My father grew up in a region of the Mexican state of Guerrero called Tierra Caliente, which is situated near the border with the state of Michoacan. During his childhood, he would frequently hear stories about chaneques, though he never got to see one. Everyone knows that chaneques are to be feared, and despite their sometimes playful nature, and one must never disturb them or make them angry, or you could pay dearly.
At age 12, my father left Tierra Caliente to reside in Mexico City. Several years past, and after starting a family and graduating from law school, he decided to return to Guerrero and open a law office in his hometown of Ciudad Altamirano. While there, he would visit his mother, who lived in las Juntas de Chacámero, a place that owes its name to the convergence of the Cutzamala River with a smaller tributary stream.
Tierra Caliente, as its name suggests, is hot, very hot. In the morning, before heading to the office, my father used to like to take a bath in a pool in the stream. But after a few days, he began to notice bruises all over his arms and legs. It looked as if he had been beaten up. He didn’t think much of it at the time, but he began to be more careful, paying attention to his movements and being careful not to bump against the stones in the creek while bathing.
The bruises however kept appearing, and this time was quite sure he had done nothing to cause them. Somewhat alarmed, he went to his mother to ask her advice. This came to the ears of an uncle who was visiting that afternoon. ”That’s what you get for not having asked the chaneques for permission to use their pool” he cried.
When my father heard this, he thought his uncle was joking, but soon realized he was serious. “What you have to do before you bathe,” continued the uncle, “is speak to them and ask permission to use their pool. After that you can bathe without any problem.”
My father told his uncle that he would, but still disbelieving, did not. The bruises kept appearing.
One day, feeling somewhat ridiculous, and despite judging his uncle’s prescribed actions as unworthy of a man of his position and education, he finally decided to ask permission of the chaneques to enter their pool. Standing on the bank, he sheepishly mumbled, “I want you to please give me permission to take a bath in your pool.” He then proceeded to bathe as usual. To his surprise when he woke up the next morning, there was no trace of the bruises that had plagued him during the previous days.