This is an expansion of the author’s Eight Tarascan Legends published in 1958 by the University of Florida State Museum. The subtitle, “Rich and Imaginative ‘History’” says more than the author probably intended; certainly imagination takes precedence over history, and folklore too as far as that goes. Tarascan Myths & Legends is an attractively gotten up “popular” volume for the non-professional aficionado. If this were all that it intended to be, the following criticism would be unjustified. It is, however, presented as No. 4 in Texas Christian University’s series, “Monographs in History and Culture,” which suggests some pretensions to scholarship. Professor Boyd says that he “chose the most sophisticated and excitingly literate rendition available where a choice presented itself.” The problem is he doesn’t tell us when he had a choice, or even the source of the legends. In checking Eight Tarascan Legends I find credits to a Morelia housemaid, a mestizo of Capula (misspelled Copula, which in any event has not been Tarascan for generations), another “collective” effort of several “natives” of Cuitzeo, likewise long since mestizo, and a former tourist guide in Tzintzuntzan who had a “uniquely exciting, urbane style.” Only one of the eight came from a Tarascan informant.
The legend “The Birth of Cueróhperi,” which introduces the new collection, is presented in such fashion that the Relación de Michoacán appears to be the source. However, the identical version in the earlier work is attributed to the Morelia housemaid. “Just as the Birds,’ which by a process of exclusion must be assigned to the tourist guide is, in fact, a near-literal translation of “Como las Aves,” pp. 15-19 in Jesús Romero Flores, Michoacán histórico y legendario, published in Mexico City in 1936, nowhere cited in the present work. “Forever Feliz” sounds very much like the sort of thing a tourist guide would relate, and, though badly garbled, it is in fact a well-known Tzintzuntzan legend. However, the family name, to which the legend is purported to give rise, is Felices, not Feliz, as Boyd states.
In his brief historical summary of the Tarascan area, Professor Boyd notes that pre-Conquest Tarascan pueblos in the lower altitudes specialized in tropical fruits, including the mango. This is indeed rich and imaginative history, since as is well known the mango is a native of southern Asia, and presumably came to Mexico via the Manila Galleon.
Readers will understand, I am sure, why this reviewer cannot consider Tarascan Myths & Legends to be a serious scholarly work.