Author Archives: Noah Bernardo

The Cuco (Puerto Rican Legend)

The following is an interview that took place between me and my co-worker, Danielle, during our night shift at the School of Cinematic Arts Operations desk:

Danielle: “The Cuco is a Puerto Rican legend that basically, when a child misbehaves, the Cuco lives somewhere in the house or… in the surrounding area, and it’s basically, ‘if you don’t do what I say, the Cuco’s gonna get you.’ And it’s… like,  shapeless, and it’s whatever the child imagines it to be– to maximize the fear, and for them to do whatever it is that you want them to do.”

Me: “So, why do you know or like this piece?”

Danielle: “I know it because–um– a few years ago my friend… said it to her younger cousin–um–she, like, brought her cousin to my house and the little girl wasn’t listening, and my friend was like, ‘You have to listen to me or the Cuco’s gonna get you!’ And I was like, ‘What are you talking about?’ and my grandma from upstairs, like– heard it and, like, perked up and she was like, ‘What are you talking about?’ and my friend was like, ‘The Cuco.” My grandma was like, ‘Don’t say that in my house!” And I said, ‘Well do you know what this is?’ and my grandma was like, ‘Yeah, like, it’s a monster that my–,” –her mother had frightened her with, and so she promised herself she would never tell her kids about it. And so the first time we had heard it was because my friend used it–um– and my grandma was kind of upset. Uh, but that’s also kind of why I like it is because… I found it funny (laughs) that my grandma was personally offended to hear the name under her roof.”

Me: “That’s really cool. And, did you say you were from Puerto Rico?”

Danielle: “I’m from New York, my grandma’s from Puerto Rico. But, my heritage is Puerto Rican.”

I found it really interesting how individually Danielle, her friend, and her grandmother each had different ways of looking at how the Cuco affects people. Danielle’s friend used it as a means to babysit her cousin, while her grandmother sought to abandon the legend in how she raised her children because of whatever negative effects it had on her childhood. On the other hand, Danielle saw the Cuco as amusing, and a fun way to get to know her family’s, and more specifically her grandmother’s, view of their heritage.

“Indio comido, puedo al camino”

The following is taken from an interview between me and my friend, Javier, who is from Nicaragua. We were sitting in the lobby of the Caruso Catholic Center. He decided to tell me about a certain Spanish saying.

Javier: “Yeah, so this other saying is called, ‘Indio comido, puedo al camino,’ which translates to… ‘Eaten (laughs) Indian, walking Indian.'”

Me: (laughs) “Wait, sorry, repeat that?”

Javier: “So, um, ‘Indio comido, puedo al camino,’ which means, ‘Eaten Indian, walking Indian.’

Me: “Indian? Like, Native American?”

Javier: “Uh… (laughs) yes.”

Me: (laughs) “Okay, do you know what that’s supposed to mean?”

Javier: “Yeah, it just means that, um, like, like after, like, uh, a worker, like, on the fields or… a farm worker, as soon as, like, they’re, like, finished, like, their meal, like, let’s say lunch or so, like they’re ready to go back to work. Like, as soon as they finish eating, then they can go to work.”

Me: “Oh, okay, cool, so, like, the ‘Indian’ in the phrase is, like, the worker?”

Javier: “Yeah. Yeah, yeah. So, back home, in Nicaragua, it isn’t like Native American Indians but, like, people who, like, live, like, in the… like, in the fields or like… not in the suburbs… or… like, naan fields and stuff. Like, they are called Indians, too. That’s, like, how we translate that.”

Me: “Gotchya. Um, who first told you that one?”

Javier: “Uh, probably my dad. Or, actually my grandpa probably. He–he, like, he has this, um, huge, like… coffee crops. So, he works with a lot of, like, these people. These are, like, mainly the people who work for, like, farms and so. So, yeah.”

It was very interesting to me that the word “Indian” became the term in Nicaragua to define farm workers. I’m not sure where this translated from, or even if it had any connection to Native Americans or people living in India. It doesn’t seem like anyone considers it to be derogatory in this context, so the origins are a mystery to me.

“Camaron que se duerme se lo lleva la corriente”

The following is taken from an interview between me and my friend, Javier, who is from Nicaragua. We were sitting in the lobby of the Caruso Catholic Center. He decided to tell me about a certain Spanish saying.

Javier: “Okay, so there is this saying or, like, not proverb but, like, saying that goes, ‘Camaron que se duerme se lo lleva la corriente,’ which basically means, ‘the shrimp who falls asleep… uh, at the seashore get to the ocean…? Wait, what’s a seashore? How do you call that, uh…?”

Me: “Like the tide?”

Javier: “You know how, like the waves come and then leave…”

Me: “Yeah, yeah like the tide.”

Javier: “Yeah, that, yeah, ‘…then the tide will take it to the ocean.’ So it basically means that, um, like whoever, like, goes in life and not being like, um…like awake to, like, whatever is happening, like, surrounds them, or who is, like, not on top of, like, their work or so, then if they, like, took a lot of time and they just, like, fall asleep and, like, fall behind and stuff, then… the… the thing– what’s it called?”

Me: “The tide?”

Javier: “Then the tide (laughs) will, uh, yeah…will, like… yeah, will get them and then they won’t be able to, like, get their work done right.”

Me: “Okay, cool, who told you that one?”

Javier: “Uh… yeah I definitely– probably some– oh, probably, like, some, like, teachers back in high– back in middle school.”

Me: “To get you to work harder?”

Javier: “Yeah, yeah. Actually, I remember, like, there was, like, a class full of sayings and so, and then, like, what would you… how would you, like, interpret them or so.”

This saying is definitely a relatable one and a fair warning for anyone overwhelmed by school work. I wish I had heard this saying before I turned this entry in late for an assignment. Oh wait, I did…

La Tetona

The following is taken from an interview between me and my friend, Javier, who is from Nicaragua. We were sitting in the lobby of the Caruso Catholic Center. He decided to tell me about a certain piece of Nicaraguan legend.

Javier: “Um, this one that I know is called ‘La Tetona’, which basically means…(laughs)…a lady who has big boobs. Um, this one basically, um… is like– it’s just like a very old tale which just, um… just explains how, like, when the conquerors came to Nicaragua or something there was this… this was this, um, lady who was just, like, living by herself or something, and then, um… she would just, um, want to, like, get money from like the rich conquerors or so, and so she– she would be like very, um… very provocative with the rich, um, like, conquerors and stuff and then she… yeah she– she had like… big…boobs, uh, so, (laughs) she, uh, but that was the way how she would, like, um… like, uh, bring, like, uh– the conquerors attention and then she would…yeah, steal their money.”

Me: “Who first told you about this one?”

Javier: “Uh, yeah, this was not my parents, definitely. This was, uh, a friend from, like, school, like we were in Spanish class or something and then we were just discussing some tales and then he came up with this one.”

I thought it was really interesting how the idea of the femme fatale in this lady living by herself who uses her feminine wiles to her benefit made its way into this legend. It was also hilarious to see the struggle by which a Catholic man tells a story about a woman with large breasts.

La Carreta Nagua

The following is taken from an interview between me and my friend, Javier, who is from Nicaragua. We were sitting in the lobby of the Caruso Catholic Center. He decided to tell me about a certain piece of Nicaraguan legend. By the way he described it, I’m pretty sure this is a legend, though he referred to it as a tale.

Javier: “Um, this tale that I know of, it’s called ‘La Carreta Nagua’, which is, um– which translates to ‘The Carriage of Nagua’. Um, basically it’s like this, um… carriage that is, um… being pulled by two horses, but the two horses are just, like, their bones. So, they’re not, like, actual horses. And then, on top of it, um.. it’s, uh… the figure of Death carrying a… (gesturing chopping motion)… carrying… the axe?”

Me: “Scythe?”

Javier: “The scythe…?”

(We both laugh for a bit)

Javier: “Carrying it… yeah. And, basically, um, it just comes at night, and… it is– it is, like… it’s said that, um, it shows up… whenever someone is close, like, to death, or just to, like… um, bring people to– to death.”

Me: “So, where did you first hear this from?”

Javier: “Um, definitely just, like, tales from my mom and my dad that would just… they would tell me some legends or like, um… or, like, stories that are, like, yeah– that are from… home, Nicaragua. Yeah.”

Me: “And do you know if this was… just confined to Nicaragua, or if it spread out to other regions?”

Javier: “Uh, I’m not really sure. Um, I do think there is, like, very… specific from Nicaraguan, um… definitely, uh… yeah. Definitely something…yeah, I’ve never heard it from, like, other cultures or so. So yeah, just from home.”

I actually ended up hearing this same legend from multiple people after I had already collected it from Javier, so it reminded me of how prevalent the idea of death is in Hispanic cultures, especially with all there is done with the Day of the Dead ceremony.