Posts Tagged ‘Vicente Riva Palacio’


Vicente Riva Palacio was born in Mexico City in 1832, studied law and became a lawyer in 1854. He became interested in politics, but joined the army, from which he retired as a general in 1865, two years after the Mexican victory over the French at Puebla in 1862.  He dedicated most of the rest of his life to writing and published several novels about the colonial era in Mexico, including the influence that the Spanish inquisition had.

He also wrote a number of short stories and anecdotes, and these are perhaps his greatest contribution to the literature of the time. He died in 1896 at the age of 64.

The Donation (La limosna)


Vicente Riva Palacio


Perhaps there are many who are not interested in what I’m going to say; but it touched me deeply, and nothing in this world will make me shorten the story and I have to publish it, whatever happens to it in the long run and at the peril of experiencing the intricacy that some call excessive sensitivity to sentimentality.

But the facts are like musical chords: some of us listen to them without emotions and there are others, who have unexplained resonance in the most delicate cells in the heart or the brain, and of whom we say, or think without saying: these notes belong to me.

Julian lived in in one of the towns in the northern part of the Republic of Mexico. I don’t know his surname, because Julian didn’t know, but he was a happy man. .A blacksmith, honest and hard working; a big strapping, healthy fellow, who in his work earned more that he needed to support his family. Of course he was not rich, or as one would say- wealthy. He had a little house in the suburbs of the town.  There, like in a pidgin’s nest, lived his mother, his wife and his son, Julian. There everyone got up before sunrise; there they worked, sang and ate their daily bread of  joy and honesty.

Julian returned each Saturday bringing the earnings from his weekly work; he gave it all to his wife, and she knew how to allocate it successfully and with such good economy, that the money seemed to multiply in her hands. It was the unvarying miracle of the five loaves repeated without interruption, and she never forgot cigars for Julian or a glass of brandy for her mother-in-law before the meal.

The boy was called Juanito: fresh, clean, happy and with his two years acting as if he was eighty, excitedly running after the hens in the pen or pulling up the flowers in the little garden by the House. But he was so loving and so adorable, that each one of these mischief’s were rewarded with a Rosary of kisses from the father, the mother or the grandmother, whom he was laughing out loud at, showing his uneven and still growing baby teeth.

One afternoon, Julian was waiting at the workshop for his weekly pay check. Suddenly he heard the parish fire alarm, and felt his heart jump. There was no cause for alarm. The parish was a large rural community, and, however, he felt that it was not his house that was burning. He ran hastily, but it was true: the flames were devouring his house that just a few hours before had been his blessed home.

All efforts had been futile: nobody was able to escape the fire. Julian did not ask for details; in one hour he had lost everything he owned. It was pointless. A loving family took him in, and for more than six months he was not heard from.

Four years passed by and Julian, always sad, went to work at the shop with his usual punctuality. He took from his salary only what he strictly needed for his own upkeep, and distributed the rest to the poor of his parish.  Saturdays, however, he had a strange habit. . He went out in the streets with a guitar; entered houses and sang, with a very sweet voice, quite unknown songs, so melancholy, that the men shivered and the women cried; and afterwards, when one of them, filled with emotions, solicited around to give him some money him, he said with a deeply sad accent;” No, Madam, I don’t want money; you have already paid me, because I only came to beg for alms of tears. “

Translated by Kenny Beechmount

October 2012

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Ricardo Palma was born in Lima, Peru in 1833, and died there on October 6, 1919, at the age of 86. He was contemporary to the Mexican writer, Vicente Riva Palacio (1832-1896) with whom he had quite a few things in common. They were both university educated, had served in the armed forces and dabbled in politics. Palma began his writing career as a poet and published his first verses at the age of only 15. During his life, he published several additional volumes of verse, including Harmonies and Lyre in Paris during a visit there in 1864-65. From 1865 onward until he retired in 1912, he published a series of volumes called Tradiciones, with the first showing up in 1872. These essays, short stories and historical fiction pieces became the core of a six-volume set of the Complete Peruvian Traditions. Like Vicente Riva Palacio, many of his stories and amusing anecdotes are based on folklore and for Ricardo Palma, on Peruvian traditions. The following story about brother (friar) Gómez and the scorpion is an amusing little tale of fantasy that rivals that of Palaciao’s El Buen Ejemplo.

