8.1 “Mi caballo mago” – Sabine Ulibarrí

9 min readjanuary 30, 2023

Riya Patel

Riya Patel

Kashvi Panjolia

Kashvi Panjolia

AP Spanish Literature 💃🏽

24 resources
See Units

"Mi caballo mago" is a captivating short story by Sabine Ulibarri that delves into the themes of imagination, freedom, and the complexities of human-nature interactions. Set in a rural community, the narrative revolves around the mythical caballo brujo, a symbol of untamed beauty and independence. This study guide provides an in-depth analysis of the story, exploring its cultural significance, the portrayal of nature and the environment, and the emotional journey of the characters.

Context Behind "Mi caballo mago"

Author Background

Sabine Ulibarrí (1921-2003) was a prominent American writer and poet known for his significant contributions to Chicano literature. Born in Tierra Amarilla, New Mexico, Ulibarri had a rich cultural background, and his experiences growing up in a bilingual and bicultural environment deeply influenced his writing.
Ulibarrí's literary achievements revolve around his exploration of the Chicano experience, reflecting the struggles, dreams, and aspirations of Mexican-Americans. He was a key figure in the Chicano literary movement, which sought to amplify the voices of Mexican-Americans and shed light on their unique cultural identity. His writings often delved into themes of cultural heritage, identity, and the search for belonging in a diverse and complex society. 👥
One of his most renowned works is the short story "Mi caballo mago," which showcases his mastery in blending vivid imagery and emotional depth.

Historical Context

The 1970s and 80s were significant decades for the Chicano civil rights movement, which sought to address issues of social, political, and economic inequality faced by Mexican-Americans in the United States. This movement aimed to raise awareness about the unique cultural identity and history of Mexican-Americans and reclaim their heritage. It delved into the complexities of being both Mexican and American, navigating the intersections of language, customs, traditions, and values.
A protest during the Chicano movement. Image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

Need to Know About “Mi caballo mago”


  • The Protagonist: A young boy, fifteen years old, captivated by the mythical caballo brujo. Filled with ambition and dreams, he is determined to capture the horse and, in doing so, discovers deeper reflections on freedom and the human spirit.
  • El caballo brujo: A legendary white horse, symbolizing fantasy, freedom, and untamed spirit. Elusive and revered by the community, the horse's presence evokes awe and admiration among ranch hands and townspeople. Throughout the story, el caballo brujo remains an enigmatic figure, transcending human control and leaving a lasting impression on those who encounter it. 🐎
  • The Townspeople: A tight-knit community that gathers around campfires and sunny patios, sharing stories with enthusiasm and admiration for the legendary caballo brujo. As they come together to discuss the horse's exploits, they embody the collective fascination and shared cultural heritage that unites them. The white horse becomes a symbol of communal imagination and the enduring power of stories that shape their sense of identity and belonging.

Literary Devices

  • Description/Descripción: The description in this work plays a central role in evoking a vivid and emotional experience for the readers. Sabine Ulibarrí masterfully employs descriptive language to paint a rich tapestry of sights, sounds, and emotions. There are many examples of description in this story, but one of them is the description of lush summer forests and green valleys that creates a picturesque setting for the encounters with the white horse. These descriptions add to the sense of harmony and natural beauty associated with the horse. 🌲🌳
  • Environment/Ambiente: The environment of "Mi caballo mago" is set in the rural landscapes of the American Southwest, specifically in the mountain valleys and surrounding plains of a small town. The story's setting exudes a sense of natural beauty, wilderness, and open spaces. The townspeople gather around sunny patios and campfires, creating a warm and communal atmosphere.
  • Atmosphere/Atmósfera: The atmosphere is one of enchantment, wonder, and nostalgia. The horse's elusive nature and its ability to evade capture contribute to a sense of otherworldliness, leaving the characters and readers in awe of its presence. The memories of the legendary horse and the town's collective obsession with it evoke a longing for a bygone era and the magic that once filled the protagonist's youth.
  • Hyperbole/Hipérbole: The qualities of the caballo brujo are exaggerated throughout this text. For example, referring to the horse as the "mito del reino animal" is a hyperbolic way of elevating the horse's legendary status. When the boy admits that the horse was "mas hombre que él" it is a hyperbolic expression of the horse's intelligence, courage, and ability to outwit humans. It highlights the horse's exceptional qualities, elevating it above mere animals.
  • Epithet/Epíteto: An epithet is a phrase or adjective used to characterize a person, place, or thing (ex: Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson; "The Rock" is an epithet). The epithets in "Mi caballo mago" help create a vivid and evocative image of the horse in the readers' minds. For example, the epithet "arrogante majestad de los campos" characterizes the horse's dominance and pride.
Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson. Actor, wrestler, and walking epithet. Image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.
  • Asyndeton/Asíndeton: Asyndeton is a literary device characterized by the omission of conjunctions between words or phrases in a sentence. It is used to create a sense of urgency, rapidity, or to highlight the individual elements in a list. In this story, Ulibarrí uses asyndeton in several instances to enhance the storytelling and convey a sense of excitement and momentum. For example, when saying that the stories told about the caballo brujo were innumerable, Ulibarrí writes "unas verdad, otras invención." This creates a rapid and succinct flow, which adds to the captivating sentence structures used in this work.
  • Enumeration/Enumeración: Enumeration helps create a sense of detail and richness in the storytelling, allowing the reader to visualize the scenes and characters more vividly. One example in this work is "tantas trampas, tantas redes, tantas expediciones" where the repetition of "tantas" emphasizes the relentless efforts made by different parties to catch the elusive horse.
  • Chromaticism/Cromatismo: Literary chromaticism, also known as color symbolism, refers to the use of colors to convey specific emotions, moods, or themes in a literary work. The most prominent color in the story is white, which is associated with el caballo brujo. White is often linked to notions of purity, freedom, and ethereality, which resonate with the mythical and awe-inspiring qualities of the horse.
  • Metaphor/Metáfora: Ulibarrí uses many metaphors throughout the story to enhance the narrative and convey deeper meanings and emotions. For example, in the sentence "Era la ilusion, la libertad y la emocion," the horse is metaphorically compared to these adjectives. The metaphor suggests that the horse embodies these qualities, symbolizing a world of dreams, freedom, and thrilling adventures.
  • Simile/Símil: An example of a simile in this work is the sentence used to describe the horse, "Blanco como el olvido." This simile emphasizes the horse's pure whiteness and draws a connection between its appearance and the elusive, intangible nature of lost memories.

