Pasatiempo

MONSTRUOS, MALDICIONE­S, Y MÁS

- Carmen Baca, Sapello

Where did they all go? Those monsters of our childhoods our padres used to scare us with So we’d portarnos como la gente. The folk of our Chicano lore. Fantasmas fantástica­s — The deadly stuff of nightmares. Inspiring fears of the dark — specters, spirits, phantasmag­oric Phenomenon that awed, bewildered, and confounded when they visited now and again.

So many sightings in our ríos of the Weeping Woman, la Llorona, made the rounds. We Speculated, secretly hoping one of us would see her. Rising from the river, decaying flesh And water falling from her decomposin­g body, she terrified, tormented, and taunted us To come close. Her horror enticed rather than repulsed. Witnesses achieved notoriety, too.

Monstruos, Maldicione­s, y Más by Carmen Baca is about the elements of Chicano culture that charmed and spooked the author in childhood. Her evocative phrasing brings readers in touch with their own childhoods, while at the same time educating about a culture some might not know.

— BRIAN SANDFORD, POETRY JUDGE

Survivor stories of encuentros con ella made her the most popular spook. But no one escaped Certain death after meeting las otras mujeres de la noche. Monstruas mysteriosa­s y matadoras — Few surviving stories exist, told in second person, never first, horrified and haunted us most. Streetligh­ts buzzing, flickering, then illuminati­ng drove us sin vergüenza in out of the dark.

Lechuza, ésque, era bruja por día, pájaro por noche. Who else but a wicked witch would work Such magic to transform into a tecolote? Sightings, though rare, existed everywhere owls live. We never knew what she did, only that if she took us, we were gone. Mitoteros cast suspicion On many a mujer, but only brujas revealed themselves by dying with their faithful familiars.

Or so the legend goes. La Malhora, three versions of her, no less, survive. Her victims didn’t. Beguiling with beauty first, the beast in her emerged in hideous form, the last horror her prey Beheld on earth. Not many stuck around to watch her final act from afar, not at the Bad Hour of three a.m. We didn’t venture out at la Mal Hora either. No tempting fate, just in case.

El Coco, aka Cucuy, scared us most. An indistinct, tenebrous gloom, it inspired fear through Imaginatio­n and lack of informatio­n. What he did to mugrosos no one knew. We thought the worst. Exasperate­d madres invoked the name of Coco as a last resort at bedtime, chanclas Flying at our fleeing backs with shouted versions of “te va pescar el Coco por malcriados.”

Seems back then ghouls were everywhere. In broad daylight, too. From

deadfalls in the forest,

Dense, dark, and full of danger, el Serpiente slithered slyly, forked

tongue slipping in and out,

Testing the tone of the day’s hunt. Every five years, the Vivorón awoke,

parched and hungry.

Las Cabañuelas told us when to stop wandering deep into the woods,

not even on a dare.

Bad enough all these legendary monsters our parents half convinced us

lurked outside, los

Duendes lived in our bedroom walls. They clipped our toenails at night

if we didn’t bathe.

Cuentos said we’d wake without a toe the second time around. We took

no chances there.

Those elves taught us well; even now, we sleep with our toes tucked

under las cobijas.

Those are the spooks, the boogie-people of our Chicano culture many of

us grew up with.

We knew one or the other first or secondhand, not so very long ago,

before they ceased

Coming to remind us how they colored and enriched our lives. But

where did they all go?

Did they disappear into the ether, forlorn and forgotten, when we

stopped searching?

Or was it after we grew up and invoked los monstruos on the next

generation for kicks?

Nuestros chicos, rolling cynical eyes, told us our monster memories

were ours alone.

They wouldn’t be searching on constant guard or fearing the dark like

we used to do.

Maybe it’s for the best, but I miss those ghouls who enriched my

childhood, don’t you?

 ?? ?? Carmen Baca taught high school and college English for 36 years, retiring in 2014. A native New Mexico Norteña and regionalis­tic author, she incorporat­es elements of her regional Spanish culture into most of what she writes. She is the author of six books and a wide variety of short publicatio­ns in multiple genres.
Carmen Baca taught high school and college English for 36 years, retiring in 2014. A native New Mexico Norteña and regionalis­tic author, she incorporat­es elements of her regional Spanish culture into most of what she writes. She is the author of six books and a wide variety of short publicatio­ns in multiple genres.
 ?? ?? Isabel Contreras grew up in Ohio, where she studied theater at Bowling Green State University. She now is studying performing arts at the Institute of American Indian Arts. She has been a performer for five years, with experience in acting, tech, costuming, and writing. She is a proud Mnicoujou Lakota from the Cheyenne River Reservatio­n in South Dakota, as well as Filipina, with family in Iriga City, Philippine­s. She plays the alto saxophone, trombone, and guitar, and also sings.
Isabel Contreras grew up in Ohio, where she studied theater at Bowling Green State University. She now is studying performing arts at the Institute of American Indian Arts. She has been a performer for five years, with experience in acting, tech, costuming, and writing. She is a proud Mnicoujou Lakota from the Cheyenne River Reservatio­n in South Dakota, as well as Filipina, with family in Iriga City, Philippine­s. She plays the alto saxophone, trombone, and guitar, and also sings.

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