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martes, 31 de enero de 2012

Myths and legends of Mexican tribes from the desert: The mesquites cross

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A LEGEND ABOUT THE NATURAL CROSS IN MESQUITE TREES
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(Edited version of a legend heard in Mier y Noriega, NL)
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The elders of past centuries knew that the tradition of the cross of mesquite was not a thing of Christianity but that it came from further back, long before the Spanish arrived in the highlands and to impose their religion, which was unknown and alien to desert dwellers, the Huachichiles. Even though the conquerors thought everything the natives did was related to the devil, the only thing that they accepted about the huachichiles was the worshiping of the mesquite tree that had its arms outstretched as if they formed a cross, which for the missionaries was somehow similar to the Christian religion. But truth be told, for the natives the so-called cross in the mesquite tree was a powerful spirit of nature expressed in a human-like tree, its body erect and open arms, and they used to ask such spirit to bring rain when drought was prolonged.
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As the syncretism of beliefs took place, time went by and the Huachichil essence of this belief got lost and the cult of mesquite-shaped cross took a Catholic turn. In the present, any mesquite tree with such features is regarded as sacred and people organize a feast on May 3, Day of the Holy Cross. However, when there is drought, people bring offerings to those special trees because they know the spirit within will bring the miracle of rain.
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People in Mier y Noriega, N.L. say that on one occasion, a farmer who was unaware of this tradition was walking in the bush looking for firewood and found a cross-shaped mesquite; he decided to cut it. He came home with a pile of wood and also with the cross to set up an altar. When neighbors found out, he was asked to do something to apologize, but he said he did not believe in those things. On the third day, a very strong tornado swept through the town, killing everyone in the family of the farmer. The farmer, aware that the locals would retaliate against him, fled from the community and nobody ever knew about his whereabouts. Meanwhile, people took the Cross, organized a pilgrimage back to its original site and buried it. Rain continued for several more days, until the fury of the powerful spirit calmed. But the story doesn’t end here: some people say that right on the spot where they had buried the cross eventually grew a robust mesquite in a cross-shaped form, which still exists and people worship it.
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This is an excerpt from the story that was published in my book Myths and Legends of Huachichiles, edited by the Ministry of Culture of the State of Oaxaca in 2008.
The book, in Spanish, is available in bookshops in San Luis Potosi.

You can find more Mexican legends on this link:

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