His­panic folk­lore en­dures across gen­er­a­tions

The Outpost - - Chaplain’s Corner - By Al­fred Her­nan­dez

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…

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