The Woman Who Outshone the Sun / La mujer que brillaba aún más que el sol
By Alejandro Martinez
Illustrated by Fernando Olivera
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When Lucia Zenteno walks into a mountain village in central Mexico, some villagers whisper that her long black hair blocks out the sun, and they are afraid. Others say her brilliant hair outshines the sun. Frightened, they banish Lucia from the village and watch in amazement as their precious river follows her, for it loves her and will not leave her. Never had the villagers imagined that their beautiful river would leave them, no matter what they did—and so the whole village sets out to find Lucia and beg for her forgiveness.
The legend of Lucia Zenteno is part of the oral history of the Zapotec Indians of Oaxaca, Mexico—a region of Mexico renowned for its rich cultural history with roots that go back many centuries before Columbus. Alejandro Cruz Martinez, the Zapotec poet who wrote down the original version of The Woman Who Outshone the Sun, later gave up his life in his struggle to help win back the water rights of the Zapotec people.
Check out the classroom-tested, standards-aligned lesson plan Using Picture Books to Explore Identity, Stereotyping, and Discrimination by Loraine Woodard with The Woman Who Outshone the Sun, provided by ReadWriteThink.org, a website developed by the International Reading Association and the National Council of Teachers of English.
For ideas on how to teach the diversity of Spanish-speaking cultures, check out the NEH unit, La Familia, which recommends The Woman Who Outshone the Sun from EDSITEment, the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) website for K–12 teachers, school librarians, and students.
Check out reading and craft tips created by the staff and partners of Reading to Kids, a grassroots organization dedicated to inspiring underserved children with a love of reading.
About the Creators
was a promising young Zapotec poet who spent many years collecting the oral traditions of his people, including the story of Lucia Zeneno. He published his own version of the story as a poem in 1986. Alejandro was killed in 1987 while organizing the Zapotec to regain their lost water rights.
is an internationally acclaimed painter who lives in Oaxaca, Mexico. He was fascinated with the story of Lucia Zenteno ever since he first heard it from his close friend Alejandro Cruz Martinez. His work has been shown internationally, in places like Mexico, El Salvador, and the US. His work is influenced by traditional Oaxacan ways of life, myths and legends, and political and social concerns.