A UCSB professor is still creating at the age of 96.
Luis Leal, professor of Chicano studies, published his book Myths and Legends of Mexico this summer. The book contains 20 myths and legends from different historical periods, including pre-Hispanic Mexico, the colonial period, the 19th century and the revolution of 1910.
Leal has been a member of the teaching staff at UCSB since 1978.
“My thoughts of writing this book go back several years. It is a result of the research I did when writing my doctoral dissertation about Mexican colonial writers,” Leal said.
Chancellor Henry Yang wrote a foreword to the book.
“It was an easy job for me because I was excited, honored and inspired to share my deep respect and appreciation of Don Luis with the readers of his book,” Yang said. “It was also a difficult job in a sense because I did not think it would be easy for me to come up with the words that would properly convey my deep admiration of Don Luis. It did take me quite a bit of time to write it.”
Leal said myths explain the creation of things in nature. One of the myths included in the book is the Mayan story of El Pajaro Cu, or The Cu Bird, which explains the creation of the rainbow. It begins with the very ugly Cu bird, who asks all the other birds for some of their feathers. They agree and ask the Cu bird to become their messenger. The Cu bird quickly becomes the most beautiful of all the birds, but grew so proud and vain that he began to neglect his duties. The other birds took away all the feathers from the Cu bird and with them they create the rainbow.
History and Chicano studies professor Mario Garcia said Leal has always been focused on Mexican culture.
“As a native of Mexico, his interest in the culture deepens his knowledge,” Garcia said.
The book was published in both Spanish and English and is illustrated by local Mexican artist Alvaro Suman.
“After reading Leal’s stories, I was inspired to do the illustrations. Because I am from Mexico, I have seen some of the places Leal describes and have grown up with the stories he reproduced,” Suman said.
Suman used several different media to create the illustrations for the book, including traditional oil and acrylic paints, watercolors and oil pastels. He also created his own style using woodcarvings, metal work, plexiglass pieces, wood and canvas.
Suman said he and Leal are planning two more books. The first, called Ensue