When I was a boy I frequently heard the older people exclaiming, while pondering the value and price of a piece of jewelry “This is as valuable as Brother Gomez’s scorpion!” I propose to explain this adage of the old people with the following story.

Brother Gómez was a lay brother, contemporaneous with Don Juan de la Pipirindica, the valiant lancer and of San Francisco Solano, redeemer in Lima at the convent of the Seraphic Fathers, whose monks were in charge of the infirmary or hospital for old and frail devotees. Brother Gómez created miracles galore in my country, like someone who is not even trying. He was a natural-born miracle-maker, like the person who spoke in prose, not knowing that he did.

It happened one day; the lay brother arrived at a bridge, when a runaway horse threw its rider on the paving stones. The unfortunate soul remained, lifeless, with his battered head spurting blood from nose and mouth.

“He fractured his skull,-he fractured his skull!” shouted the people, “Will someone go to San Lorenzo and fetch some anointing oil?”

Everything was in an uproar and clamor.

Brother Gómez slowly approached the person lying on the ground and put the cord from his garment across the mouth of him, then said three blessings, and without neither doctor, nor medicine, he stood up, fresh, as if he if he never got hurt.

“Miracle, Miracle! Long live brother Gómez!” shouted all the spectators.

Enthusiastically they tried to carry the lay brother in victory. In order to get away from his applauders, he ran down the road to the convent and cloistered himself in his cell.

The Franciscan history explains the latter in a different way. They say that brother Gómez, in order to escape his applauders, lifted himself into the air and flew from the bridge to the tower of the convent. I neither confirm, nor deny this. Maybe he did, and maybe he didn’t. When dealing with miracles, I don’t waste my time nether defending or refuting them.

That day, brother Gómez was in the mood for making miracles, for when he left his cell, he walked to the infirmary, where he encountered San Francisco Solano, resting on a bed, suffering from a severe headache. The lay brother took his pulse and said: “Father, your health is fragile; you would do well to eat some food.”

“Brother, replied the saint, I have no appetite.

“Make an effort, reverent Father, have at least a mouthful.”

So insistent was the monk in charge of the dining hall, that the sick, in order to get rid of the demands that already bordered on nonsense, I got the idea to ask him what even for the viceroy would have been impossibly to obtain, because the season wasn’t right to satisfy his whim

“Look, little brother, if only he would eat a pair of tasty mackerels”

Fray Gómez put his right hand into his left sleeve and pulled out two mackerels as fresh as if they had just come out of the sea.

Here they are Father, and may they bring your good health back. I Am going to cook them.

And with the blessed mackerels San Francisco was cured as if by magic.

There was another morning, brother Gomez was lost in meditation in his cell, when there was some small, discrete knocks on the door and a tetchy voice said:

“Thanks be to God, Praised be the Lord”

“Forever and ever, Amen. Come in dear brother, answered brother Gómez.”

And into the very humble cell came a ragged individual, but in whose face one could perceive the proverbial honesty of an old Castilian.

The furniture in the cell consisted of four leather chairs, a greasy table, and a bunk without mattress, not even sheets, and with a stone for a pillow to rest his head.

Sit down, brother and tell me without detours what brings you here, said brother Gómez.

The fact is, Father that I am an honest man through and through.

That’s apparent and I want to persevere, so that I will deserve peace of conscience in this earthlyl life, and in other one, the blessed place.

The fact is that I’m a peddler with a family and my business does not grow for lack of means, or for idleness and shortage of industry in me.

I’m glad, brother, for God takes care of those who work honestly

But it is the problem, Father that till now God has turned a deaf ear on me, and is late in helping me.

“Don’t despair, brother, don’t despair!”

