Flash Fiction & Fables Finale – New Mexico Folklore
And so it is that we’ve come to the last day of this fun and different sort of week on the blog.
What a ride it’s been!
My goal was to shake up my brain a little bit so I could get some fresh blog posts out of the ol’ noodle.
Well, it worked. I already have a list of about ten fresh topics that will start coming your way next week.
For today, I have what I consider to be the grand prize for coming along with me on this ride.
Today is the Fables part of the week.
After scouring both books and the internet, I’ve selected an item from a book called Cuentos de Cuanto Hay. The subtitle is “Tales from Spanish New Mexico.”
This story collection is published by University of New Mexico Press, and was edited and translated by Joe Hayes.
The stories were originally collected by J. Manuel Espinosa in the 1930’s. He traveled around Northern New Mexico collecting verbal tales from the Spanish speaking residents, then transcribed and published them. That first published book was called Spanish Folk Tales from New Mexico.
Joe Hayes found a copy of the book and had loved it through the years, so in 1998 he worked with Dr. Espinosa to clean up many of the stories, added in a few more, and republished the collection.
It is charming, odd, and packed full of deep rooted stories from the Hispanic culture.
Just like New Mexico itself, many of the stories are a bit quirky.
Even the title of the book reflects the beautiful slow moving, “Land of Mañana” charm. Joe Hayes translates the phrase Cuentos de Cuanto Hay as “tales of olden times.” Literally translated, it means “stories of whatever it is.”
Which seems sort of New Mexico to me. “Eh, tales of whatever!” with a dismissive wave of the hand.
The story I’ve selected, “Juan Pelotero” also brings a lot of that New Mexico mischievous sense of humor. There is a line in the story where two characters agree to meet at “such and such a place.” Details, feh, who needs ’em!
The name, Pelotero, is also symbolic. In today’s vernacular, a pelotero is a ball player, usually baseball, but pelotero can also refer to futbol. The first line of the story gives you the clue to the more archaic use of the word: “Juanito Pelotero was a gambler.” Pelotero back then meant a player, a rogue, a roustabout.
You’ll also find the story tends to move fast in some parts, skipping over details. At just a few pages long, it packs a lot of story in there.
Since these tales were originally an oral legacy passed down from family member to family member, I’m going to bring “Juan Pelotero” (and maybe others) back to the verbal tradition.
Today, I’ve made a recording of the story and it’s posted below for your listening pleasure. I suggest putting the story on in the background while you go about your work checking email or what have you.
As I converted the file to MP3 format, feel free to download the audio file and put it on your iTunes or iPod to listen later if you would like.
I recorded this using a podcast microphone and Garageband software.
Do not expect recording studio quality, please. The quality reflects my gear and my room. I’ve done my best to keep the sounds of The Feline and my iPhone out of the recording, but I live in a creaky house and it’s windy today. You get the idea.
If listening to a story isn’t your thing, but you’d still like to read it, I’ve posted a .pdf. Click here for that. (remember, this edition of the story is copyright the University of New Mexico Press, so don’t run off doing anything naughty with it, you hear?)
The story of “Juan Pelotero” was told to Dr. Espinosa by Bonifacio Mestas of Chamita, NM.
Run time is just over nine minutes. File is just over 4MB, so it may take a few moments to load. Player opens in a new window.
Karen Fayeth reading “Juan Pelotero”
1. Sorry about the high-pitched whine behind the audio. I think it’s from the internet router on my desk.
2. In case you are wondering what a sacristan is, click here. I had to look it up too.
3. Yes, I think the part about the talking spit is weird.
4. The dove sounds I’m making are read as written in the story. Cucurucú is how it’s written. I did my best….:)
Juan Pelotero and Paloma Blanca should have gotten marriage counseling before they wed!
Thanks for sharing this, I LOVED it. You have a very soothing voice and my little one, who had been fussing all evening, fell asleep as we listened to the story. So double thanks are in order!
L – I cannot thank you ENOUGH for coming along with me this week and leaving feedback! It's so great to know that someone out there still likes reading (and listening to) short stories.
And heck, that your little one stopped fussing is a huge compliment! Though I'm not surprised. My husband calls me "The Baby Whisperer" because even though I have no kids of my own, I have this unique ability to calm a fussy baby.
It's true. I have a couple tried and true tricks (I am a veteran babysitter). But also…it's just something about me, I suppose. Friends and family have been really surprised over the years.
I had no idea my baby whispering skills worked across the miles!
In my family my grandfather, my mother's father, was the best storyteller in the La Joya land grant. The people of the various villages there would love it when he visited them because of the stories he told. My mother said that the stories he was asked to tell were stories about Pancho Villa. One of the stories he told most was called 'El corrido del caballo blanco'. The way he told it, it was different every time.
I read your stories with great pleasure because you were telling my history. Except my first rifle was a .22 which I still have. It cost me $11.50. I, too misfired on my first shot at a rabbit.
This is lovely, Karen. I enjoyed it so much, and what a great speaking/story-telling voice you have.
It's been a fabulous week . . .
Ephraim – I must admit, as I was working through my book of New Mexico tales and recording my choice, I often wondered at your response to this particular blog post.
As a New Mexican from several generations back, I can only imagine the tales that were told when your family got together. Those stories bind us together, and are beautiful.
I have a wonderful group of friends from Russia, and every time we get together, there is a joke that one person starts, and we are all expected to contribute to the story as it goes. The joke itself isn't very funny, but the story and ad libs we throw in every time make it hilarious. My friends claim it is a Russian tradition.
So I love that idea that you mentioned about your grandfather telling the same story, but each time there are new details, new characters, new circumstances. It keeps the story alive and fresh and that's part of why I wanted to convert this written story back to oral. It has special meaning for me, the verbal history of our culture.
I'm also happy that the story of our boy Owen and his dad resonated with you. Being a woman, I was very interested in keeping the voice right for the characters. I've known so many hunters in my life (and their sons) and so telling their story in a way that rings true really mattered. I'm glad that for you, it worked.
Thank you so much for reading my stories and giving me comments. It means a lot!
Jamie – thank you so much for coming along for this whole week. Not everyone likes to read short stories, so the fact that you read and listened and gave me feedback is wonderful. Thank you!!