Bewitching Legends

by Jorge Santana

In the tours that I host for my historical neighborhood of San Pedro, there is a place that calls my attention in particular. It’s a small, round, a very strangely shaped hut. It is a tour of myths, a tour of terror; not one of historical accuracy, although legends tend to become history for better or for worse. The legend (like many myths), hides a background of “objective” reality far away. I like that contrast, sometimes I think I’ve managed to survive solely because I can live in that middle point of twilight, between legend and reality, between fantasy and the dull truth. Well, when I walk past the house, with megaphone in hand and a line of people behind me, I begin to tell the legend. “In that round house, they say, an African witch lived, in the mid-1800s when the black soldiers called the “Buffalo Soldiers” arrived at Fort McIntosh (now the Laredo Community College) were a cavalry that came to this border to defend the gringos from the Indians. It is said that this woman practiced black magic in that little hut, from draining the blood of goats and chickens, to performing macabre potions with the hair or breeches of the white soldiers, oppressors of the Afro soldiers.” People get excited with the story, except for the owner of the house, who once chased us off her sidewalk with the spray of her hose. It is understandable: the woman rents that little house, and if the tenants knew they were sleeping on an old river of haunted blood, they would want to move from there. The point of all this is that I like to think about what will happen to us when we are dead. What will they say about us, about our lives, what legends are we forming without knowing, and about how many legends are we being part of? I can already imagine: “In that house they say, lived a man who wrote poems and whatnot. They say that he killed himself because he was never able to live off his writing.” Well, that’s what they would say, when in fact I died because they hit me with a car, or due to some disease, or perhaps by spontaneous human combustion, or gods only know what exactly will happen to me. Someday, someone will rent my house and the new owner will run them off with “manguerazos” for walking by saying that under the orchid tree hung the previous owner (me) for ingesting poorly prepared toloache. I do not know if that witch lived there, if it really happened what they say happened, but when I walk down that sidewalk, I do it just a little bit faster, dear reader.

 

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