Through this series, you'll read some of the most popular sinister ghost stories that date back to the times of the Colony in Mexico and that still haunt our folkloric imaginary.
In colonial New Spain, religion played an extremely important role. In more ways than one, it regulated most aspects of society, so it's not surprising that horror stories from this time featured religious themes. For instance, priests and nuns coming face to face with evil were common in tales and legends, sometimes as heroes, and other times as the very evil people were afraid of. The story I’m going to share with you today explores this common motif that shows that, no matter who we are or what we believe in, there’s always an evil element inside of us waiting to come out at the tiniest opportunity.
The Story of the Priest's Bridge
In Mexico, sometime in the seventeenth century, there was a devoted priest who was raising his niece in a beautiful house near a ditch next to a small lake. The young Margarita Jáuregui was a romantic girl who dreamed about meeting the love of her life, which happened (or so she thought) when she met a gallant Portuguese gentleman at a fancy party. Soon Margarita and don Duarte de Zarraza started wooing and seeing each other at the bridge near her uncle’s house. Then, one day, she decided to tell her uncle she wanted to marry Duarte, but the old priest doubted the young man's intentions and decided to do some research on him.
After a lot of digging, the priest discovered that Duarte was a player who had left two women in Portugal with children and that he kept living a licentious life in New Spain. Naturally, he forbade Margarita from seeing him and told him he would be very sorry if he dared to even come close to his house. However, Margarita was deeply in love and wouldn’t listen to her uncle’s advice. So, they continued seeing each other in secret until one day, Duarte decided he had to do something to get rid of the old priest. So, he waited for him at the bridge he crossed every single day. Then, when he was close enough to him, he took his dagger (imprinted with his house’s insignia) and stabbed him right in the skull, killing him instantly. Duarte dragged the body and threw it in the ditch's muddy waters.
After realizing what had happened, Duarte fled the capital and hid for some time. A year passed, and being sure the incident would’ve been forgotten by now, he decided to go back to marry Margarita. He walked to the house and right when he was at the middle of the bridge he felt a strong blow that impeded his movement. That was it for the young and vile Duarte, who was found dead the next morning. Duarte’s facial expression was one of horror, as the neighbors soon discovered. Not only that, some bits of his flesh had been torn apart, showing parts of the bone. The biggest surprise wasn’t even this, but the skeleton body over the young man’s body. It was a decomposed body wearing priest’s robes. His head still had the luxurious dagger with Duarte’s insignia stabbed right in the middle of his skull.
Depending on who tells the story you'll get a different ending. For religious people, the priest was only waiting for Duarte to come back and give him divine justice. There's another possibility and the one that comes from a criticism to the tight religious yoke that governed at that time. It's basically what we were talking about at the beginning: the idea that anyone can act in an evil way given the chance. In that way, according to some versions of the story, though the ditch doesn't exist anymore, it’s believed that the priest still haunts the treacherous.
You might want to read these: