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Venezuela: La Llorona

Informant: This is a legend I have been hearing since I was a child. It is called “La Llorona.” Most people think this is a Mexican legend, and maybe it did originate from there but I heard it from my Venezuelan friends and family. The legend basically says that there was this woman from a rural area who married a rich man. When her husband leaves her for another woman, she drowns her two children in the river near their house. Immediately after killing them, she feels such a strong sense of guilt that she kills herself. Legend has it that at night you can hear her crying “mis hijos, mis hijos,”  which basically translates to “my children, my children.” My friends and I used to tell this legend at parties and sleepovers, sort of like a horror story we used to entertain each other with. As a kid, I was always frightened by it, especially because of the imagery that went along with the legend. So, for example, the version I heard always included the woman, or La Llorona, dressed all in white and walking around the streets stealing children to replace the ones she lost. This legend was a really big part of my childhood and a great story that always got my friends and me feeling scared. 


This was extremely interesting for me to hear because I’m Mexican and I thought than this legend was only told in Mexico. The fact that Paula is from Venezuela and grew up listening to the same legend took me a little bit by surprise. It also made me wonder if the legend of La Llorona is more of a Latin America tale rather than just a Mexican one. I can completely relate to Paula hearing the story from her friends and family and using it as a form of entertainment at social gatherings. I can also see how this legend would be used to instil fear into children and why it would be so fun to tell it as a little kid.

The story itself is really interesting and gets at the root of a lot of social interactions in Latin societies. The fact that it is about a woman who goes crazy after her husband cheats on her demonstrates the machista approach taken by most Latin societies. Basically, this implies that women need men in their lives in order to stay sane. It also demonstrates how women in Latin societies often grow up with the notion that in order to be happy their husband must be loyal to them; in other words, women cannot have a happy life without a husband. It is very intriguing that this story is mostly told among children. Its hidden meaning works as a form of unconsciously telling children what is valued in society and what is not.

Venezuela: El Ratón Pérez


Informant: El Ratón Pérez was a very important figure in my childhood.

Collector: Could you elaborate on who, and what, is El Ratón Pérez?

Informant: Yeah so El Ratón Pérez is the same premise as The Tooth Fairy but instead of a fairy it´s a mouse. So, in Venezuela, when kids’ teeth fell they were told by their parents to leave their tooth under their pillow so that El Ratón Pérez could come and leave them a present.

Collector: So every time one of you teeth would fall as a child it was El Ratón Pérez that you believed would come? What would he usually leave under your pillow?

Informant: Exactly! He would always leave money. The bigger the tooth, the more money. So, for example, I would get more money for a molar than for one of my front teeth.

Collector: And when did you realize El Ratón Pérez wasn’t real?

Informant: I figured it out as I began getting older, kind of like you figure out Santa Claus isn’t real. You start suspecting it and then the other kids start suspecting it as well until finally you just know that it was never El Ratón Pérez leaving money under your pillow and taking your teeth but that instead it was always your parents.


I really liked the idea of El Ratón Pérez being the one to pick up your teeth instead of the Tooth Fairy. Again, I was struck by how similar this Venezuelan tradition is to the Mexican one; in Mexico, it’s also El Ratón Pérez that comes instead of the Tooth Fairy. Just like with the legend of La Llorona, which is both common in Mexico and Venezuela, I was extremely intrigued to see the overlap between Latin culture and folklore.

I think this type of folklore is extremely interesting because it applies to little kids and becomes such a big part of their childhood. However, the belief of something like El Ratón Pérez inevitably stops becoming a belief and, instead, only becomes a pleasant lie your parents told you.  This is what happened to Paula once she realized that El Ratón Pérez was not real. I also find it very interesting how this realization comes along as a communal thing. Paula mentioned how the idea of El Ratón Pérez and his existence began diminishing once the other kids started doubting its existence as well. Therefore, there is a certain sense of understanding and community that goes along with other children your age. In a way, folk beliefs last as long as your social group still believe them. If the people you identify with hold something to be true, then you will most likely hold it to be true as well. This could serve as an explanation as to why children all stop believing in things such as El Ratón Pérez and Santa Claus around the same time.

I really like this piece. It is a nice folk belief that dissipates kids’ fear of losing their teeth. In a way, you can say that the purpose of figures such as El Ratón Pérez is to make childhood funner and less frightening. As a kid, loosing one of your teeth can be an awful experience; the tooth hurts and moves for a few weeks before it falls, once it falls you bleed, and then you’re left with a physical gap in your mouth. The gap that is left over makes it uncomfortable to chew food and can leave kids feeling self-conscious. Therefore, I think that a belief such as El Ratón Pérez really helps kids go through this transition. They get a prize for their pain and what could be considered as scary (loosing your teeth) becomes exciting at the prospect of receiving a visit from El Ratón Pérez.

Miami: The Fountain of Youth

Informant: The myth of The Fountain of Youth is something I have been hearing every since I moved to Miami.

Collector: When, and where, were you first introduced to this myth?

