“Cuando el Tecolote Canta, el Indio Muere”

Informant Info:

  • Nationality: Mexican
  • Residence: San Diego
  • Primary language: Spanish/English

Text and Context:

M.W grew up in a small rural town in Mexico, where superstitions are dominant in everyday life. From a young age, her parents instilled in her the belief that owls are a bad omen. She says, “Cuando el tecolote canta, el indio muere.” This translates to,  “When the owl sings, the Indian dies.” Basically, if you were to hear the owl sing, it was thought that someone known or close to you is about to die. M.W says there are lots of superstitions involving owls, and all are negatively associated. She recalls once when it was night, an owl sang and then something unexpected happened right after. A bird hit itself on a wall shortly after, and then in the morning it was known that her neighbor passed away around the time the owl sang. M.W recalls that every time she heard the owl, someone died, ended up in the hospital, or very sick. In her culture, the owl was feared and when seen, it led to an eerie sensation. 


When talking to M.W, what stood out was when she told me, “Something about the owl had always unsettled me. In the night time, the eyes are so spooky and the fact that they can move their head 270 degrees is just creepy.” After doing some research, I found that the association between owls and bad luck runs beyond just Mexican culture. Amongst many cultures, owls are also seen as omens of death and are avoided. For example, in Native Cherokee culture, the owl is believed to be an embodied spirit of the dead. In my Mexican culture, I was also told that owls are also called “lechuzas” in spanish. Lechuzas are typically referring to barn owls or larger owls. There are lots of myths associated with owls, another one being that witches can transform themselves into owls.