Original Story by Ben Young Mason



They were lovers – enamorados – during the turbulent years of the Mexican Revolution.  Jesús Balderama was the first son of the hidalgo Don Diego Balderama, whose vast rancho covered a million hectares of Northern Chihuahua … a young man groomed to be the next Patrón, overseeing the lives and fortunes of scores of mestizo families. 

Among them were the Santeros, a family of woodworkers whose carved saints and angels are still collected by the cognoscenti.  Of all their children, Elias and Euphemia Santero loved their daughter Magdalena most of all, for she was as sweet and kind as the Blessed Virgin herself.  Elias captured her image in the statue of Our Lady that he wrought out of dark mesquite and clothed in a sky blue mantle sprinkled with stars.  And this statue he presented to the village chapel to use in the parade celebrating the Feast of the Assumption – the Virgin’s ascent into heaven.

In honor of her father's gift, the priest asked Magdalena to carry a candle before the image as it was borne in ceremony around the Plaza.  
When Jesús saw her, it was as though he had never known the true meaning of beauty.  She was as luminous as moonlight, and all the rest of the world eddied around her like so many phantasms.

After the Mass, when all the young women, arm in arm, strolled around the plaza, he sent his friend Manolo to ask her to meet him.  Pointing him out, Manolo asked if Jesús could walk with her ... and she said yes.  That night their love was born, as mariachis played rancheras from the bandstand. 

For months, they met in secret - always away from the wagging tongues and sly, appraising eyes of the village gossips. A hidden spring in a forest glade high on the mountainside became their Eden ... and Manolo their messenger, bearer of sweet words and longing sighs.

At last, Jesús resolved to ask Magdalena’s father for her hand. He found Elias carving a statue of San Ysidro Labradór, patron saint of farmers, in the shed behind their humble adobe. Earnestly declaring his love and honourable intentions, he begged the older man to agree to their courtship.

Word of their meeting spread quickly through the pueblo and soon reached the ears of Doña Luz Balderama, the young man’s mother. At first she did not believe - her son ... with the daughter of a peasant? A malicious lie!

When confronted with the truth, she was wild with indignation. But there was no reasoning with the boy - he loved his Magdalena and swore they would marry, with or without his parents’ permission.

But the marriage was not to be.  For the next day the Federal troops of General Venustiano Carranza swept through the village, burning and pillaging in their hunt for Pancho Villa, el Centauro del Norte.  Magdalena was shot, and died in her father's arms.  She was buried in the tiny churchyard.  Jesús, son of a nobleman, was spared along with his family.  But his grief knew no bounds.

Fearing for his life and sanity, his mother sent him away to a doctor in the capital.  But it was for naught.  He grew thin and pale.  He could not eat or sleep.  Finally in desperation, she took the advice of her cook and sent the boy to the Bruja, the witch who lived in the mountains above the village.

I will tell you a secret, the old woman said.  You cannot follow your love to the place where she dwells.  For the path your feet are following leads to Hell.  One who takes his own life will never meet his beloved in Heaven. 

Then what am I to do? he cried.  I cannot live without her.

There is but one way to see her while you are clothed in man's flesh ... and only one night each year.  On the Day of the Dead, el Dia de los Muertos, if she loves you as you love her, she will come to you in the night.  When the candles are lit and the moon has risen, hold this charm in your right hand and say these words ...

Cariño, mi alma, mi corazón (Beloved, my soul, my heart) ... hear me calling your name.  Magdalena, mi amór, I wait for you in the darkness.

And so it was that the young man felt the blood coursing through his veins again.  His eyes grew bright and he saw the sunlight and the clouds drifting across the sky.  His mother was overjoyed and asked what had happened.  But when he told her, she was sick with apprehension.

What are you thinking, m'hijito?!  The living cannot have dealings with the dead!  Madre de Diós!  I have raised you in the church and this woman has bewitched you!  I forbid it!  Do you hear me - I FORBID IT!!

Summer turned to autumn and the leaves on the cottonwoods in the bosque turned to gold, then fell lifeless into the river.  

All the indígenes, the mestizos made ready the graves of their grandparents, and some of their mothers and fathers, sisters and brothers – those they had loved well and who had loved them in kind.  

They swept the cemetery and draped the headstones in marigolds.  They brought sugar skulls – calacas – and sweet breads and candles.  And they sat by the graves and ate and drank and talked of those who had gone before – stories that brought smiles and laughter and sometimes tears.

But the young man was locked in his room at his father's hacienda, raging at the silent walls that kept him from his beloved. His cries were so anguished that finally his father relented, and taking pity on the boy released him against his mother's will.

The moon was just risen when Jesús reached her grave.  He found her parents had left flowers and he relighted the candles.  Then, throwing himself prostrate on the earth he whispered ...

Cariño... mi alma ... mi corazón.  Hear me calling your name.  Magdalena, mi amór - I'm waiting for you in the darkness.