EL TORO NAHUAL DE LA SIERRA EN GUERRERO
Oral History as an Indigenous method of preserving tradition and knowledge is an ongoing practice amongst Native/Indígena communities across Abya Yala—las Américas, including mine. Coming from the Nahua and Chontal pueblos of Ixcateopan de Cuauhtémoc in the state of Guerrero, Mexico, there are plenty of legends that I’ve listened to from family. Whether they are logical or historically factual does not matter because they are regardless impactful, breath-taking, and chilling. One of the leyendas that clearly stands out in my family is that of El Toro Nahual. Deriving from Mesoamerican storytelling, The Nahual refers to a human being that has the capability to transform spiritually or physically into a human on command (different variants appear in different Native communities).
The story of El Toro Nahual in Guerrero begins with a group of young boys in el pueblo gathering to do kid things, el desmadre. These group of boys gather in the river bed of our pueblo where they see all the pigs, burros and dogs roaming around freely in packs. The boys begin running towards the animals and of course the animals scatter in different directions not wanting to smell those little chamaco's breath. As they scatter, the boys see a bull in the distance. This is to note that there are wild bulls that also roam around my pueblo. These bulls survive by eating from the vast green vegetation that Mother Earth provides them with. Our pueblo is really green and the land is beautiful with architecture that dates back to Cuayauhtitlali, hueyi tlatoani Cuauhtemoc's mother who was from the same lands my family is from. That's a cuento for another day. Back to the story; the boys look at one another and they nod in agreement. They are about to charge towards el toro. Dashing towards the bull, their guaraches gather dirt and in reaction, the bull in fear begins to run away. The boys chase this bull up the hills and eventually corner this bull down after a couple of cuadras. As they get close to it, they realize that this bull is not as big as the other bulls they’ve seen around the pueblo. This bull is rather small, uglier than usual, and its coat is black. Its horns are huge, almost devil like. No one likes devils, especially in our pueblo where there is a catholic church in the center, right by the zocalo.
Due its rather small size, the boys decide to hop on the bull and ride it. As one of the boy grabs the bull by the tail and makes his way up to ride it, the bull begins to kick and scream to the hills. These boys don’t think of it much and begin to laugh and cheer on the friend riding laughing. A couple of yanks and kicks in the air on behalf of the bull, the boys begin to notice a difference in the bull. The bull loses its horns and begins to shift and transform before their eyes. The tail goes away, the four legs begin to rise to the air and there is an upright posture now. The bull begins to look like a human being! Not only was it looking like a human being, but the boys recognize the familiar face. the bull was the local Brujo. He was a Nahual.
All the boys begin to scream at the top of their lungs and yell: “¡Nahual! Nahual. El Brujo! El Chaman. Amonos!” Their guaraches bounce off the earth a little faster, they run home confused. They could not make sense of what happened to them.
A couple of days passed, and the boys began telling their parents of the story and the parents were oddly, not surprised. They knew of this brujo, this señor, or what my family calls a Nahual. The pueblo families knew that this brujo would not live in his house and his house was rather a façade to hide what he was doing, brujeria. They then being to expand on how not only was he a Nahual, but also a thief. A thief who would use his powers to seduce women into being with him. Legend says that when the Nahual died, he was nowhere to be found because el diablo took him. Where did he go? Sepa, we will never be too sure. His wife he seduced never spoke of him, he had no family and no friends. Ojo, everyone in the pueblo knows each other, everyone.
Did I forget to tell you who was the little boy who rode this toro Nahual? My uncle.
Reflecting on this legend, I begin to think of how the bull is significant and symbolic in many communities across Guerrero, Mexico. In present time, the Nahua communities of Acatlán, Guerrero, pardon a bull for their annual celebration of El Santo San Juan Bautista. The bull after the pardon is sacrificed with cempoaxochitl and smudged with copal. After it is pardoned, it is let lose. The pueblo chases it. Once the bull is agitate and is chased down, it is tied up and then killed. The neck is sliced, and its blood is consumed by the people for power as they absorb the ferocity of the bull. The meat is distributed amongst the Mujeres in the pueblo to prepare for the feast. In addition, the bull is used for big celebrations such as weddings, bautizos, and religious holidays throughout the lands of Guerrero. This leyenda of El toro Nahual in my family brings chills to hear all the time. It also makes me think of the symbolism in the bull. Regardless of my chills, the Nahual as a medium for oral history in Mesoamerican/Indigenous story telling is a testament of the Indigenous history and culture that subtly lives on within my family. I hope to continue doing this work in the future and unpack these ceremonies that despite being labeled as "colonial" or "hispanic" are at its core Indigenous and practiced amongst Indigenous people. There is much to unpack in the legend such as the use of "Chaman" (Shaman), the demonizing of Bruj@s and the symbolism of the bull. Gazing towards the future, I hope to also speak on how Indigenous stories transform with the times, but regardless of the different time periods they are Indigenous.
Bull Ceremonia in Acatlán, Guerrero, México:
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