Author Archives: Miguel Garcia

Legend of Sihuanaba

I recently spent the day with my aunt. While we had lunch, she recounted a legend from her childhood in El Salvador:

E: “Esta leyenda trata de la historia de una mujer llamada Sihuehet q tuvo un romance con el hijo del Dios Tlaloc, del cual resulto embarazada, pero como era una mujer muy vanidosa, esta descuidaba a su hijo El Cipitio quien tenia q comer cenizas porq ella no lo alimentaba. Fue por ello Tlaloc la maldijo por ser una mala madre y le dijo q ahora se llamaría Sihuanaba (mujer horrible), sería hermosa y atractiva a primera vista condenada a viajar por el campo. Se dice q se veía lavando ropa por las noches buscando a su hijo, al cual el Dios Tlaloc e concedió la juventud eterna como recompensa a su sufrimiento. La sihuanaba se encontraba a la orilla de ríos y quebradas, apareciéndosele a los hombres mujeriegos, trasnochadores, don juanes  y curiosos q se veian atraídos por su belleza lejana, pero cuando se acercaban a ella esta se convertia en un ser horrible con los pechos q le caían hasta el suelo, volviendo locos a los hombres. Cuentan q para no perder su alma, el hombre q la tiene cerca debe morder una cruz o una medallita y encomendarse a Dios, o estirar su mano y halarle el pelo para q ella se asuste y se tire a un barranco, de lo contrario enloquecían.”


E: “This legend is about the story of a woman named Sihuehet who had a romance with the son of the god Tlaloc, which resulted in her impregnation, but since she was a very vain woman, she would often neglect her son, El Cipitio, who had to eat ash because she would not feed him. Because of her actions, Tlaloc cursed her for being a bad mother and told her that from now on she will be called Sihuanaba (horrible woman), she’d be beautiful and attractive at first sight, condemned to wander the camps. It is said that she is seen washing clothes at night while looking for her son, who the god Tlaloc granted eternal youth as a reward for his suffering. Sihuanaba can be found beside rivers and rapids, appearing to womanizers, night travelers, and curious farmers who are attracted to her beauty from far away, but when they get close to her she would horribly transform and her breast would sag to the floor, driving the men mad. They say that in order to not lose their soul, the man who has her close must bite down on a cross or medallion and turn themselves over completely to God, or stretch out their hand and pull on Sihuanaba’s hair so she can become afraid and throw herself into the ravine, otherwise the men will go mad.”

Collector Analysis:

The legend of La Sihuanaba is closely associated with rivers and ravines. Growing up with a river behind her house, my aunt remembers hearing this legend from her parents. My aunt vaguely recalls hearing the legend around her school, which also happened to be located near a river. My aunt said that this legend was her parents’ way of teaching her the importance of being selfless. She said she didn’t want to be vain like Sihuehet and she definitely wanted to be a better mother than Sihuehet.

The legend of La Sihuanaba is similar to that of La LLorona. However, I enjoyed hearing about La Sihuanaba more because it was so new to me and because it came from my parents’ home country. I found it fascinating how the legend affects men and women, equally. For men, the legend acts as a warning towards promiscuity. As for women, the legend warns against vanity and the neglecting of children.

Chang’e and Hou Yi

My friend and I got to one of our classes early. While we waited I asked her if she knew any folklore. She happily gave me a  story:

“I can tell you why in China people place food beneath the moon during the Mid-Autumn festival.

Before our time, the sky held ten suns. The sun’s power was far too strong and the plants were all burnt away and people began to die.

Hou Yi, a famous archer, shot down nine of the suns. As a reward for his triumph, Hou Yi was gifted a vial of an elixir. The elixir made anyone who drank it immortal, but the vial allowed for only one drink. Hou Yi wanted to become immortal, but he loved his wife more. Hou Yi decided to give the elixir to his wife, Chang’e, for safe keeping. Hou Yi’s fame began to grow. His superb archer skills attracted many, and Hou Yi eventually garnered several students. One of his students, Pang Meng, had an evil heart. He wanted to steal the elixir from his master.

One day, Hou Yi and his students journeyed into the mountains to hunt but Pang Meng remained. He had fooled the other students into believing that he was ill. After ensuring Hou Yi’s departure, Pang Meng entered Hou Yi’s home and demanded the elixir. Chang’e knew she could not defeat Pang Meng in battle, so she drank the elixir. The elixir made her fly high into the sky. Chang’e ascended for several days, she felt no hunger and she felt no thirst. Finally, she reached the moon.

Hou Yi felt a great sorrow for the loss of Chang’e. He came back home, but felt lonely. Hou Yi placed a table beneath the moon and began to prepare food. Hou Yi hoped that offering would help his wife return.

That is why during the Mi-Autumn Festival, people place food beneath the moon.”

