Saturday, October 29, 2011

Spirits of Central America

All of these stories have many variations. If you know of another version of these legends or any other interesting creatures, please leave a comment so I can add them to the list.

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La Siguanaba - Central America

La Siguanaba is a shape-shifting woman with long hair who haunts men who have been unfaithful or are traveling alone. Once she has lured a man away, her face transforms into a horse´s, or a skull, or a horse’s skull with red eyes. She may lead a man into a place where he will get lost, or the very sight of her face may drive him mad. To defend oneself from her, you should bite your machete. Like La Llorona, she is often found near water sources like rivers or water tanks. Her legend is traced back to Nahuatl mythology. She offended the water god Tlaloc by cheating on his son and being a bad mother. Tlaloc also cursed her son, El Cipitío. Other names include Sihuanaba, Siguanaba, Cigua or Cegua. Her names are derived from several different Nahuatl words with various meanings.

El Cipitío - El Salvador

El Cipitío is the child of La Siguanaba who was cursed by Tlaloc. He is cursed to live forever as a small child with backwards feet. He is usually depicted with a large belly and a hat. He likes to eat ashes and banans, and to throw stones at people. He can also teleport. He sounds more creepy than scary.

La Mano Peluda

La Mano Peluda or “The Hairy Hand” is said to belong to a man who was killed during the inquisition. His hand is said to have come back to life to seek revenge on his enemies while they’re asleep.

La Lechuza - Mexico

La Lechuza or “The Owl Woman” is a witch that can turn into a huge bird with red eyes. She attacks men like an owl attacks a mouse. There are stories of people shooting owls or crows and the next day elderly ladies coming into town with gunshot wounds. If you’d like to meet her, go outside at midnight and whistle three times and La Lechuza will whistle back. This legend is also popular in Texas.

Que viene el coco, Goya 1799

El Cuco

Also known as El Coco, he is a dark, shapeless monster that kidnaps and eats children that don’t obey their parents. This myth began in Spain or Portugal and was brought to the Americans during the colonial period. Sometimes he is depicted as having a pumpkin head or a skull face.

Duérmete niño, duérmete ya...Que viene el Coco y te comerá.

La Carreta Chillona - El Salvador

La Carreta Chillona or “The Screechy Wagon” is a wagon made of human bones. The legend began in Spain and centers on a boy named Terencio, who was adopted by a priest and moved to San Salvador as an adult. There, he pretended to be a miracle doctor, but ended up killing many people. The dead priest came back as a ghost and forced Terencio to build a chariot from the bones of his victims and sentenced him to wander the streets for all eternity. If you hear the sound of the wagon´s bones and chains, you will know that death is near.

El Cadejo

The dog-like animal can be good or bad, depending on the color of its fur: The white cadejo is said to protect travelers from danger or drunks from robbers. The black one has penetrating red eyes, sharp teeth and hoofed feet. The evil cadejo smells of burning sulfur and lurks in alleys and other dark places waiting for his next victim. The name cadejo could come from the word cadena, or chain. Sometimes the dog is depicted with a chain following it.

La Llorona - Mexico

La Llorona or the "Wailing Woman" is the ghost of a woman who drowned her own children in anger over her husband´s betrayal. Now she wanders at night, often near water sources, crying and wailing "Ay, mis hijos!" Children are told she will take them and kill or eat them if they cross her path. I have also heard the La Llorona is the ghost of La Malinche, the Aztec interpreter and lover of Hernán Cortéz, who killed her children when she realized together they had betrayed her people. .

This list was inspired by Latina Magazine´s " Scary Latino Myths."

Don´t think I haven´t noticed that most of these spirits and creatures are female. Witches, evil seductresses and bad mothers have been scaring people for centuries the world over. What does that say about women? In these myths we seem to have incredible sexual power as well as a great capacity for committing evil against men on the road. The myths are both insulting and empowering. La Llorona can be seen as the most evil figure in Mexico, or the most powerful female next to La Virgen. Make of them what you will.

Related Post:

Spirits of the Caribbean

1 comment:

Spa Offer Lady said...

Great post, I particularly found the Owl Woman tale interesting! I can't find much about it on the internet actually, seems very obscure.