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5 Popular Legends of Hispanic America
As with all legends and myths, the ones in Latin America, particularly Hispanic America have been told from word of mouth from one generation to the next. Some are characteristic of a village of town within a country, others have swept beyond the borders of political territory; the product of the legends migrating with the people.
Below, are five legends recounted for decades and still, widely believed and feared. One thing is certain: they make part of the Hispanic culture.
La llorona is probably the most widespread legend in Central and South America. It tells the tale of a woman, coined La Llorona (The Crying/Weeping Woman). At night, her crying, wailing and shrieks has terrorized cities, towns and villages alike. The thin woman, draped in a white gown and veil murmurs to no avail Ay mis hijos ! (oh my children).
What is the story behind this grieving woman?
As with any popularized and diffused legend, La Llorona has many versions attributed to its introduction in more than half a dozen countries. However, the legend originated in Colonial Mexico and in Mexico, the most known form of this terrifying tale is the one revealed in paragraphs below.
During the Spanish Colonization of Mexico, a beautiful and indigenous woman fell in love with a Spaniard. A love affair sprouted and they had three children. They never wed and had limited encounters, because he feared being seen with an indigenous woman, he feared for his reputation, for his social status. One must remember that during colonial times, the notion that the indigenous had no soul prevailed.
He eventually married a Spanish bred woman. When the indigenous woman found out, a sense of betrayal, anger and grief plagued her heart to the extent of drowning their own three children in a river. Once she came back to her senses and realized she had killed her kin, her own children, she committed suicide.
She never found peace in the afterworld or her children. So, at night, she roams through streets and alleys, grieving for the deaths of her children and searching for their souls in vain. Screams, cries, shrieks, and the calling for her children, wake up and torment people nearby. They echo and are a reminder of her presence.
Many claim they´ve heard her and some even confirm sightings of her breath-halting beauty.
The legend about the Cadejo that will be divulged is the one of El Salvador, though it is widely known in Central America – Nicaragua, Mexico, Honduras, Guatemala, Costa Rica, El Salvador and Nicaragua.
According to the legend of El Cadejo, God, conscious of all the evil that plagued the Earth decided to create a creature that would protect man when he spent the dark hours of the day roaming far form home. God´s goal was to create a nighttime guardian, one feared by man, so he dare not harm him. He opted for a white dog with red eyes, a dog, which came to be known as El Cadejo and would fight anything or anyone that threatened the nighttime walker´s safety.
The devil became infuriated by the latest of God´s creation and thus, decided to create his own version of El Cadejo, a clone of the one created by God, in the exception that this dog was black and would hurt those he encountered that were evil-spirited or of questionable morals. His goal was to steal the soul of those that stayed out at night.
Legend says that when the black Cadejo shows up to a guarded late night walker, a violent fight takes place amongst both Cadejos. Nonetheless, it never leads to death, due to their linkage; if one dies, the other automatically dies too.
Once again, this legend is well-known over all of Latin America and each country has its own version; nonetheless, the one imparted below corresponds to the Argentinean version.
Los duendes are all infants that have died without being baptized. They´re rambunctious, naughty, playful, sad and malevolent spirits; no taller than half a meter. They hide things; displace objects in a person´s home, flicker lights, throw rocks, wake people up, mess up girls´ hair to the point it needs to be cut, put in spices in food being cooked, etc. They become a new word for trouble.
Expect to find a big hat covering their head, pointy teeth and a disturbing face. One of their hands is made of wool and the other is made of iron. Some say, they come up to people and ask with which hand they´d rather by hit and in spite of the hand chosen, they´ll always hit with the iron hand. Others, however, state that the duendes do offer genuine choice and that the woolen hand hurts more. During prayer or family hours, they cry as a child at the notion that they are abandoned and alone.
They come out at night and to children playing in quiet solitude. They promise children toys, games and fun, in an attempt to persuade children to leave their homes, and go into forests and bushes with them. They mock the children, make them get lost and some say, they´re even capable of murder.
El Sílbon (The Whistler) is a legend that originated in the plains of Venezuela and has since migrated to Colombia and Bolivia. In Colombia, he is known as El Sílbador and in Bolivia, he goes by El Sílvaco. The tale below corresponds to the Venezuelan variation.
El Sílbon, an omen of death and despair, refers to a man who murdered his father and has roamed the plains ever since. He is characterized by his hat and Goosebump provoking whistles. Legend says that the louder the whistle is, the farther away he is from you. The lower it is, the closer he is to you.
Once upon a time, the son, who came to be known as El Sílbon, was looking forward for cattle´s entrails for lunch. So, the father went out to hunt some cattle, a hunt which prolonged to the point of a severally frustrated son that went to look for his father. When he did find him, he saw his father empty handed, as it wasn´t being a fructiferous hunt. A furious outbreak followed and the son murdered his own father.
Then, he took his father´s entrails to be cooked by his mother. As the entrails and organs never cooked, the mother suspected it was those of her husband. She confronted her son and he confessed acquiescingly.
The son was cursed by both his mother and his grandfather, whom condemned him to the agonizing bites of a dog. They then rubbed hot peppers on his wounds. He has been haunted by the dog ever since and is known to fear both dogs and hot peppers.
According to some variations, he chases drunken party animals and proceeds to suck all the alcohol from their bellybuttons. Some swear that the bag he carries on his bag carries the remains of his father and all his victims.
Las Ciguapas are queer salvage women with supernatural powers, dwellers of the remote mountains of the Dominican Republic. Farmers have long attributed them tanned skin, ripped eyes, backward facing feet (making it highly difficult for people to follow their tracks), and long (knee-length) and glossy hair. They are said to possess tremendous beauty, are described as untamable and limit themselves to emitting howls and moans – they don´t speak.
Nocturnal creatures as they are, they only come out at night to gather fruit and hunt for fish and birds. They´re also known to bewitch men, make love to them, get pregnant and then kill them.
As with all myths, the one of Las Ciguapas has evolved and changed. Some describe them as inoffensive, other say they´re dangerous and that one should never look them in the eyes. Some claim they´re blue and tiny creatures.