Mexican Folklore by Nancy J. Farrier

Have you ever visited Tucson, Arizona? I used to live just north of there along the San Pedro River. Did you know the area from Tucson up to the Gila River wasn’t part of the land won from Mexico in the Mexican American War (1846-1848)? Nope, James Gadsden bought that land from Mexico for the United States in 1954, putting the Southern part of New Mexico and Arizona under the protection of the USA.

 In researching my novella, Blessed Land, in The Immigrant Brides collection, I learned a lot about our Mexican heritage from the 1800’s. I thought it might be interesting to take a brief look at the rich culture that came from Mexico.

 Times and people don’t change all that much, so the men in those days loved to show off their superior skills. Many of the games involved feats of expert  horsemanship. One such game, Las Sintas, or The Ribbons, thought to have been brought over by the Portuguese, involved brightly colored ribbons attached to a horizontal pole. The riders lined up on their fastest ponies. They would race in to retrieve a ribbon without breaking it and take the prize to the beautiful lady of their choice. This proved to be a challenge since the ribbons were securely fastened and the riders zipped along at top speed. If the ribbon tore, the rider would be disgraced.

 Have you ever heard the expression, “Let the Cat Out of the Bag?” Well, the cat races were a literal version of the phrase, and so popular in some areas that when the drums began signaling the start of the races, people would run to get a good place to watch. There are even accounts of young children left behind to cry while their parents watched. The cats were kept in a bag, or gunny sack, while the field was readied. Markers were placed about 100 yards apart and wires were run in parallel lines. Short moveable wires were attached to the parallel lines and then to a collar around the cats neck. The cats were slowly “let out of the bag” and the race was on. No one went home until the last cat had finished the race and been bagged once again.

 Mexican folklore is as fascinating as folktales or fairy tales from anywhere in the world. These stories were usually cautionary tales meant to teach young people morality or wisdom. Picture the children seated at the feet of their Nana as she tells the story of a young wayward girl we’ll call Rosa.

Rosa was a beautiful girl with long, black hair, and eyes that sparkled like stars. She worked very hard at home, but longed to go dancing. Sometimes her feet would tap a rhythm of their own as she thought of the handsome cowboys and the dances held in town. One night, Rosa sneaked from the house and made her way into town. Dancers whirled in bright colors and Rosa heart sang to join them. One handsome cowboy sauntered across the room and held out his hand to Rosa. He was the best looking man in the room and only had eyes for Rosa. They danced and danced. Rosa knew she should go home, but she thought, “One more dance. Only one more.” Before she knew it, the clock struck midnight. Rosa’s handsome cowboy whirled around, his feet became cloven hooves, and Rosa knew he was the devil. Too late, she knew she should have been home where she would be safe.


 There are many Mexican stories and customs from the 1800’s that are fun and fascinating. I would love to have time to share more with you. I’d love to hear from you. Do you have a favorite Mexican food? Do you know any other tales or games to share?

 Thank you to Karen Witemeyer, who invited me to do a guest post today on Petticoats and Pistols. I’ll be giving away a copy of the novella collection, The Immigrant Brides and a tote bag. Thank you for joining me.

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38 thoughts on “Mexican Folklore by Nancy J. Farrier”

  1. I love to learn about how phrases came about, such as letting the cat out of the bag. Very interesting post. Thank you.

    Would love to be entered for your generous giveaway!

    Smiles & Blessings,
    Cindy W.

    countrybear52 AT yahoo DOT com

  2. Interesting story. I’ve never been to Tucson nor have I been to Mexico. However, I have been to Central America. As for favorite Mexican foods, I like soft tacos and enchiladas.

  3. Love the Tucson area and the Mexican culture there, Nancy. But these stories are new to me. As a cat lover I feel sad for those poor kitties in the cat race. They must’ve been so scared. Thanks for a very interesting blog.

  4. I never knew any of these customs. It’s a shame too since there are so many people who live in Texas who are from Mexico. I really need to learn more about them and I always wanted to learn to speak Spanish too. Maybe that will be my new goal for the year.

  5. Hi Nancy! Welcome to P&P. We’re thrilled to have you. And what an interesting blog. Mexican folklore is fascinating. Their culture does have some interesting stories. Loved the one about Rosa. Makes me wonder what happened to her after she discovered he was the devil.

    Wishing you lots of success with Immigrant Brides! The cover looks great.

