Extraordinary Indigenous Latin American Legends: The Sea-Ringed World by María García Esperón Review

By Yvonne Tapia

THE SEA-RINGED WORLD: SACRED STORIES OF THE AMERICAS
By María García Esperón
Illustrated by Amanda Mijangos
Translated by David Bowles

The Sea-Ringed World: Sacred Stories of the Americas

The Sea-Ringed World: Sacred Stories of the Americas is a book that contains many legends about the origins of the world we live in and that analyze one’s connection to Mother Earth. From a variety of Indigenous cultures—North, Central, and South America—it’s a collection of extraordinary fables that have been passed down through generations. This book review will be focusing on the Indigenous legends from Latin America.

This novel dives into many Indigenous Latin American folklore that plenty of us may have grown up with—from the Mayas and the Mexica (Aztecs) of Mexico, to Colombia’s Muisca tribe and the Mapuche of Chile. Beautifully written by María García Esperón, it will transport you back to a time where ancient civilizations also sought to understand their place in the sea-ringed world we live in and the nature of their relationship with the divine.

Quetzalcoatl
The Sea-Ringed World: Sacred Stories of the Americas

Let’s start off with a couple of legends I grew up listening to from my tía on a warm summer day. The famous volcanoes Iztaccihuatl and Popocatepetl (Nahua legend) once upon a time were a princess and a warrior, respectively, whom fell in love instantly, only to be separated by lies from her father the king. How they became volcanoes unfolds as you continue reading, and these volcanoes are still standing to this day. Quetzalcoatl, the feathered serpent, is also presented throughout various stories, and his actions as God of the Sun affect others’ folklore.

Iztaccihuatl and Popocatepetl
The Sea-Ringed World: Sacred Stories of the Americas

The origins of Mexico City (once named Tenochtitlan) are richly described in the Aztlan folktale (Nahua legend). It begins with a Mexica (Aztec) prince named Mexitli, whom is told by the god Huitzilopochtli—Blue Hummingbird of the South—that his people must paint themselves a new beginning. Thus, the Mexica embark on a journey, which also leads to Mexico’s distinguishable central emblem. Readers will also learn about Huitzilopochtli’s origins, and how his story weaves with others.

Aztlan
The Sea-Ringed World: Sacred Stories of the Americas

There is also a wondrous folktale behind the magnificent front cover art—with Mijangos’ astounding use of blue, black, and white that gives readers an elevated form of storytelling. The four wise whales belong to the Brave Souls of the Dead folktale (Mapuche legend), whom guide the brave souls to infinity. Additionally, readers will learn about the origins of Lake Tota, the largest in Colombia in the Monetá folktale (Muisca legend), among other iconic locations.

These stories also hold sorrowful truths about past beings, such as the widely known la Llorona (Nahua and colonial legend) and the reason behind her actions, and the endless mission of the Hummingbird for his beloved. Moreover, there are legends that may have more than one interpretation, such the Hurakan (Maya legend) folktale, which may serve as a precaution to remember to be thankful for what Mother Earth and the gods have given.

Bewitching Front Book Case (Heart of the Mountain)
The Sea-Ringed World: Sacred Stories of the Americas

The art enchants you further into these folktales through its trio of colors that enhance them, making you want more. And, as is with a vast number of ancient folktales, there’s a moral lesson to be learned and reflected upon from each Indigenous Latin American story. It is recommended that one should read each of them carefully, and think about what they’re telling you regarding one’s place in the universe, and how one interacts with people, things, and nature.

As someone who grew up hearing some of these Indigenous Latin American stories, having this collection is a thrill and honor to read on the printed page. The Sea-Ringed World: Sacred Stories of the Americas demands to be read aloud, as per tradition.

The book is available today, with a simultaneous Spanish edition, ¡Cuentos sagrados de América! Los hará pasar tiempo juntos y los pondrá a reflexionar sobre muchas cosas. Es una joya para la cultura y todas las edades. ¡Espero lo disfruten! Happy reading!

Rating: 5/5 🌟🌟🌟🌟🌟

THE SEA-RINGED WORLD: SACRED STORIES OF THE AMERICAS
By María García Esperón
Illustrated by Amanda Mijangos
Translated by David Bowles
240 pp. Levine Querido. $21.99.
(Ages 8 to 12)

Poet María García Esperón

María García Esperón was born in Mexico City and has won many awards, including the Hispanic American Poetry Award for Children. Her novel Dido for Aeneas was selected in 2016 on the IBBY Honour List.

Follow on Twitter: @MGarciaEsperon
Follow on Instagram: @MariaGarciaEsperon

Illustrator Amanda Mijangos

Amanda Mijangos was born in Mexico City and is the founder of the illustration studio Cuarto para las 3. Her work has been recognized with awards several times and in 2017 she was the winner of the VIII Iberoamerica Illustra Catalog.

Follow on Instagram: @AmandaMijangos

Author David Bowles

David Bowles is a Mexican American author and translator from South Texas. Among his multiple award-winning books are Feathered Serpent, Dark Heart of Sky: Myths of Mexico, and They Call Me Güero. In 2017, David was inducted into the Texas Institute of Letters.

Follow on Instagram: @DavidOBowles

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