiful as hers, or those eyes as black as the darkest abyss so deep and so mysterious one could get vertigo by just looking straight into them. The guard gave her the coal immediately, under the condition that he be allowed to watch her while she drew.

When she was finally done, Soledad called the guard over to show him what she had created. The guard was astonished at such a magnificent work of art. It was a drawing of a boat, a huge Spanish galleo with big, wide, white sails that navigated on troubled waters, its bow pointing towards a distant horizon.

“It’s magnificent” he told her. “It just needs to sail away”. The Mulata smiled, showing off her pearly-white teeth.

“That can be solved” she said with laughter in her voice and she jumped directly into the drawing. Astonished and incapable of believing his own eyes, the guard watched her walk on the deck, take the wheel and point the ship at the horizon. The galleon faded into the distance and got lost in the crack of some wall.

No one ever saw the Mulata again. Nobody knew anything about her after that.

Advertisements

The Rabbit on the Moon

Conejo

The moon is definitely the lovers’ favourite celestial body. It’s had songs, poems and verses dedicated to and we even use it to compare it’s glow with the beauty of our beloved one’s smile.

Surrounded by mysticism, the moon has always captivated humanity. We’ve turned it into the protagonist of shiver-inducing horror stories, for she’s the one that turns man into wolf and the one witness to nocturnal sorcery. Mysticism aside, the moon’s also relevant from a scientific point of view for without it, a big part of the world would disappear and we wouldn’t live in the relative order with which we live now.

You’ve probably admired it more than once, you’ve let your eyes caress it’s surface with detail and maybe, just maybe, you’ve discovered the silhouette of a rabbit engraved on its surface. If you have, don’t worry for you’re not the only one. Many have noticed it when the moon is full and the skies are clear.

A Mexican legend tells the story of how a rabbit managed to get all the way up there. Legend says that the god Quetzalcóatl, the Feathered Serpent, descended to the Earth disguised as a man, just to see what it was like to live like one. He wandered all day and all night marvelled at everything he found on his path: the birds’ flight, the flowers’ scents, the murmur of running water, the warmth of the sun and the freshness of the wind; but he also felt hunger, thirst, fatigue and pain.

With the full moon at its peak he took a moment to rest. In the small clearing he chose to rest in he came across a rabbit as white as a summer cloud. The rabbit, upon seeing the man so tired and battered, decided to offer him some grass to eat. Quetzalcóatl politely declined the offered herb, saying he didn’t eat grass.

“I can’t hunt or fish and I’m afraid of water, I suppose I’ll just starve to death”, Quetzalcóatl said. The rabbit, unaware that this was a deity he was talking to, willingly offered his life so the man could eat. Quetzalcóatl, moved by the rabbit’s sacrifice, told him he’d be remembered for all time by mankind for offering his own life to save someone else’s. The god took the rabbit in his hands carefully and raised him towards the moon. Using the rays of light from the sun, he engraved the rabbit’s shadow on the moon’s surface as a memorial to such a noble sacrifice, filled with innocence and purity.

Ever since that day, every rabbit hops. They all leap as high as they can, trying to reach the immortality achieved by that first rabbit.

Dolls’ Island

muñecas

Xochimilco, a nearly magical place in Mexico City, is the only remaining vestige of the ancient city of Tenochtitlan. Navigating its canals can give you an idea of how the promised land of the Aztecs looked like.

Nowadays, this place is one of the most popular tourist attractions in the capital city. It’s well known for its trajineras(traditional barges) and the beautiful rides they give through the canals so tourists can see the chinampas, floating plots of land where flowers, trees and crops are grown and harvested.

Among Xochimilco’s places of interest you can find the Isla de las Muñecas, the Isle of the Dolls, a cursed isle visited only by the bravest and those who wish to hear the tragic story of Julián Santa Ana.

Mr. Santa Ana was the owner of the isle for 50 years and during the last 10 he spent his time collecting dolls he found in the garbage which he used to “decorate” his property. This dolls have given the isle a grim and gloomy look, and if you get close, the air feels heavy and melancholic. Julián Santa Ana never gave a concrete explanation for his collecting of the torn and broken toys, but when asked he would merely answer “to haunt the haunters”.

When Mr. Santa Ana died in 2001, his nephew Anastasio Santa Ana inherited the cursed isle and he’s the one who now recounts the story of the dolls. Julián came to inhabit the isle in his youth and he later claimed that a girl drowned close to the shore of his property. The body was never identified so she ended up a Jane Doe who never received a holy burial and ended up in a mass grave. From that day on, Julián told his relatives that during the night he could hear a girl crying, a child’s footsteps and even a child’s voice calling his name. In an attempt to “scare away” the spirit, he started gathering all the dolls he found in the rubbish or floating abandoned on the water.

