The conversation would quiet down for a while after the story of La Llorona then
some would recall the time when the valley was haunted by El Techolote or the
owl that had taken over the body of someone acquainted with the story teller.
Once again an elaborate build up would take place to place a personal touch to
the story. The story would begin for the most part with the disappearance of the
individual know to the story teller. At about the same time an owl or El Techolote
would perch itself in a nearby tree or in the attic of a local home. Every night
about bedtime it would began to hoot at first like an owl and then it would take
on the tone of a human voice calling for a member of the household.
The following day or days after the horrifying night a search would began for El
Techolote. They would climb up into the attics of the homes they thought the
sounds came from but find nothing. Up and down the trees looking for the
nesting place of El Techolote this also coming to no avail, where they would ask
each other did this creature disappear to during the day.
A few brave souls would then hid outside of their homes in the late evening
waiting for the appearance of El Techolote and the haunting and terrifying
sounds it created. One night El Techolote parched itself on one of the nearby
fence post and a well aimed shot from one of the riflemen was fired. They knew
it had been hit as it jumped when hit and screeched a blood curling screech. They
ran to the spot they had seen El Techolote but found nothing.
The next day they looked again for El Techolote and only found a spot of blood
where it had been perched prior to be shot. Lying on the ground they found a few
bloodied feathers but no Techolote. They started to ask others if they had seen the
remains of what they believe was a dead bird but instead found un amigo, un
padrino or a primo hermano laying in bed with a wound to his shoulder with no
explanation as to how he receive this would.
Several weeks later El Techolote appeared once again, moving more gingerly but
still flying and still putting out its ungodly sound. Once again the brave
marksmen stood in hiding waiting to see if they could get a shot of El Techolote.
One of the marksmen yielding to his own superstition loaded his rifle with
cartridges tipped with silver bullets etched with a tiny cross. At last El Techolote
exposed itself to the sights of the marksmen and was fired upon by the
marksmen; someone had hit it as it let out the horrible screech heard when it had
been shot earlier. However no sign of the bird could be found only spots of blood
and a few feathers.
The search began again for El Techolote the next day upon arriving at the home
of the acquaintance of the story teller they found a dead body shot this time close
to the heart. The bullet was dug out of the corpse and to the horror of all it was a
silver bullet with a small cross etched on it. Once again the cocina grew quite the
only sound beside a whisper or two was that of someone biting into an apple or
breaking the shell of a pinion.
Little by little the group would start to smaller as some of the visitors would have
to start the walk back to their homes. Some like my Tia Leonard and Maria had
only a few hundred feet to travel to the house given to them by mi abuelito and
abuelita. While other could end walking up to a mile or so in the dark of night
and the thoughts of the stories still lingering in their minds. Those with children
may have easily the tight grip of the Childs hand in their as they stepped out of the
safety of la cocina and into the cool air of the pitch black night.
The group was much smaller now maybe a two or three couples and a fewer kids,
I would continue to stay perched on my chair next to the stove and the flickering
embers of a warm fire. The coffee pot was ever so closed to being empty by now
only a few items remained on the table to nibble on. The bowl of quashed was
now almost clean as the that remaining elements which more liquid then solid
was absorbed with a piece of bread and maybe the once full jelly jar was now
empty and the plate of bisquitchitos or empanadas now reflected the light of the
kerosene lamp or flicker of the light bulb hanging from the ceiling.
If we are to look back and reflect back on the stories that the patriarchs of la
colonia entertained those in the room with we would come to the conclusion that
that this were all fictitious accounts. Our reflections today equate these very vivid
accounts of those that walked in darkness with the like of the tales of Bram
Stokers, Count Dracula the infamous folklore coming from the mind of this Irish
author. We could also venture a guess and draw some correlation with the
mythological accounts of werewolf’s and this could be established with stories
that were shared by the Native American community of which mi abuelita and her
family could trace their root to. But the following and perhaps lesser
entertaining tales brought those accounts of things that go bump in the night
more into the present perspective.
Los Hermanos de la Fraternidad Piadosa de Nuestro Padre Jesus Nazareno or
the Brothers of the Pious Fraternity of Our Father Jesus of Nazarene or more
commonly known as Los Penitentes. These were a group of Catholic men active
both in northern New Mexico and southern Colorado said to have derived their
concept of service to the Lord from the thousand year history by their ancestors in
Spain or Italy. High upon the mountain above Tramperos and barely visible to a
casual observer was a cross.
