SOUTH TEXAS FOLK TALES GIVE VIEW OF CULTURE 02/22/99 From stories of their childhood, they recognize her as the ghost of a woman killed a century ago. Outside Alice, oilfield workers see a woman in black crying by the roadside. They see her standing at a highway intersection, draped in black lace and a veil. The murdered bride is trying to tell the truth _ that she was faithful to her long-dead husband and that her child was his. The legend of the wailing woman in black is one of many South Texas folk tales studied by John R. Jenson, a journalism professor at Texas A&M University-Kingsville. Jenson is presenting his research of South Texas folk tales through March 4 at South Texas public libraries as part of A&M-Kingsville's Circuit Riders series of lectures. Reading folk tales can help give a deeper understanding of an area's culture, Jenson said. "They are stories that are rooted in the agrarian culture of a humble, hardworking people," he said. "Many of them are like proverbs. In some ways they are children's tales, but they can be read at many different levels." Though some of the legends Jenson studies give specific locations in South Texas _ the ghost of the bride is said to appear at the intersection of U.S. Highway 281 and State Highway 141 _ many elements of the tales are common to folk tales around the world. "You see the same themes as in the folk tales of medieval Europe," Jenson said. "In many ways they could have happened anywhere." The woman in black is a variation of another story from the Mexican borderlands, that of the weeping woman _ La Llorona _ who drowned her own children, and still wails at night by rivers. In the South Texas version of the ghost bride tale, one of the most powerful landowners in the area, Raul Ramos, brought home a beautiful bride from Mexico. He left his new wife, Leonora, at his ranch near Premont to go on a long trip. When he returned, he found that she was six months' pregnant. A jealous neighbor said that the child was not his. Believing the tale, he ordered that his wife be hanged. He rode in the opposite direction so he could not change his mind, and shot himself at sunset, when she was to be killed. Now, according to the legend, Leonora Rodriguez de Ramos appears to passers-by near Ben Bolt, proclaiming her innocence and trying to convince them that she was true to her husband. "The story tells of the dangers of malice and spite and jealousy," Jenson said. "Like many of these tales it is a cautionary tale that teaches morals." Another version of the weeping woman legend is set in Laredo, where a woman despaired at her philandering husband, who was always drinking, gambling and womanizing in Nuevo Laredo, Jenson said. In a fit of hopeless madness, she drowned her own children in the Rio Grande. She still wanders at night by the river, weeping and wailing in eternal desolation and repentance. "There are many hundreds of variations on this story," said Miguel Leatham, an anthropology professor at A&M-Kingsville. "And it isn't dead. There have been studies of Mexican-American girls in juvenile detention halls making up variations of `La Llorona.' It is a typical bogeyman story, used to keep children away from water courses." Some folk stories are more current than that of the woman in black, like the rash of reported chupacabra sightings that began in the Rio Grande Valley in the 1990s, Leatham said. Tales of the chupacabras, or goat suckers, tell of an alien being that sucks the blood of animals in a vampire-like way, Leatham said. Many South Texas residents have claimed to find their animals killed by the strange creatures. The chupacabra is depicted on T-shirts and is sung about in Tejano songs. Little rubber chupacabras with vicious teeth can be bought in markets in border towns. "Anthropologists say that the chupacabra tales probably came about as a result of the increased militarization of the border," Leatham said. The chupacabra is the sort of tale that comes out of times of uncertainty, he said. It also has elements of aliens from outer space that have been prevalent in popular culture since the 1980s. "Like all folk stories, the chupacabra is a combination, a pastiche," Leatham said. Although many legends read like children's stories, they tell the story of Mexican-Americans of South Texas, Jenson said. "They offer little lessons for children, but they also come out of the challenges that a people have had," he said. "They are real in terms of the importance they have for a culture collectively. They are the distilled wisdom of the ages." World History Association of Texas Annual Conference April 9-10, 1999 San Antonio, Texas. Borderlands and Frontiers: Cross-Cultural Exchanges and World History. Example papers: Settlement and Water Control in Colonial Mexico’s First Frontier: The Case of Eastern Bajio; The Rise and Fall of Stockholm, Texas: A Swedish Colony on the Rio Grande; Hispanic and Anglo Education in San Antonio from Colonial Times to the Present; Archival Archaeology for Los Adaes, an 18th Century Capital of Spanish Texas. The East Side cemeteries, which date back to 1853, became a final resting place for wagon drivers, mayors, store owners, architects -- the people who developed early San Antonio are buried there.,1249,30012891,00.html? Volunteers are being sought at Fremont Indian State Park to serve primarily as trail guides at the museum and visitors center. 1-435-527-4631. Here's a tip that will save you untold grief the next time you go abroad: Don't pick up anything that doesn't belong to you, not even shards of broken pottery scattered by the roadside. It's a lesson Pascal Hudon is learning the hard way. For almost two months, the 20-year-old from Otterburn Park on the South Shore has been languishing in a prison in Mexico's troubled Chiapas state. Fieldwork Opportunity in North Central Mongolia: The Center for the Study of Eurasian Nomads second archaeological Fieldwork Opportunity at Egiin Gol, North Central Mongolia -- surveys and excavations in time periods ranging from Paleolithic to Medieval. The 1999 fieldwork opportunity for participants is at Dates of project: June 1-July 1. Application Deadline: March 20, 1999. Tax deductible donation of $3000 covers expenses at the site. Pericles was 65 when he contracted intense headaches, coughing, chest pain and bad breath. Eleven days later, the Athenian ruler was dead. Thucydides' description of gangrene at the tips of fingers and toes was a telltale sign of the symptoms of typhus. Doctors have diagnosed the 19th-century poet Edgar Allan Poe with rabies. Alexander the Great's downfall was typhoid fever. Beethoven died from syphilis.