The Burnt One

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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.

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