  6. My favorite Mexican food, there are so many. We have to have tamales for Christmas Eve supper, a tradition that started when several years some of our customers brought us tamales they had made with the pig they bought from us. Last year we were introduced to Carcinitas, yum. Another customer had brought a sample of what they had made. Of course there are tacos, enchiladas, mole, caramel flan…..

  7. Hi Nancy – loved your blog. After having cats in my life forever, I can’t imagine the cat races. Cats do not do as they are told. I love Mexican food. We have it often. Enchiladas are my fav. Good luck with your new release!!

  8. An informative and interesting post. I enjoy fajitas since I live in the Southwest. Thanks for this lovely giveaway.

  9. These stories are special and your background very unique. I am intrigued with the stories very much. Mexican food is always enjoyed in our home. Tacos are one of the faves.

  10. Love Mexican food. All of your stories are wonderful and memorable. thanks for this great wake-up today and your extremely extraordinary post.

  11. Best wishes with your release. Mexican food is a winner where I live. Your stories are amazing and unforgettable.

  12. The one that interested me the most was “the cat out of the bag.” I had no idea they made cats race – poor little things lol.

  13. Enjoyed your blog today. Very interesting about the cat races. I grew up in Arizona so yes I’ve been to Tucson many times. And even living near the San Diego/ Tijuana border now I enjoy Mexican food a lot. My favorite is isstill the taco. But I do love a good tamale. Once I had a Mexican lady demonstrate to my Cooking class how she made tamales and wow were they ever good…a real hit with my students.

  14. Maxie and Cathy, thanks for stopping by.

    Cindy, I don’t know if that game was the origin of that phrase, but it’s a possibility. Thanks for commenting.

    Lori, I love those enchiladas too. Yum.

  15. Elizabeth, I thought about how scared the cats were too. Poor things. I hadn’t ever heard these stories until I started doing research.

    Janine, I speak a bit of Spanish and always wanted to become fluent. I hope you reach your goal. Thanks for commenting.

    Linda, thanks for the welcome. The story about Rosa is from a book of Mexican folk tales. I could almost hear the mothers telling their daughters the story as a warning.

  16. Very interesting stuff… I feel bad for the cats though… poor things having been put in bags… thanks for sharing! 🙂

  17. Enjoyed reading your comments. I live in Arizona and have for a long time. I have visited the Old Pueblo a lot . I have heard several of the folk tales from Mexico through the years..
    I love good authentic Mexican food, not the kind that has been Americanized. For instance, very little authentic Mexican food is served with lettuce and tomatoes. Tomatoes are usually in the sauces and the salsas. My favorites are the carnitas, empanadas, and sangria. I used to make my own tamales, however, it is very time consuming. That is why a lot of the restaurants don’t serve tamales.
    Your book sounds really good and would love to read it.

  18. Hi Charlene, When I came across the cat story, I had to read it aloud to my daughters. We are cat lovers and couldn’t imaging doing that. It’s interesting though.

    Diane and Amyc, Love fajitas and most Mexican food. I love the spicy food.

  19. Pearl, Ellie,Anne and Heidi, So glad you enjoyed the stories. There’s some very intriguing history to read about.

    Catslady, I agree with you – those poor kitties.

  20. JackieW, I lived in AZ for years before moving to California. I’m amazed at the differences in the Mexican food between the two places. Both are good, but different.

  21. Colleen and Renee, Yes, those poor cats must have been terrified. I had to hug my cats after reading the story.

    Joye, I have made tamales before and you are right – they take a lot of time. Plus, you have to practice to get them right. I preferred to get some from the talented neighbors. lol

  22. I want to apologize for my error in the post. I had someone write to say I’d gotten a date wrong. The Gadsden Purchase was in 1854, not 1954. I really did know that. 🙂

  23. Very interesting post! I am a big fan of Mexican food but I don’t get it often. You book looks really good. Thanks for the great giveaway!

  24. Nancy, I lived in Tucson for 6 years an just moved from there 3 years ago! I have a daughter who still lives there so we have ties there! It’s great to learn more about the city though! Thanks! It was very interesting!

  25. My daughter-in-law teaches Spanish, so my grandchildren will be bilingual. Hoping that she also teaches them history of Hispanic areas. My dad grew up in TX, and knew Spanish also.
    The only Hispanic food I really enjoy is flan, and I believe that comes from Spain.

  26. Enjoyed the blog. As I was traveling to California, I had to stop in Tucson for the night because it started sleeting and snowing. I love Mexican food. Thank you for sharing and entering me in your giveaway.
    Barbara Thompson

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