April Fools’ Day and Coyote Trickster
In the Southwest, on April Fools’ Day, people think of Coyote myth, the comic trickster character, whose lack of wisdom gets him into trouble while his cleverness gets him back out.
The word “Coyote” comes from Nahuatl, the Aztec language, and means trickster. Native American Coyote is something more than just a trickster, he is a revered culture hero who creates, teaches, and helps humans, also a sort of antihero who demonstrates the dangers of negative behaviors like greed, recklessness, and arrogance.
Coyote has worshipped long ago, in the heart of Mexico. Stories about Coyote travel along the way from the Pacific Ocean to the Mississippi River.
The Creator once gave Coyote a bag full of stars and told him to place them neatly in the heavens. Coyote started doing this but became impatient, then quickly and randomly threw the stars into the night sky. So, we have Coyote to thank for our chaotic and beautiful starscape.
Coyote in some stories is a hero, who steals fire for mankind or slays monsters. Other stories depict him as a selfish or lazy con artist or seducer and his efforts often backfire on him. Wiley E. Coyote, created in Los Angles by Warner Brothers’ Cartoons, is very much in the spirit of such depictions.
Today, people paid to sneak Mexican immigrants into the U.S. are called coyotes. Like their Aztec ancestors’ God, they’re clever, sneaky tricksters. Coyotes offer immigrants a new life. But sometimes the Border Patrol closes in and the coyote escapes with the money he was paid and the hopeful immigrants are sent back to Mexico with empty pockets.
Coyote was old when the Aztecs knew him and he still survives today. Sometimes he is a clever hero, sometimes a fool, and sometimes his own worst enemy.
However, April Fools’ Day, is the best day to remember the mythical trickster Coyote.