"El Virrey y el Azteca," or "The Viceroy and the Aztec," is a Mexican folktale. Taking place during the Spanish occupation of South America, it tells about a poor Aztec who stumbles upon a bag full of 26 gold coins while walking on the road. Thinking gleefully of the possibilities, the Aztec begins planning his new, wealthier future. However, his senses of honor and honesty soon force him to change his mind; the gold coins don't belong to him, and it would be stealing to take them. So, the Native American decides to go further down the road and see if he can find the true owner of the bag.

While walking, the Aztec spies a Spaniard in richly appointed clothing. Figuring that only a Spanish lord would be carrying the amount of money the Indian was carrying with him, he decides to approach him. The lord, saying that he had lost a moneybag, takes the Indian's. However, when the lord counts the coins in the bag, he becomes angry. He accuses the Aztec of stealing two coins out of it because the bag he dropped contained 28 coins. He also threatens to call the Spanish police and have him arrested.

Fearing imprisonment, the Aztec throws himself at the mercy of the king's viceroy, or royal governor, hoping that the official's honesty and sense of justice would save his skin. The viceroy, after listening to the Aztec's plea of innocence, calls the Spanish lord to listen to his side in the interest of fairness.

When he heard both sides of the story, the viceroy, in a decision that shocked the powerful upper-class lord, decided that the Aztec had not stolen the gold coins. After all, why would someone only steal two coins out of a bag of 28 and then return the remaining ones to the owner? Furthermore, he rules that the bag be given to the Aztec, saying that if the lord lost a bag of 28 coins and the Aztec had a bag with only 26, the bag the Indian found must not be his and, "finders keepers" when the original owner isn't known. So, in one fell swoop, the viceroy put the greedy in their place and helped the poor through even-handed justice. The morals of this story: don't be greedy for more because you might lose what you have and honesty is always rewarded in the end.

If you liked this folktale, see my other Galician folktales: "La Manzana del Enamorado," "Las Brujas y el Cura," and "Lo que le lo Pasó a un Hermano Mio."

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