Hispanic culture is woven with the fabric of rich oral storytelling. Much of their mythology and folktales are linked to literary and pop culture phenomena like the legendary elusive chupacabra and the haunting Wailing Woman. Children are still enraptured with the original tales as moral lessons and methods of behavior control. As other culture’s mythology has been respun and retold, so too has this one. Let’s take a look at some contemporary Hispanic novels that feature new renditions and integrations of Latin folklore and mythology.
The Hummingbird’s Daughter by Luis Alberto Urrea
This novel tells the story of a young woman who is possessed by the spirit of a hummingbird. The book draws on Mexican mythology and folklore, including the story of La Llorona, The Wailing Woman.
In 1889 as the Civil War is brewing in Mexico, a beloved 16-year-old illegitimate girl wakes to find she has died. She’s a passionate and rebellious woman even in death, as she has an inherited shamanic talent of magical abilities. Her new abilities help guide her to become the Saint of Cabora during a time of great contention.
Woven in Moonlight by Isabel Ibañez
This fantasy novel tells the story of a young woman named Ximena who can weave with the thread she pulls from the moonlight. The book draws on Bolivian mythology and folklore with the Andean history of the Spanish and Inca.
Ximena’s people lost everything when Atoc usurped the Illustrian throne. As the decoy stand-in for the last Illustrian royal, Ximena goes to Atoc disguised as the Condesa to spy on the enemy and help return the rightful rulers to their place. Realizing Atoc no longer has the ancient relic that helped him seize the kingdom, she sets out to find it herself. Lines get blurred, and missions become complicated as new characters are introduced in this epic fantasy.
Gods of Jade and Shadow by Silvia Moreno-Garcia
Gods of Jade and Shadow is a beautifully written novel that blends together historical fiction, mystery, and fantasy. Along with the mention of various Latin American mythological gods, this intrinsic tale features Mayan mythology, such as the ballgame, which was seen as a sacred ritual, and the cenotes, which are natural sinkholes that were believed to be entrances to the underworld.
Set in the 1920s Jazz era of Mexico, Casiopea wants nothing more than to dance and dress the part. Unfortunately, she suffers the abuse of her cousin while living a slave-like existence in her grandfather’s house. Cleaning the house one day leads to her discovering a mysterious box that, when opened, awakens an imprisoned Mexican deity. The god seeks revenge and will need Casiopea’s help to do so, but will the sacrifices needed be too much?
The Last Cuentista by Donna Barba Higuera
Higuera’s dystopian fantasy novel is filled with Mexican folklore, which becomes the weapon used to overthrow the story’s antagonists. The author uses the oral tradition of storytelling as a catalyst for change and remembrance.
Petra, along with her family and a few other scientists, flees Earth when Halley’s Comet is knocked off its trajectory and aims to destroy Earth. They are put under for 360 years in order to reach a habitable planet. When she awakens, she is the only person who remembers Earth and its people. Subtly rebelling against the Collective, who erased the minds of the humans, Petra uses the magical abilities of storytelling she learned from her Abuelita to save those aboard.
The Enchanted Hacienda by J.C. Cervantes
This coming-of-age contemporary fantasy novel bursts with magic, family, and the search for one’s identity. The source of the Estrada Family’s magic was a gift from the Aztec goddess, Mayahuel.
Harlow Estrada comes from a long line of magically gifted flower farmers. When her world is devastated by the loss of a job and the ending of a romantic relationship, she decides it’s time to go back home to Hacienda Estrada. The matriarchal line of the family has the ability to harness the magic within their crop to help those in need. The ability seems to have skipped a generation, and when the family needs Harlow to perform a special task, she’s unsure how to navigate the secret. Read along as Harlow discovers who she is and finds love in the most unexpected place.
These five novels will leave you yearning for more Hispanic mythology-based fantasy tales. Make sure to look up the original folktales and mythology they’re based on for a deeper understanding of the cultural richness and significance.
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How about three more Hispanic novel recommendations? Try out this Three to Read article.