Hispanic folklore endures across generations
Have you ever been walking down a dark street late at night and get the feeling someone or something is following you?
Have you ever been near a canal or retention basin and hear the faint cries of a women in the distance, or was there a room in your grandparents’ house you were afraid to go into when you were a child?
If so we have more in common than you think: you’re either Hispanic, grew up in a Hispanic neighborhood, or had close Hispanic friends.
As a child I grew up hearing stories of La Lechuza, the witch’s owl that is sent to spy on her victim; La Llorona, the woman who drowned her children because she was forsaken by her husband and now spends eternity searching for them; and the cucuy who lurked in the shadows and places little girls and boys should not be. These stories are universal in Hispanic culture, and in every region have a different twist.
My cousins and I were told if we misbehaved that the duende that lived in the walls would come out and scratch our feet at night while we slept. Our older cousin took advantage of our innocence and as we all laid on the floor in our grandparent’s living room attempting to sleep they would scratch the walls and enjoy the sound of our panicked whispers.
The duende is a mythical creature that has a different tail across the Hispanic landscape. In Portugal, the duende lives in the forest and whistles a magical song luring girls and boys into the forest causing them to lose their way home. In Belize they are called tata duende and attack the thumbs of children. These are a small portion and the most popular Hispanic myths and folklore, and these stories have been passed down from generation to generation scaring children and creating community amongst Hispanic families. As we grow up we realize our parents, grandparents, aunts and uncles tell us these stories to frighten us into behaving and the sheer joy of watching us be overcome by fright. Like when my mother told us about the night my Tia Elena snuck out of the house to go to the street dance and she danced with a handsome stranger. They danced all night, he gave her his sole attention, then she accidently stepped on his foot and when she looked down he had rooster feet.
My wife and I have warned our children of the cucuy and told them if they keep talking back the duende is going to scratch their feet at night. It’s a joy to pass our traditions and culture to our younger generations and to share it with the world. Even though I know these myths are not true I can’t lie when our friends and family are sitting around the table drinking coffee the way our parents did and tell these stories and it’s time for me to make my rounds turning off the lights in the house I get spooked. Especially when I hear the gophers scratching my bathroom walls. Well, at least that’s what I tell myself it is…