Those that knew Julián claim he slowly began losing his mind; more than once they found him sitting or kneeling down, talking to someone no one else could see…

In 2001, Mr. Julián drowned off the isle’s shore, in the same spot where it’s been said the body of the little girl appeared dead. Nowadays you can pay for a trip to the Isle of the Dolls, but be careful for the lancheros will often take tourists and visitors to a fake isle to avoid even coming close to the real one.

muñecas 2

Fireballs

IMG_1568There are no names of streets or people in this story, there’s only what’s been passed by word of mouth and what can still be seen in some parts of Mexico City and some remote little towns all over the country. Since ancient times, grown-ups have developed the habit of pulling little children away from windows after nightfall and you are about to learn why.

Much has been spoken over the years about mysterious, resplendent balls of fire; these fireballs are commonly visible close to hills or small towns surrounded by forest in cloudy or stormy nights. In Mexico, young and old folk alike know what exactly these balls of fire really are: witches. It’s been said for centuries in Mexico and in many other parts of the world that witches can turn into balls of fire that wander around town streets looking to kidnap children that are looking out the window during the night or to hoodwink young men that wander the streets alone. Some say these same fireballs emit eerie laughs, chill-inducing cackling and unintelligible whispers.

These witches-turned-fireballs can be seen most often in the city of Guadalajara, in the State of Jalisco. Its townsfolk have passed down the story of an unfortunate man who stumbled across one such floating ball of fire one night while wandering alone in a dark alleyway. Entranced by the crimson flames he never noticed he followed the fireball all the way to the base of a hill, all of a sudden the fireball disappeared but it was too late for the man to take notice of his surroundings. Nobody knows what happened exactly, but when the man was finally seen again several days later he was unable to utter a single word… the witches had stolen his voice.

If you don’t believe my story just browse the Internet for a few minutes, there are lots of videos that show these fireballs. You might say you have a “perfectly logical explanation” for this phenomenon, but if you ever come across one of these balls of fire I strongly recommend you shut the window close or start walking in the opposite direction or else you might not live to tell the tale…

Finding Tenochtitlan

Eagle

This is the story of a wandering people that walked through a vast stretch of land of violently changing, harsh climate, unable to find a suitable place to claim as a home; men, women and children wandered with no clear destination or known direction searching for a sign described to them by their deities. Their previous home, Aztlán, the Place of the Herons, had been ravaged by drought. A witness to their suffering, their god Huitzilopochtli took pity on them when they were on the verge of death and spoke to their high priests. His command was: “You shall wander throughout the land until you find a majestic eagle devouring a serpent while standing atop a nopal (prickly pear cactus)”.

At first it sounded like a pretty simple task, for such two animals were abundant in this land but after a long time of fruitless searching they started losing hope. Many grew sceptical and decided to part ways with the rest, joining other tribes and becoming low-class workers, others decided to settle themselves in no man’s land and built their own civilisations from the ground up.

World-renowned historians have declared that the Aztecs’ pilgrimage started in the year 1299 A.D. and 26 years later, in 1325, they finally arrived at their own promised land. Those that never lost their faith in the words of Huitzilopochtli could see the prophecy become true before them. In a region rich with lakes and canals they found a giant nopal, on top of which was perched an eagle as bright as gold devouring a rattlesnake. This land was then christened as Tenochtitlan, which is believed to mean “The place of the clusters of nopal”.

Hernán Cortés arrived to Tenochtitlan in 1519, after sailing along the coasts of Yucatán and Tabasco; he entered the capital of the Aztec empire armed, armoured and accompanied by a full cavalry. He froze in wonder as soon as he stepped through the gates of the city, amazed and rendered speechless at the majesty of that “village on the water” as he described it himself but, in spite of his wonder at such power and riches, the only thing he knew to do with it was to destroy it. He crumbled the statues of our deities and demolished our sacred temples, leaving not one stone standing. He imposed Catholicism as the one and true religion and also took care to get rid of our mother language, forcing each and every Aztec to learn to speak Castilian (nowadays known as Spanish).

In spite of endless battles, bloodshed and the death of every single person who refused to bow to the will of Cortés, the story of a people that wandered without a home for over two decades was passed down from one generation to the next. Nowadays, we proudly display Huitzilopochtli’s prophecy in the centre of our flag and adopted it as our coat of arms as a way to let the world know our history.

The Black Charro


charronegro

If you ever find yourself travelling through the states of Puebla, Tlaxcala, Veracruz or Hidalgo, try not to wander the streets after the Sun has set on the horizon. Many claim that when they wandered through the main avenues by themselves with the Moon high in the sky, a sinister laugh pervades the desolated streets and a long shadow extends up on the walls.

This is El Charro Negro (The Black Charro/Horseman). Those who have seen him say he’s a tall, thin, good-looking man clad in a fine black charro outfit who’s always riding a sullen horse as black as the night.