Summary of "Mi caballo mago"

The story recounts a young boy's fascination with a legendary white horse that represents freedom, fantasy, and excitement. The boy, at the age of fifteen, dreams of capturing the elusive horse that is the subject of numerous awe-inspiring stories among ranch hands and townspeople.
One summer day, while tending to cattle, the boy has a surreal encounter with the caballo brujo. The horse stands regal and proud on high ground, surrounded by lush greenery. Its majestic appearance and powerful neigh leave a lasting impression on the boy, who becomes determined to capture the mythical creature.
A white horse eating grass. Image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.
The pursuit of the horse is arduous and challenging, but the boy remains resolute. After a fierce struggle, he manages to capture the horse, feeling a sense of triumph and manliness. However, upon returning home, the boy realizes that the horse's true nature is one of untamed spirit and freedom. Deciding that the horse should be allowed to roam freely, he releases it into a fenced pasture, hoping to forge a bond over time.
Despite his efforts, the horse eventually escapes, leaving behind traces of blood on the barbed-wire fence. The boy experiences a mixture of heartache and happiness, knowing that the horse's indomitable spirit remains free. The caballo brujo becomes a symbol of transcendence, enriching the boy's life forever. 💖

Themes in "Mi caballo mago"

Las relaciones interpersonales

The protagonist's deep emotional connection with the caballo brujo serves as a central element of the story. The horse becomes a symbol of dreams, aspirations, and youthful imagination for the protagonist. Despite never having seen the horse before, the protagonist's obsession with capturing and taming it reflects a strong emotional bond formed through stories and shared experiences within the community. The collective storytelling and longing to witness the horse in person show how a common interest can bring people together, fostering a sense of community and camaraderie.

El amor y el desprecio

The protagonist's love for the white horse is rooted in admiration and fascination. The horse's mythical status enhances its allure, and this emotional connection represents a form of love and longing for something extraordinary. The horse's resistance to capture and domestication challenges the human desire for control over nature. This resistance can be seen as an act of defiance, causing some characters to feel contemptuous toward the horse's refusal to be tamed. 😤

La construcción de la realidad

The boundaries between myth and reality become blurred in the narrative. The horse is described in almost mythical terms, becoming larger-than-life in the collective consciousness of the community. This construction of the horse's reality is a result of the stories and beliefs shared by the townspeople, contributing to its legendary status.

La trayectoria y la transformación

The story follows the trajectory of the protagonist's emotions and aspirations, as well as the transformation of the mythical horse from an elusive legend to a symbol of freedom and untamed spirit. The protagonist's trajectory is marked by his initial fascination with the white horse, driven by the stories and admiration shared by the townspeople. As the narrative progresses, his obsession intensifies, and he becomes determined to capture the horse and show it off to the town. However, his encounter with the caballo brujo leads to a transformation in his perception. He recognizes the horse's indomitable spirit and chooses to release it back into the wild, realizing that true connection does not lie in possession but in appreciation of its freedom.

La naturaleza y el ambiente

The story vividly portrays the changing seasons and their influence on the environment. The descriptions of summer forests and winter plains provide a rich backdrop for the horse's movements. The story also emphasizes nature's indomitable spirit through the character of the white horse. Despite various traps and attempts at capture, the horse continues to roam freely, defying human control.
A small town near mountains. Image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

Significance of "Mi caballo mago"

"Mi caballo mago" by Sabine Ulibarrí has had a significant impact on Latin American literature, particularly in terms of its contributions to the genre of magical realism. The story's imaginative and fantastical elements, combined with its exploration of universal themes such as the search for identity and fulfillment, have made it a beloved and widely read work of fiction.
The story touches upon several themes, including the power of imagination, the allure of freedom, and the complexities of human-nature interactions, which are relevant and relatable to people in various cultural and societal contexts. The work's exploration of the caballo brujo as a mythical and legendary figure reflects the importance of folklore and cultural storytelling in various societies. It showcases the significance of preserving and celebrating cultural narratives and legends that hold deep meaning for different communities.

Stay Connected

© 2024 Fiveable Inc. All rights reserved.

© 2024 Fiveable Inc. All rights reserved.