I collected this piece of folklore from my dad while he was visiting. We ended up just sitting in the car in a parking lot while he shared some more Chilean folklore with me.
Dad: “When we were little, my mom and my dad were very busy, so they left the Nana with us. The empleada.
Dad: “And she used to sit with us and tell us all these scary happenings, like, she used to say there were sometimes babies abandoned in the middle of the road at night, and you walk and you hear this noise, a crying baby, and if you hold the baby, the baby is so sweet, and you get, ‘Oh! Poor little baby!’ But in reality, it was the Diablo (devil). The Diablo, who became a baby, to catch your attention and get out goodness out of you, and you feel compassion and then, a lot of bad things start happen to you if you hold that baby. Then the baby disappear and you cannot explain what happened, and then in one way, the baby choose, make you fall down in that trap, and because you became good with the baby, but the baby was bad. Then a lot of bad things start happen to you like, you can lose your job, your income, some relative dies, you know, all of this stuffs.”
Me: “It’s a bad omen. Can you reverse the omen?”
Dad: “The omen?”
Me: “Can you reverse the bad luck?”
Dad: “Ah, I guess, you know, the religious mentality show you that if you carry a cross with you, you are free of this devil, bad things that can happen to you.”
Me: “Oh, so the point is to try to get everyone to wear crosses.” (laugh)
Dad: “Exactly, well that is the idea.” (laugh) “Kind of. So in reality, a lot of Chileans without education, well even with education, you believe that a cross, that mean Jesus Christ, keep all this bad energy far away from you.”
Me: “So it’s to keep people in the religion?”
Dad: “Yeah, well, it’s probably an idea to keep everyone scared, and then if it doesn’t happen…”
Background and Analysis
My dad was raised in Rancagua, Chile, which is a city outside of Santiago in the 1950s and early 1960s. Back then and still today, religion has a very strong presence in Chile. When he was a young boy, my dad’s Nana would tell him and his brothers these stories, and at that age they believed it all, of course.
Going off of the legend, my dad also describes how, as a child, he was always told that when anything bad happened, if you just wore a cross or made a cross, everything would be okay. But to him, it’s all mostly psychological. This is very true, in that if you believe in something, it probably will happen. If you envision bad things happening, they will happen to you. If you envision good things happening, they can occur as well. What the legend is pushing is that religion can save you, even from the devil, but the mind is just as powerful a weapon.