Many claim it’s the Devil himself, disguised to hoodwink his victims, other say it’s just a wandering soul looking for a little bit of company…

The story of Adela, a woman considered fairly liberal for her time, has been passed down by word of mouth. While other ladies would prefer to stay at home during nighttime, Adela would take long nightly walks and visit some paramours of hers. One of many similar nights, Adela ran into a man dressed like a charro riding on horseback. Said man, aided by flattery, sweet-talk and charm, convinced Adela he’d take her on the back of his horse to wherever she wanted. Dazzled by the man’s captivating personality, Adela agreed to the ride but as soon as she sat on the back of the horse, it suddenly turned into a red-hot fiery wraith and the flames started licking at Adela’s flesh voraciously.

Adela’s screams of pain and horror immediately put the close by neighbours on alert and they stepped out to see what was happening… but it was too late. The Black Charro had taken the unwary woman down to the furthest recesses of hell at full gallop.

There’s another version of this story which, word has it, only happens to male victims. Witnesses both young and old, who claim to have seen El Charro Negro, affirm he settles for walking down with them while on the road, making small talk. If, by chance, there happens to be a church on the roadside, the Charro will kindly take his leave and start walking down a different path but if he offers to help carry luggage or offers a bag full of gold coins he must be turned down sharply, otherwise the traveller will suffer the same fate as Adela.

This story has been passed down on the streets of several states in the Mexican Republic since the 1930s and still nowadays there are people who claim to have been joined by the dismal character, but there’s none left who dare accept the ride or the money.

The Burnt One

image

 

El Callejón de “La Quemada” (The Alleyway of “The Burnt One”) is a narrow alleyway hidden among the big ancient buildings of downtown Mexico City. Walking through the alley is forbidden nowadays for it’s under the protection of the church of La Profesa, the same place that witnessed the holy marriage of the unfortunate damsel that gives the alleyway its name and Don Martín de Scópoli, Marquis of Piamonte and Franteschelo.

During the 16th Century, Mexico was knows as Nueva España (New Spain) and many wealthy Spaniard families relocated their lives to the new colonies to prosper and watch their gold multiply. One of such families was the one of Don Gonzalo Espinosa de Guevara, who before setting sail lived with his daughter Beatriz in the village of Illescas.

Beatriz was a beautiful Spaniard young woman withblack eyes, straight, jet-black hair, full red lips and a star-studded smile; her beauty caught the attention of more than one gentleman and she never lacked amorous suitors, but Beatriz’s heart already belonged to someone.

The young Spaniard was deeply in love with the Italian gentleman Don Martín de Scópoli, Marquis of Piamonte and Franteschelo, who also professed an intense love for her. Such was Don Martín’s love for her that he would duel any one who dared step under the balcony of her sweet beau with the intention of courting her. The swords of the enamoured combatants would clash under the moonlight and every dawn would bring with it the dead body of any young man who dared cross blades with Don Martín.

With every new day, Beatriz would be horrified to find a lifeless corpse on the ground beneath her balcony. She felt unbelievably guilty and responsible for all those deaths and desperately looked for a way to get Don Martín to stop, but he wouldn’t listen or acknowledge her wishes.

Feeling her hand had been forced, she took a choice that would change her life forever. Hoping Don Martín would stop loving her for it, she sunk her beautiful face into the red-hot coals burning in an anafre, marring forever her angelic features. Beatriz’s painful wail would forever remain impregnated in the city walls.

Friar Marcos de Jesús y Gracia, who lived in the church of La Profesa -formerly known as the Oratory of San Felipe Neri- ran to the residence of Don Gonzalo Espinosa de Guevara to find out what had happened and what he saw froze the blood in his veins. Beatriz was lying unconscious on the floor, her facial features devoured by the merciless flames. Her lips were forever gone, her eyelids couldn’t protect her eyes and they were dissolved by the raging embers.

The Friar, who left to get help, ran straight into Don Martín de Scópoli, Marquis of Piamonte and Franteschelo and explained what had happened. The suitor could not believe what he was hearing and ran as fast as he could to the Guevara residence. Inside, he found Beatriz dissolved into a tearless weeping. He held her carefully and hugged her tenderly, confessing he didn’t love her for her physical appearance but for her kindness, gentle soul and righteous heart. Don Martín promised to marry her and sent for the father of the girl to ask for her hand in marriage.

Legend has it that Beatriz and Don Martín got married as soon as they could in the church of La Profesa. The day of the wedding, the hallowed precinct found itself packed full of family and curious onlookers who wished to see the face of “La Quemada (The Burnt One)”, as Beatriz now found herself referred to as, but no one was able to satisfy their morbid curiosity for Don Martín concealed the face of his beloved bride behind a fine, beautiful, thick white veil.

Beatriz’s face was never seen again and those who caught a glimpse of her after the wedding day claimed she was always hanging from Don Martín’s arm, with a black veil covering her face. Nevertheless, many affirm that Beatriz’s painful wail still resounds among the walls of Mexico City’s downtown.