I teach in Spanish and English to migrant students (young adults, mostly) who are getting ready to take the GED. We were talking about the concept of fairies the other day — or rather, I was, because my Mexican/Dominican/Guatemalan/Ecuadorian students had never heard about the concept before. In Northern European folklore, there are small magical folk who might help children with their chores and might make it very difficult for bad people to get their work done. Is there anything similar in Mexican folklore?
Dear Gabacha Teacher:
Mexican folklore is vast, varies by region and depends a bit too much on the devil and wailing women, but fairies and other nonmidget phantasmagorical little people do enchant the Mexican mind. In the 1932 classic The Magic and Mysteries of Mexico: Arcane Secrets and Occult Lore of the Ancient Mexicans and Maya, famed folklorist Lewis Spence noted in hilariously antiquated fashion, "The fairy and her kind were as familiar to the Red man as to the White, for the excellent reason that throughout all his geographical ventures and peregrinations, man has always been accompanied by these invisible playmates as well as by his gods and other more exalted tribal patrons." He identifies two types: the Tepictoton (who helped farmers with their crops) and the Cihuateteo (dead women who cast diseases on children). Mexico also believes in the world's greatest sprite: Juan Gabriel, the bronze analog to Elton John but with better hair, tunes and moves. ¡Al Noa Noa, JuanGa!
I'm sad that there aren't more Mexicans here in the Detroit area. We're one of the few areas in the country that is predominately Catholic. We've welcomed wave after wave of Catholic immigrants for well over 100 years. In the past, we've accepted the Irish, the Italians, the Poles, the Ukrainians and the Chaldeans — all Catholic — and they've been welcomed into a local society that shares the same beliefs and underlying cultural values. Additionally, we're a strong blue state with values that most of our mexicano friends would find intimately familiar. Despite all this, our metro area has the lowest population of Mexican-Americans in the entire Estados Unidos. Where's the love?
El Pulimento Irlandés Católico
Dear Polack-Mick Papist:
Though Greater Detroit's Mexican community is tiny (about 5 percent, according to the latest census estimates), it's not the smallest such enclave within the 25 largest metropolitan areas in the United States — Baltimore (2.2 percent), St. Louis (2 percent) and Pittsburgh (1.3 percent) have smaller wab populations. (Kansas City, Missouri's Mexican population was 5 percent during the 2000 census, whereas Kansas City, Kansas, stood at 14 percent.) But your point is well-taken, and it prompted the Mexican to have an epiphany. Consider the history of our great republic. Think of the most notorious immigrant groups (legal or not), the ones gabachos have ridiculed for their big families, booze binges and propensity to commit crimes: Irish, Poles, Italians, Hungarians, Czechs and Mexicans. The common thread? Catholicism. Refry this hypothesis: Most of the anti-Mexican sentiment is actually anti-Catholic sentiment carried over from the still-unfinished war between Elizabethan England (white, English, Protestant) and Imperial Spain (Hispanic, Latin, Catholic) that rages for supremacy of the Americas. Manifest Destiny was just one volley in the battle, and Mexican mass migration is a logical flank maneuver in response. It's a much more plausible conspiracy theory than, say, the NAFTA Superhighway.
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