This volume is a significant contribution to the field of Mexican folklore. In the simple poetic prose of legend, Andrés Henestrosa, whose own Zapotecan background gives him a security of both purpose and reference, relates three groups of Zapotecan Indian legends. The first, called “Dioses, Santos y Reyes,” deals with folkloric ideas on the origin of Rain and on that of the Zapotec himself. There is a curious mingling of Indian with Spanish, “como si el río de la imaginación ibérica se vaciara en el río de la imaginación zapoteca” (p. 32). Examples are the stories in section two dealing with episodes in the life of Jesus, episodes occurring almost wholly within the ambiente of Zapotecan superstition.
The remainder of the book includes stories of the founding of Juchitán, birthplace of the author; Zapotecan explanations for such things as the ugliness of the bat and the carapacho remendado of the tortoise; and stories illustrating the cunning of Conejo in his dealings with Tigre, Lagarto, and Coyote.
Henestrosa uses figures of speech beautiful in their simplicity, such as “el pájaro . . . cortaba el silencio con las tijeras de su canto” (p. 48); and “Lagarto estaba dispuesto a . . . echar a rodar, por el precipicio de la violencia, la piedra de su ira” (p. 119).
Both the author’s own notes and the preface written by the critic Luis Cardoza y Aragón are indicative of contemporary interest in folklore. Cardoza, in his praise of Henestrosa’s work, discusses the close relationship between the niño and the artista, stating that only in this “edad primera, el hombre es un auténtico creador” (p. 16), and that “la niñez en el hombre primitivo vive hasta su muerte” (p. 16).
Andrés Henestrosa himself aptly calls the myths of the Indians of Mexico “la verdad en números redondos” (p. 124).