Informant: I don’t remember the time exactly but it was definitely something I was introduced to once I moved to Miami. A lot of people believed that The Fountain of Youth was located in Florida and, therefore, it was not uncommon to hear about this myth.

Collector: What were ways in which this myth got promulgated?

Informant: Well there were many references to The Fountain of Youth in movies and other forms of entertainment…umm…there was this one museum in Florida I remember going to that had a whole exhibition built around it. It was called the Vizcaya Museum and I remember them having a presentation on what The Fountain of Youth was and how it came to be located in Florida.

Collector: So the idea of The Fountain of Youth was used as a form of tourism as well?

Informant: Yes, exactly! There were many attractions and things related to The Fountain of Youth that were used to call attention to Florida.

Collector: Could you give a little bit of background on what The Fountain of Youth is?

Informant: Yes, of course. It is basically this spring that restores your youth if you drink its water. So it’s a source of youth, beauty, and health. Basically a form of obtaining immortality. But you have to find the fountain and drink its water, which is the tricky part. So almost all of the stories about The Fountain of Youth revolve around people trying to find it.


The Fountain of Youth has been a myth that I’ve also heard about repeatedly. However, I used to hear about this in movies like Indiana Jones and other forms of entertainment rather than from the place I was living in. I found it very interesting how this myth was used in Florida as a way to attract tourists. In some ways, this demonstrates the relationship between folklore and tourism. Sometimes folklore is used to promote tourism and The Fountain of Youth is one of many examples. I think a big part of the appeal of this myth is that it is a recipe for old age and a way to prevent death. In Western societies, old age and death are one of the greatest fears people have. Hence, I can understand how the search for The Fountain of Youth is a myth that continues to live on and that is used to capture people’s attention and imagination. It is a myth that brings a solution to an inevitable part of life, and the appeal of that cannot be underestimated. I think it is because of such a promise that this myth has managed to live on for so long. Moreover, I can see how this can be used as a form of tourism. The main premise of the myth – immortality – is extremely appealing and people can’t help but wonder if The Fountain of Youth actually exists.

Venezuela: Los Diablos de Yare

Informant: Los Diablos de Yare are a religious festival celebrated in Venezuela during Corpus Christi. I remember being introduced to this in school as a child. Every time the festival approached, we would make masks designed to look like devils. Then we would wear the masks and dance around. Even though the masks were designed to look like devils or monsters, they were all extremely colorful. This festivity is a yearly tradition filled with joy, family, and friends. Basically, the whole festivities are made to celebrate good over evil. This is why the masks are made to look like devils and the tradition is considered religious; the whole point is to demonstrate how good will always beat out evil. I don’t remember the origins of it exactly, but I know that it has been a Venezuelan tradition for centuries and that it has obviously evolved over the years. 


This festival seems to be a very important part of Venezuelan culture. I think the reason why it is so prominent in Venezuela is because its religious. This would explain why schools make a whole celebration out of it and why the tradition has been able to survive for hundreds of years.

I wish the informant would have been able to provide more information as to where and how the tradition originated exactly, but I understand that she has been around it for so long that she just takes it to be a yearly ritual. It’s very intriguing to me that the festival depicts devils in order to celebrate the triumph of good over evil. This demonstrates a very strong imagery that plays with perceptions. It is almost as if the use of devil masks make the devils less intimidating and demonstrate to people that they are stronger than evil. In other words, the creating of this masks can work as a metaphor for taking control over ones own demons. Overall, I really liked this piece of folklore. The vivid colors used for the masks and the dances that happen all around town make it pretty clear that this festival is a time for celebration and family.

Mexico: Monkey Proverb


Aunque la mona se vista de seda, mona se queda. 


Although the monkey dresses in silk, it’s still a monkey. 


This Mexican proverb was given to me by my friend who is a 20 year old from Mexico City. The exchange happened in the form of an interview while on the USC campus. She claims to have been hearing this ever since she was a child. Her mom would repeatedly say this to her every time they encountered a new person who, according to my friend, was someone her mom did not like or thought was rude. My friend then went on to explain to me how this proverb speaks to how classist of a society Mexico tends to be.  There is a large gap between the different economic sectors of Mexico; 1% of the population is extremely rich while almost 50% of the population live in extreme poverty. According to my friend, this proverb is often used to describe people that come from a poor background and are constantly showing off their newly gained money. In other words, she says that it is used to describe “people that are new rich but don’t have manners.” Hence the image of a monkey being able to dress in silk but still being a monkey regardless of the fancy clothes.


I think this proverb speaks a lot about Mexican society and how it functions. It also says a lot about the inequality in wealth distribution and how class plays an important factor into how people are perceived. Furthermore, it implies that people’s actions are being scrutinized despite their newly acquired wealth and/or status. The end result is to demonstrate how Mexican society is extremely closed off to outsiders of people that have not been a part of it for more than one generation. This is very interesting to me because it delineates how wealth, status, and class are taken into consideration in Mexico City.