The Legend of the Grandmother's Jug

Many of the post-colonial legends from Tonacatepeque were created in order to teach lessons such as: don't go out at night alone, don't be unfaithful to your beloved, you can't hide misbehaviors from the church (or God), bad choices have consequences, etc. Some of the stories, like this one, share a little bit about history, a little bit about nature, and a little bit of humor. This is just one of several "buried treasure" tales which one might be told.

Photograph taken at a temporary exhibit in the gallery at Parque Cuscatlán

The Legend of the Grandmother's Jug

In the olden days, it was customary to use a botija as a safe place in which to keep documents or treasures.  The botija is like a traditional water jug (maybe shaped like an urn), but we could think of it as a pot, a jar, or any kind of container in which one could keep something. It was the custom of the generations which came before us, to keep any extra money not immediately needed in something like a jug. Of course in those times, there were no banking institutions to take custody of the money which our ancestors obtained by selling something or that they were saving for the future purchase of goods.  

The secret places where our elders kept their money were jealously guarded. When everyone was asleep, they would get up in the night and light small candles, searching the ground to find where they buried the jugs, in order to add a little more money here, a little more money there.

The Grandmother of our story obtained her income from a variety of businesses that she had, selling what she cooked, selling what she made, and receiving rents.  One could assume the Grandmother kept her savings in the jug as a forethought during the difficult times in which she lived, to have something with which to face future eventualities - like a security against the friends of strangers.

On a day like many others, the Grandmother's account was settled with the Creator, and after her burial, the million dollar question was: Where was the Grandmother's treasure kept? Well, one could suppose it was quite a fortune, but the problem was that nobody knew the true hiding place of the Grandmother's jug.

Time passed, and the relatives busily searched in the walls and in the roof of the house. They excavated the soil and investigated all of the feasible places in which to keep money, but it was all unsuccessful. In the end, although they tried their best to find what the Grandmother had hidden, they gave up the so-called "massive" fortune as lost.

One day like many others, the grandson of the Grandmother arrived to live in the house, which he had visited various time during his vacations. He arrived without any interest in searching for the money, because he thought surely that one of the Grandmother's children had already found the treasure and had not divulged the secret so that the found inheritance would not have to be shared with anyone else. 

After living in the house for a short time, the grandson noticed that in the darkness of the night, a firefly would appear on the patio and then enter the vegetable garden.  He didn't give it much thought the first few nights, but one day he told an older friend about this curiosity.  The older friend told the grandson about a legend that says: Where a light appears in a permanent way, you should follow it, and when it appears again, there exists the possibility you will find something buried.

A few days passed, and the firefly appeared intermittently. It would light up and then would turn off as soon as someone got near to it, until one good day, when the grandson decided to dig where the firefly had appeared. What was his surprise? He found the jug that the Grandmother had buried.

So now it is said, that it is quite sly to believe in the illusion of finding some buried jug when you see fireflies alight in the night.

(Story credit to local Tonaca friends and author, José María Melgar Callejas.)

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