Well, the situation is that have knocked on many doors in solicitation of a loan for five hundred duros, and I found all of them locked up tight. And it happened that last night in my ponderings, I said to myself: “Hey, Jeromo, cheer up and go and ask for the money from brother Gómez, for if he wants to, beggar and poor as he is, he will find a way to extract me from my troubles.” And this is the reason that I am here, because I have come to ask and request that you, reverend Father, lend me this trifle amount for six months.

“How could you have imagined, son, that you, in this sad cell, would find such wealth?”

Frankly, father I couldn’t answer that; but I have faith that you will not let me leave distressed.

Your faith will save you, brother. Wait a minute!

Looking around the naked, whitewashed walls in the cell, he saw a scorpion tranquilly walking over the window frame. Brother Gómez tore a page from an old book and went over to the window took it cautiously to the bug, wrapped it in the paper and turning towards the old Castilian he said:

“Take this, my good man and pawn this little precious ornament; and don’t forget to bring it back within six month.”

The peddler was overcome with gratitude, and left brother Gómez with great haste and walked to the pawnshop.

The jewel was a splendid, real jewel worthy of a Moorish queen, to say the least. It was a brooch in the shape of a scorpion.

A magnificent emerald mounted in gold, formed the body and a wide brilliant with two rubies for eyes, formed the head.

The pawnshop owner, who was a connoisseur, looked at the jewel with greed and offered to begin with two thousand duros for it; but our Spaniard insisted on not accepting a loan for more than 500 duros for six month and with too much interest, he understood.  The lender gave him the money and signed the papers or promissory notes, expecting that, in the end, the owner of the article would come back for more money, which, with the added interest charges, would turn him into the owner of such a priceless jewel, with its intrinsic and artistic value.

But with this little capital, he became quite prosperous in his business and at the end of the time could discharge the loan, and, wrapped in the same paper he had received it in, he returned it to brother Gómez.

He took the scorpion and put it in the window sill, gave a blessing and said:

“Little animal of God, go find your way.”

And the scorpion walked freely on the walls of the cell.

Translated April 7, 2011 by Kenny Beechmount .

To site this translation, please quote: beachmount.wordpress.com/El Alecran  by Ricardo Palma, translated to English.

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El Buen Ejemplo

by Vicente Riva Palacio (1832-1896)

Translated to English from the Spanish original by Kenny Beechmount


Vicente Riva Palacio was born in Mexico City in 1832, studied law and became a lawyer in 1854. He became interested in politics, but joined the army, from which he retired as a general in 1865, two years after the Mexican victory over the French at Puebla in 1862.  He dedicated most of the rest of his life to writing and published several novels about the colonial era in Mexico,
including the influence that the Spanish inquisition had.

He also wrote a number of short stories and anecdotes, and these are perhaps his
greatest contribution to the literature of the time. His marvelous way of
describing life in rural Mexico and bringing life to imaginary events is
particularly well demonstrated by in El Buen Ejemplo (The Good Example)


If I said that I have seen what I’m going to tell you, without a doubt,  someone would say that this was not true; and it would make sense because I didn’t see it, but I believe it, because an old lady told me, referring to persons she trusted, that they had heard it from a person, who had been friends with a credible witness, and on such a basis, one can well give credence to the following story.

In the southern part of the Mexican Republic in the foothills of Sierra Madre, which extends to the waters of the pacific, there is a little village, all of which in general are like this: small, white houses, roofed with red tiles or shining palm leaves, sheltering from the burning rays of the tropical sun, under the cool shade, provided by towering coconut palms, copiously crowned tamarinds, rustling plantains and gigantic cedars.

Small streams of water runs across all the lanes and sometimes hide between beds of flowers and vegetables.

There was a school in the village and it must still be there. At that time, the
principal, Don Lucas Forcida, a character very much-loved by all the
neighbours, never failed to fulfill his heavy obligation during the customary
hours.  “What a calling for martyrdom those village school teachers must have.”

In this school, following traditional customs and general use in those times, the boys studied like a kind of choral society,  in different tones, but always with exasperating monotony, in choir they studied, in choir they counted and the same with the letters and the syllables and with the Christian doctrine or the multiplication tables.

