Don Artemio, who was a wise man, was born in Saltillo, Coahuila, on January 25, 1884. He was the son of a governor, from a very good family, with a kind of nostalgia for his country and always hungry for good anecdotes from history. He received his first lessons from the Jesuits at the Antiguo Colegio de San Juan and his first surprises that the streets of Mexico City discovered when he was studying law. At that time, the philosophical debates of the new academy, later called the Ateneo de la Juventud, were in full swing. There was talk everywhere about the fundamental need to understand “what is Mexican”, the importance of philosophically substantiating the reasons for Mexican once and for all. The nationalist discourse, when the Revolution buried his dead and was sanctifying his ghosts, but still flourished on several fronts: in the theater with Rodolfo Usigli; in literature with the young Arreola; in the painting of Frida, Diego and their friends and in the anthropological secrets of Alfonso Caso who were discovering the roots of Mixtec culture.
But Don Artemio has been doing something different for a long time. In Mexican, true, but more focused on the chiaroscuros of the Colony. It is perhaps for this reason that many, when they heard its sounding of “of the Arizpe Valley,” thought that Artemio was a New Spain gentleman in green leggings and a friend of viceroy, but no. In fact, it was not until 1919 that he published his first novel, “Example”, and then, unstoppably, continued with “Miraculous Lives”, “True Things”, “The Very Noble and Loyal City of Mexico, according to stories of past and present “,” History, traditions and legends of the streets of Mexico “and so on, until it reaches more than 50 volumes. José Luis Martínez – another scholar – said: “His long frequent visits to the things of the colony led him in his works of fiction to invent an archaic style, false or true, and to identify types and environments. recreated with the skill of the perfect scholar and the liveliness of a good novelist, who casually mixes freedom and imagination. “
Although Emmanuel Carballo defined himself as the “island writer” because he was surrounded by young writers who did not coincide with his themes or style, Artemio del Valle-Arizpe actually had a very active intellectual life: he was constantly in newspapers published and magazines. ; He wrote obsessively about legends, stories, heroes, streets and landscapes and even held diplomatic positions with great success. In 1933 he was admitted to the Mexican Academy of Language and in 1942 was appointed chronicler of Mexico City, an activity he carried out until his death.
An author with an impressive editorial following – scarce at the time – in his lifetime, he could see how some of his books reached five editions and became references in a national history in which Mexicans wore different clothes, many different languages other thoughts and it was necessary to decipher.
Don Artemio died in 1961 – “like a ferret in a restaurant: scrubbed and upside down”, as he wrote – but even today, as we read his works, we can remember what we’ve always seen or – even better – discover what we never thought existed.
From his book, “Stories of the Living and the Dead”, below is an example of how Don Artemio told the most terrifying -and-famous- Mexican legend.
“A woman, wrapped in a flowing white dress and covering her face with a very light veil that fluttered in the fine breath of the wind around her, crossed with slow thrift through various streets and squares of the city, some nights for some, and others, otherwise: he raised his arms in desperate anguish, twisted them in the air, and uttered that trembling cry that sent fear into all breasts.That sad woe! the silence of the night, and when it disappeared with its cohort of distant echoes, the moaning rose again in the silence of the night, and they were such as to discourage any daring.
So, in one street and then in another, he surrounded the squares and squares and spread the stream of his moaning; and in the end he is going to end with the saddest cry, most laden with misery, in the Plaza Mayor, all in silence and in shadows. There that mysterious woman knelt, turned to the east; he bends as if kissing the ground and weeps with great anguish, and puts his ignored pain into a long and piercing scream; then he goes quietly, slowly, until he reaches the lake, and on its shores he is lost; it melted like a vague mist in the air, or sank into the water. There that mysterious woman knelt, turned to the east; He bent down as if kissing the ground and crying with great anxiety, and put his ignored pain into a long and piercing scream. (…) It remains a cosmic center, a magnet from the past that makes it possible to communicate with the hereafter. “
Reading Del Valle Arizpe is all different, even if it looks the same, is not it, dear reader? All that was needed was for us to start on a Monday.