In true Latin Alternative style, this Halloween Remezcla is celebrating the more obscure legends & monsters used by parents throughout Latin America to scare young boys and girls – and also twenty-somethings. I’m definitely still scared. Last year, Matt Barbot gave you a detailed-CSI piece about El Chupacabras, plus we’ve seen the lil’ goat sucker even in NYC. And since La Llorona is getting her spot on NBC, we decided to focus on a few other monsters & legends that might be a little more off the radar:
1. El Cuco or El Viejo del Saco (Chile, Cuba, Mexico)
Though perhaps the story itself originated in Almería, Spain, El Hombre del Saco is well known throughout Latin America, as there are many versions of the tale. According to a Spanish legend, Francisco Ortega, aka el Moruno, was a man sick with tuberculosis at the beginning of the XXth century. He was desperately looking for a cure for the disease, so he sought help from a Curandera. She told him he would be cured by drinking the blood of children and rubbing his fat on his chest. And so, el Moruno kidnapped a 7-year old boy, Bernardo, in a cloth bag, to slit his underarm and drink his blood. El Cuco is known for walking up and down the streets at night with a black bag, scouting for those children who roam the streets or misbehave. There’s that “Duermete niño, duermete ya; que viene el cuco, y te comerá!” that many of you may or may not have heard as kids. Oh also, in espanglish zones such as some border regions of Mexico he is known as El Sacomán. Way to modernize El Cuco, that’s better than any DJ name.
2. Luz Mala (Argentina & Uruguay)
Luz Mala is a folkloric myth from the gaucho era. It’s not an actual character but, literally, a fluorescent beam that shines a few feet above the ground during the night. Supuestamente, the peasants who saw the light at the horizon of dry hills were scared of it because they thought those where “lost souls” who hadn’t received a christian baptism. They say that those who dare to look under the light can find metal objects or indigenous artifacts, but of course, looking at the light comes with lethal consequences, Icarus. Supposedly a deadly gas emanates from the found objects, killing whomever discovers it. Here’s a short “documentary” about Luz Mala to put you to sleep well tonight.
3. El Silbón (Colombia & Venezuela)
According to legend, El Silbón is the ghost of a young man who killed his father, stripping his guts for not having brought back the deer guts he had asked for. Rude, take it easy on papi, I’d tell him. But then the story complicates: as retribution, the young man’s grandpa orders him to be tied up to a post and whipped, his wounds washed with gin. In vindictive fashion, the young boy was tossed in a cage with two rabid and hungry dogs. Then, grandpa cursed the young boy to carry his father’s bones for all eternity. Make whatever Oedipal interpretation you want, but be sure to watch for El Silbón‘s call: His whistle is described similar to the musical notes: do, re, mi, fa, sol, la, si; in that order, rising the pitch until fa, and then lowering it till si. If you hear El Silbón‘s musical whistle from up close, there’s no danger; however, if you hear it far away, run to your nearest chamana. Fun fact: El Silbón takes vengeance on “mujeriego” men (aka, he’s on to you Alejandro Fernandez!)
4. La Ciguapa (Dominican Republic)
You may or may not remember hearing that “Mi Ciguapa Linda” Chichi Peralta merengue over and over at your cousins’ weddings (I STILL LOVE IT), but La Ciguapa is no linda. The distinctive fact of this magical woman, like Chichi Peralta says, is that she walks “con los piesitos para atras y para alante la carita!” As in, picture a tan, long haired naked woman (whose night howl resembles a baby’s shriek) roaming the mountains with her feet facing backwards. If you ever see a Ciguapa, they say, never look her in the eyes or you will-be-enchanted. Though she may seem timid, La Ciguapa seudces those of the opposite -male- sex, luring them into the woods and causing them to disappear. A similar one-legged version from Colombia is called La Patasola.
5. El Cadejo (Guatemala & El Salvador)
Known in some variations throughout South América, El Cadejo is the manifestation of a big, voracious black dog with red fire-like eyes. According to some versions, El Cadejo appears to victims at exactly medianoche. If you’re a good person, a white dog, the counterpart of El Cadejo, will appear to defend you. If, on the contrary, you’re not a good person, there’s some ripping to shreds that might happen. They say that El Cadejo Malo roams the streets to snatch away”young maids” with braided hair. So watch out La Llorona guanabees.