With heroic resignation, don Lucas withstood this daily opera, but there were times when the boys excitedly shouted to see who could do it the loudest and the best and one could see the stupidity of it all moulded in the factions of the likeable and honourable face of Don Lucas.

At five o’clock in the afternoon, the boys left the school, throwing stones, pulling dog’s tails, shouting and whistling, but only once outside the jurisdiction of don Lucas, who watched them leaving, trembling with satisfaction, as a novelist would say.

Then don Lucas took a great rattan armchair out to the street; a servant brought him a cup of chocolate with a large bread pudding, and don Lucas, enjoying the fresh air of the afternoon, receiving on his bald forehead the light, scented breeze, arriving from the forests, as if to comfort the neighbours from the chores of the day, began to consume his modest snack, sharing it affectionately with his parrot.

Because don Lucas had a parrot which was, as they say these days, his weakness, and which always was on a perch at the door in the school, at a respectable height to escape the boys and sheltered from the sun by small pieces of palm leaf. This parrot and don Lucas understood each other perfectly. Occasionally, it mixed its words, more or less well understood, with the sing-songs of the boys, not clashing or increasing the uproar with shrill cries it had learned in its maternal home.

But when the school was deserted and don Lucas went out to drink his chocolate, the two friends freely showed all their affections.  The parrot went up and down the perch, saying what it knew and what it didn’t; rubbing its beak on it with satisfaction, and hung in its feet, head down, to receive the soup and bread with chocolate which don Lucas gave it with paternal affection.

And this happened every afternoon.

Several years went by and don Lucas gained such confidence in his beloved perico, as the boys called it, that he didn’t cut its wings nor took care to put the string on its legs. One morning at about ten o’clock, one of the boys, who by chance was outside the school, shouted “Mr Teacher, Perico is flying away” No sooner had they heard this, when the teacher and pupils charged forward to the door in a
wild rush; and there, in the distance, like a grain of green enamel, struck by the rays of the sun, they saw it, unfortunately increasing its passage , before escaping to the nearby forest.

Pursuit was impossible because not even by having the affiliation of the runaway, could one have picked him out in the multitude of parrots that populate those forests. Don Lucas, speaking from deep within his breast, uttered: “It is God’s will,” returned to his seat and the school lessons continued, as if this terrible event had never taken place.

Several months past and don Lucas, who had forgotten the ingratitude of Perico, had to go on a trip to one of the nearby villages, using some vacation time.

At daybreak, he saddled his horse, took a light breakfast and left the village, cordially greeting the few neighbours he met in the streets.

In that country, nearby villages are those separated by a distance of some twelve to fourteen leagues, and don Lucas had to travel most of the day.

It was two o’clock in the afternoon; the sun poured torrents of heat and the wind not so much as stirred the tufts of the palms, silhouetted against a blue sky, with the indolence of a tree of cicadas, singing tenaciously in the middle of the blue, terrible silence of mid day.

Don Lucas’s horse trotted noisely  with the measured beat of its footsteps hitting like the monotonous sound of a ticking clock.

Suddenly don Lucas thought he heard, in the distance, the singing of the children when they were studying the letters and syllables.

At first, it sounded like a hallucination produced by the heat, like the music and beats that those who suffer from dizzy spells at first may hear; but as he got closer, the sounds became more distinct and perceptible; it was a school in the middle of the deserted forest.

He stopped surprised and fearful, when from the nearby trees a flock of parrots took flight, singing rhythmically ba, be, bi, bo, bu; La, le. li, lo, lu.  Behind them, a parrot flying majestically, passed close to the frightened teacher, turned its head and said cheerfully:

“Don Lucas, I have school now.”

Since this time, the parrots from that region,ahead of their time, have vitnessed the disappearance of the shadows of obscurantism and ignorance.

To site this translation, please quote: beachmount.wordpress.com/El Buen Ejemplo by Vincente Riva Palacio, translated to English.

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