La Palma – The Palm Tree
To the Editor,
In the early 1950s, streets in el Jardín were unpaved, and kerosene stoves were still common. The introduction of street lights extended our playing time after dark and responsibilities like going to Don Pacheco’s store to get last minute groceries.
One of the games that came with the light was tag. We played in teams, and the rules were simple: you couldn’t move once you were tagged, and tagging could only take place within the light. The objective was to out-run the tagging team beyond the radius of the light into the surrounding darkness and then, when they least expected it, run back to the safety of the light post.
One night, the game morphed: now you could get tagged outside of the light. One member of your team had to run into the dark and tag you, freeing you to run back to the light post. At times, one could be all alone out there in the dark, waiting to be tagged, an active imagination creating all kinds of scary things.
I was 8 or 9 years old when the rules were broken in the middle of one game: a player walked out of the darkness into the light without being tagged. He told us that he had seen an old woman, dressed in black with a hood, standing next to the small palm tree on the corner lot at the end of the block, and she called his name. That ended the game for that night—we all found reasons to go home early!
The game went on as the days moved closer to Halloween—and the figure kept appearing. Members of the club who had seen the woman in black increased. When I told my older brother, he made fun of it – son puras mentiras mediosos. Still, I wondered. The guys wouldn’t cross themselves and kiss their thumb and fore finger if it wasn’t true, would they?
The night before Halloween, a light storm began to blow in and cancelled our game. The air chilled the night; dark clouds hid the bright October moon off and on. I walked with my older brother to Don Pacheco’s to get a gallon of kerosene, closing my eyes when we passed by the palm tree. When we got there, my brother decided to stay at the pool hall, so I reluctantly started home alone with the heavy gallon of kerosene.
Walking down the middle of the street, I could hear my own footsteps, dogs barked, and my legs felt weak as I got closer to the corner lot where la palma stood. The light of the moon suddenly vanished as dark clouds covered it. I stopped, sweating, waiting for the light of the moon to continue. Then I heard my name called—the voice coming from la palma!
My eyes strained to see. Shadows formed before me, and there next to la palma was a dark figure. Heart pounding, I opened my mouth, but no sound came out. At that moment, I heard my name called again. The figure turned and in the darkness, I could see no face under the hood. I closed my eyes and ran. The voice called again as I bumped into la jefa who was coming for me.
The week that followed found la jefa curando me de susto. I had joined the selected club.
Hector R. Barrera, Ph.D.
Originally from El Jardin in San Benito
Leyenda De La Cuerva
To the Editor,
This story began on a small town near Linares, where there was a young handsome man named Macario Leyva. He had a beautiful girlfriend named Mariana. She was the most beautiful girl in the region; therefore, a lot of men were after her and women envied her.
Before Macario dated Mariana, he dated a girl that lived in “La Petaca.” However she had a fame of being a witch. People would speculate she would turn into a crow at nights and would hide in a pepper tree outside Mariana’s house.
Mariana was deeply in love with Macario waiting to wed him. Therefore, she did not believe in witchcraft and would ignore the comments people would make.
One day the ex-girlfriend (the witch) warned Macario not to get married or bad things would happen to him, but he ignored all the threats.
Finally the day of the wedding came. Macario was waiting for Mariana in the church, but she never came. She got ill and ended up dying in her white wedding gown.
People whispered that on Mariana’s funeral, a crow was signing with a horrific laugh. After the funeral the crow opened its wings and took off towards “La Petaca.”
People in the small town near Linares grew up hearing this tale about a young lady that would transform into a crow. Young men fear to fall in love with her.
There was also a song made from this scary tale named “La Cuerva De La Petaca by Carlos y Jose”.
Macario tenía una novia, que se llamaba Mariana
Una linda florecita, y la quería con el alma
Los hombres la pretendían, las mujeres la envidiaban
Macario tuvo que ver, antes con otra muchacha
Y dicen que era bonita y muy brava, nativa de la petaca
Por esas malas pasiones, de gente que no perdona,
Hicieron que aquellos novios, no llegaran a la boda
Tenia fama de hechicera, la gente lo comentaba,
Y dicen que por las noches, en cuerva se transformaba
Y en un pirul de la casa, de Mariana se ocultaba
Mariana no lo creía, porque estaba enamorada,
Lo cierto que se enfermo, de una cosa muy extraña
Murió vestida de blanco, cuando a Macario esperaba
Le vino a cantar un cuervo, cuando a Mariana velaban,
Y dicen los que lo vieron, que el cuervo se carcajeaba
Después levanto su vuelo, con rumbo hacia “La Petaca”
Tengan cuidado en las noches, no duden lo que no saben
Dicen que los cuervos hablan, pero también hacen males
Ya con esta ahí me despido, nomás quiero recordarles,
Que esto paso en un pueblito, muy cerquita de Linares