In many of Mexico’s rural pueblos the rainy season is duende time. Duendes are small creatures, elf-like, but more malign.
Some rural folk describe them as baleful, usually — but not always — invisible beings residing in arroyos and mountainside pockets dense with thickets of brush that flourish during las lluvias, the rains.
At Rancho de la Cruz, a cluster of adobe and tile-roofed buildings, women still carry burdens on their heads and the belief in duendes is more or less a basic assumption of life. Wise campesinos take care while cultivating upland fields to placate duendes while chopping out underbrush or using rainy season water surging downhill or gathering in pools.
Because duendes have the power to inflict illness and other troubles on those who vex them, such agriculturalists ask their permission, explaining that clearing brush and channeling water is necessary for the growth of life-giving crops, and no hostility in intended.