The Kissing Alley

Beso

The tale of Romeo and Juliet is, no doubt, one of the most tragic stories ever in which death is preferred to living a life away from a loved one and you could say that in Mexico we have one just -or almost- as tragic. It’s known as the Legend of the Callejón del Beso, the Kissing Alley, starring Luis and Carmen.

Carmen was a lady of a high lineage, who lived a wealthy life with no privations in the city of Guanajuato, in the state of the same name. Her father, who was known for having a short temper, loved her very much and already had plans made for her future. He wished to marry her to a wealthy Spaniard, much older than she was, with the sole intention to increase her already large fortune. Nevertheless, Carmen already had a secret lover way out of sight from everyone. The only one who know about this affair was Carmen’s handmaiden, Brígida, who guarded her secret like her own and helped set up their trysts. Luis, Carmen’s lover, was from a poor family, the son of lowly miners that had little to offer. The young lovers knew their romance was an impossible one but they didn’t care much for it and slowly they started weaving their love story.

The fairytale didn’t last long though, for Carmen’s father found out about the affair his daughter had behind his back. Blinded by rage and deaf to any protest he sentenced his daughter to a life in a secluded Spanish convent. Carmen wept and begged her father, asking him to see reason but her efforts were in vain. The only thing she got was permission to pen a letter to Luis, to be delivered by Brígida to let him know she was leaving for the convent and would never return again. When Luis read the letter, he started devising a plan and doing everything he could to be close to Carmen. It’s widely known he used gold to buy the house behind hers, whose walls were so close that one only needed to stretch their arm to touch the other house’s.

This is how Carmen and Luis could be together…for a short time. They talked in hushed voices, spent hours looking into each other’s eyes and holding the other’s hands while Brígida stood dutiful watch to make sure Carmen’s father was far from her room, but one day Carmen’s father tried to get into the room despite Brígida’s protests. Her father, in a fit of short-fused anger, shoved Brígida aside and barged into the room. Upon seeing Carmen holding Luis’s hand he went mad with rage and stabbed his own daughter twice on the chest. Luis, stunned and terrified could do nothing but hold the hand of his beloved one and see the life leave her body, but not before giving the back of Carmen’s hand a soft and warm kiss.

This story has been passed down since then and the alley is now a popular place for couples to visit and kiss under the windows of Luis and Carmen, lest they face 7 years of bad luck in love…or so the townsfolk say.

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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.

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.