www.ambiente.us  JUNE | JUNIO 2009

Review | Legends of the City of Mexico | Thomas A. Janvier
(Lethe 2002)
by Charlie Vázquez


Spanish colonial history in the Americas saw the marriage of two very different brands
of mysticism and superstition, though it would be unfair to say that no overlap existed
(and still exists) between them—native poltergeists meet the Inquisition. Legends of
the City of Mexico (Lethe Press 2002) is a short story collection that was compiled by
Thomas A. Janvier with the help of his wife. The Janviers were members of the London
Folklore Society and lived in Monterey for many years, where these stories were
divulged to them by village Mexicans who had heard them since childhood, passed on
to them since the dark and cruel days of New Spain. Mr. Janvier compiled this book in
1909, which means that his accounts are peppered with all the post-colonial dread of
the 1800s.

Think Spanish Gothic—Gothic as in Nosferatu, not Marilyn Manson!

Skeletons avenging their murders with daggers still lodged in their skulls; tales of
forbidden love, torture and vengeance; the eerie tricks played by witches and
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ghosts—these
themes fill these
pages with the
same hair-raising
terror invoked by
genre masters such
as Edgar Allan Poe
(think Poe meets
Cervantes meets
El Día de los
Muertos). I was
riveted, as I love
ghost stories, and
was reminded that
this brand of
storytelling is gone
in our times—in our
days, harsh realism
and sugary fantasy seem to be the poles marking the literary spectrum. But these
stories all begin in the realm of possibility and snake their way to the supernatural
without getting corny. One has to wonder how and where they began, and how they
changed through the centuries, as each teller’s version detoured away from the
previous.

This collection will make an excellent gift for anyone whose literary interests intersect
where Spanish colonial history and horror meet, but it will also illuminate the
imaginations of other readers as well—
¡Orale!
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More info: www.lethepressbooks.com


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