It was during the season of Lent as the community prepared to celebrate Easter
Sunday Los Penitentes would prepare what believed the most sacred of their
secret rituals. During the days prior to Good Friday or the Holy Week there
would be the reenactment of Christ’s crucifixion which focused on self-
flagellation. This was the methodical beating or whipping of each Penitente who
crawled on his knees from the cross on the mountain top down to the valley
below. The accounts of the cries and screams told around the kitchen table
would send chills down the back of the listener even this one sitting next to the
heat of the stove.
Vivid description by the story teller of the floggings sharing the accounts of the
birching and or caning drawing blood and cries of agony flowed into the mind of
the listeners. Then the accounts of seeing the bloodied and scared back of the
Penitente and the need for intensive treating of the wounds would be detailed.
Many years later I would receive a copy of the charter and by-laws of one such
group would come into my possession, however only the accounts shared in la
cocina would remain in my mind.
If you were to travel about a mile and a half from la casa of mi abuelita you
would find yourself visiting la morada. I was informed that mi abuelito or
someone directly related to Salvador Chavez had donated the land which would
become the local cemetery. It was here that the final resting place for the
departed would be provided free of charge to the occupants of Agua Negra. Today
many of the gravesites are in disarray and many grave sites are unmarked making
it all but impossible to find the location of a loved one who had passed away prior
to the late 50’s or early 60’s.
This story which was by far laden by the most truth was a favorite of a great uncle
or some other close family member or vecino. Sometime in the late 1800’s there
took place in la colonia of Agua Negra a plague of some sort. I am thinking the
reference was to typhoid fever. In this village where doctors did not exist and
treatment for illnesses were perform by los or las medicas or curanderas or in a
much simpler form by a chant a devastating plague like typhoid fever witnessed
the deaths of many member of la colonia. It was not unusual to see whole
families wiped out by the sickness and so the basis for this formed.
It was not uncommon to watch as a procession by a few family members followed
a horse drawn wagon carrying a crudely formed Cajon, coffin, nothing more than
a pine box. Clothed in their black garments the men and younger women holding
up the older or weaker members of the party. At times the children were led by
the hand as they headed towards La Morada or the final dwelling place of the
dead. The community watched from the safety of their own home fearing being
exposed to the deadly disease that had already claimed so many lives some from
their immediate family.
Hours before a group of men had arrived at el cementerio to excavate the burial
site for the departed. The story told around la mesa en la cocina de mi abuelita
was that of a young mother. Once again she was either family or someone very
familiar to the individual sharing the account. The young woman who had just
recently given birth to her first child was now lying in bed gripped in the deadly
fever. Cold wash clothes draped over her burning forehead, blanket dampened by
the constant perspiration of the dying woman.
With what little strength she would cry out to her Creator, Dios mio lleva me por
favor déjà mi Niña vivir, Dear Lord take me but let my baby girl live. Then she
would whisper to those caring for her in such a manner as to wishing not to be
heard by the Almighty. If I die and my child should also die bring her to me and
lay her beside me en mi cajon so we may together forever.
In a few short days the mother had succumbed to the sickness and another
crudely made coffin was constructed and she was laid to rest in it. Already as
they prepared to bury this young woman the child was also starting to develop a
fever and hope was fading among the family for the baby. The process proceeded
down the road that connected Tramperos to the main highway and also led to La
Morada and in a short while the young woman was buried in the freshly dug
Within the week the child also died and the wished of the mother to have her
child buried with her were to be honored. With some fear and in trepidation of
perhaps catching the sickness the grave diggers removed the fresh dirt from the
grave and prepared for the final steps in now burying the child. The child was
carried to the grave site and the group gathered to pray for the souls of both the
mother and child and the top was removed from the crude coffin.
Gasps filled the air as those closest to the grave saw that the body of was now
facing face down and her clothing in total disarray. When the lid to the coffin
was lifted and place on the ground next to the grave one could clearly see groves
where the woman had scratched, no attempted to claw her way out of the coffin.
The young woman, the friend or relative of the story teller had been buried alive.
|HISTORIAS ALREDEDOR DE LA MESA
EN MIS ABUELAS COCINA
AGUA NEGRA, NEVO MEXICO
|In many of the villages are seen the
remains of what was once the proud and
humble home of a New Mexico family.
Our family still maintains the home of
mi abuelita in Agua Negra.
|On such a mountain one could see
the cross where Los Penitentes
would start their procession of pain
during the season of the Holy Week.