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Mexican Legends and Folklore

Every culture has legends, folktales and stories that are passed down through the generations. Some stories are told to place fear in the hearts of listeners, while others illustrate a touching moment or message. In this article, you will encounter two tales associated with Mexican lore.

The Wailing Woman

Many variations exist regarding this tale, but the following is one interpretation. A Spanish soldier fell in love with a striking native woman. Together, they had two children whom the soldier cared for deeply. However, there was a problem with the family that the soldier had created because he came from wealthy parents. They did not approve of his love and threatened to disown their son unless he took a Spanish woman as his wife.

Fearing the loss of his inheritance, the soldier listened to his parents and sent for a Spanish bride. Filled with rage and jealousy, the native woman plotted revenge against the soldier and drowned their two children in the river. The soldier was grief-stricken by what she had done and attempted to have her arrested by the authorities. However, she escaped into the wild land , angry, jealous and filled with guilt. She spent her time wandering about the land , looking for her children in the waterways. She never found them and as a result, she took her own life by drowning in the river.

However, the spirit of the woman did not make it to heaven because of the crime she had committed on earth. It is said that her spirit (referred to as the Wailing Woman or La Llorona) still roams the earth , searching for her children in vain. She is tormented by this act because she will never find them.

Tale of the Poinsettia

The tale of how the poinsettia got its name involves a poor Mexican girl named Pepita, who had no present to give the Christ Child at Christmas Eve Services. The young girl walked to the chapel with her cousin, but she was not filled with joy, but instead, felt great sadness. Her cousin tried to console her by saying that “even the most humble gift, if given in love, will be acceptable in His eyes.”

At that moment, Pepita gathered a handful of common weeds and created a small bouquet. The sight of the weeds increased her sadness and embarrassment. When she entered the small village chapel, she was struggling to keep the tears from flowing. As she came closer to the altar, she replayed the kind words of her cousin. Her spirit lifted as she knelt to lay the bouquet at the foot of the nativity scene.

All of a sudden, the bouquet of weeds transformed into lively red blooms. All who witnessed the change believed they had seen a Christmas miracle. From then on, the brightly colored red flowers were referred to as the “Flores de Noche Buena” or Flowers of the Holy Night because every year (around the Christmas season) , they bloom. The plant then became known as the poinsettia.