Collectors Analysis:

My friend’s mother grew up in China, so the Mid-Autumn festival was a huge part of her culture. My friend’s mother and grandmother soon moved to the United States. Her grandmother did not want to lose touch with China and so she began to retell stories daily and celebrate the festivals more rigorously. My friend first heard this story from her grandmother, but she does recall her mother telling a slightly different version. She remembers hearing the legend often during her childhood because it was told several times to the children of her family to remind them of tradition. To my friend, this legend is a reminder of her heritage. She enjoys being half Chinese and really embraces the culture.

I had several questions about the legend, many of which my friend was unable to answer. She did say that in one version Chang’e is actually the goddess of the moon. I wondered how Hou Yi shot down the nine suns and I wondered what happened to Chang’e on the moon. Still, I found the legend rather peaceful. It is a common told story with a hero and a tragic ending. I did enjoy learning about Chinese tradition. Many of the other legends I have collected help relay a hidden lesson but this legend actually introduces a tradition.


The Carbunco

At a family dinner, I asked my mom if she could tell me any folklore. She told me the following:

“When my mother was a child, the closest market to their home was half a day’s walk away. My mother’s mother would walk on her own to buy food for my mother and her sisters. One day, as she walked through the forest she felt a great heat. She began to sweat and sweat, until finally she felt it no more. The heat had disappeared. She leaned against a tree trying to cool down. The tree she was leaning on began to dry. The tree began to break apart and out came a ball of fire. My grandmother didn’t know that the ball of fire was the ‘Carbunco’ and anyone who threw a rag over it could capture it and take it home. Once home, if you were to throw needles, spoons, and coins into it the next morning appeared a lot of money. Instead, my grandmother decided to try and warm her porridge on the fire. As my grandmother approached the Carbunco, it lit up even more and flew around in the sky before flying off. My grandmother never saw it again.”

Collectors Analysis:

My mother heard this legend from my grandmother (her mother). My grandmother was raised in a less fortunate household and my great-grandmother probably told this story as a way to help her kids cope with the poverty. However, my great-grandmother did not simply make this legend up. My mother and her siblings all remember this legend, and continue to tell it in family settings because according to my great grandmother, she really experienced the Carbunco.

What I find interesting about the Carbunco is that a large majority of the less fortunate families in El Salvador probably had a similar story to my great-grandmother’s. I expect that the legends probably based on the neighborhood it is being told in and the location within El Salvador. I enjoyed most about this legend was with which the passion my mother delivered it. Whether she believes it or not, I do not know. All I do know was that this legend was one of my grandmother’s favorites.

El Salvadorean Proverb

I went home for dinner. During a conversation with my mom, she mentioned the following:


“Ponte Las Pilas.” translated to “Put You Batteries [On].”

I then asked my mom what that meant, she responded:

“Ponte las pilas means ponte las pilas. It means to put on your batteries but I always say it to remind you guys to work hard, be alert, and be attentive. The whole statement is used as a quick pick me up, or like a mini motivational speech. Ponte las pilas is a way for me to remind you and your sister to be more responsible, to get up, and to go get what you want. That’s how I use it. Some people use it differently. I’ve heard it been used like lets say you have a couple and the boyfriend isn’t giving the girlfriend enough attention then you’d say ‘Ponte las pilas’ like ‘Hey, be more attentive or someone may steal her’.”

Collector Analysis:

At this point, this proverb is ingrained into my mom’s brain. She was raised listening to this proverb. I have heard my grandma say it in the past, and my grandma has definitely said the proverb to me as well. This proverb is very generational, as my grandma told my mom and now, my mom has told my sister and I. To my mom, this proverb is obviously a way of telling my sister and I to work harder. She believes that just saying “work harder” is too blunt and that no one would listen. ‘Ponte las pilas’ is a more generous way of saying “get it together”.

Just like my mom, I have been hearing this proverb my entire life. I have heard it for a wide array of reasons. Normally, if I am complaining to my mom about how much school work I have she’ll merely respond, “ponte las pilas”. Another circumstance is if I’ve been in bed all day, my mom might come into the room and say the proverb. This proverb is the type of statement I’ll probably hear or say for the rest of my life.

The Moon Lullaby

At a family dinner, I asked my mom if she could tell me any folklore. She told me the following:

(I will be denoted C for collector, and my mom will be M):

M: “Luna, Luna,

Dame pan,

Para el chuchito,


Si no me das,

Anda al volcán.”

which translates to:

“Moon, Moon,

Give me bread,

For the puppy,


If you do not give me,

Walk [in] to the volcano.”

C: “When would you sing it to us?”

M: “Just like when we were watching the night sky, especially the moon or I would sing it to you and your sister when I was trying to put you guys to sleep.”

Collector Analysis:

My mom learnt this song from a television soap opera she used to watch as a child. She recalls that her favorite actress in the entire world sang this song in the show. She remembered and would sing it to my sister and I when we were younger. So, the song itself is a way for my mom to remember her childhood. My mom and I would go camping a lot and watch the moon, which is when she would sing it. However, I do remember her singing it as a lullaby. I really enjoyed hearing my mom sing this again. I’m sure it was as nostalgic for me as it was for my mom. This song was just a huge part of my summers and my childhood overall.