Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Review: Mexican Bestiary

I am a sucker for legends from around the world-- a whole chapter in the new Alex Van Helsing book involves Alex attending a school where he learns to tell the Scottish centaur-like nuckalavee from the flying-head-with-bat-ears chonchon. And up until now I only had a couple of really great resources. Now there's one more, and it's a pleasure to read: Mexican Bestiary by David Bowles and Noe Vela is a brand new guide to legendary creatures of all shapes and sizes from South of the Border. Published by the nonprofit cultural organization Valley Artistic Outreach, the book presents weird and wonderful myth in both English and Spanish with facing pages.

The stories are all told with a campfire-like flair:
Bird Woman: Since the late 1800s there have been reports of a strange bird woman or bird man around Monterey...
Charro: Throughout Mexico stories are told of a skeletal man or ghost dressed in a black and silver suit and mounted on a massive black stallion...
Black Dogs: Black Dogs, also called cadejos, are demonic beasts that lurk in alleys, graveyards, or other dark places waiting to attack...
For me, books like this are a necessity. I mine them for new ideas. But I recommend this one because of its particular regional flair. It speaks to me of the Rio Grande Valley and Mexico, of dust and sun and cool nights and demons that walk the earth. Feathered coyotes and devils at the dance, chupacabras and horsemen that warn of impending plague. I really recommend Mexican Bestiary and hope you pick it up.

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