El Sombrerón

All the men spoke of her beauty, and a good number of the women were envious. She was seen walking alongside her mother in the market and on daily errands to the bakery. Everyone wanted to meet the beautiful young lady; they all wanted to fall in love with her. In the afternoons, she would open a balcony window of her house and sit there, watching the world go by.

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Walking down the street where the young lady lived, a tiny man – dressed all in black, wearing a huge hat, and sporting great golden spurs on his shiny boots – stopped to admire her. Astounded by her beauty and quite smitten, the little man took out his guitar and began to serenade her. From this moment on, that poor young woman never had a moment’s peace.

Over the days and weeks that followed, she seemed bewitched and restless and had no appetite. The only thing that soothed her was the nightly serenade of the dark little man with the big hat whom people had nicknamed “El Sombrerón”. Frightened by what they saw and by the stories of neighbors – who told of the little man’s wild galloping through the streets of the city on his mules in the wee hours of the morning, as well as of the other women who had become bewitched and had fallen in love because of his singing – the girl’s parents sought help in various churches, hoping to find a solution for what seemed to be some sort of uncanny infatuation. Day by day they saw their daughter’s eyes lose their luster, and all she did was sigh and wait for night. They even tried to take her away, but it was impossible.

Weeks passed and although El Sombrerón never lost interest in her, the young woman – weakened by lack of food and sleep – fell ill and never recovered. It’s said that on the night of the girl’s wake, and even for weeks after the funeral, El Sombrerón roamed through the streets at night, wailing his lament.

The neighbors all thought that the strange little man had finally left town when they no longer heard his cries in the early morning hours, until one night when they saw his mules tied to a post, just below another young woman’s balcony…

Written by: Sofia Letona

Illustrations by: Cecile Sanles

Translation by: Kevin Cole

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