J is a 23-year-old first generation Salvadorian-American and resides in Southern California. Her dad would travel throughout Latin America when he was young, and she recalls the stories he would tell her as a child. Many of these stories were ones that her father had heard from others during his travels, so she enjoys spreading the stories to others.
The context of this piece was during a shift at a community center where the employees were asked about stories they had heard from their cultures or other for an upcoming cultural heritage event.
J: “So from what I know they’re like small little creatures. Kinda like gnome look-alikes.”
Me: “Are they bad creatures or are they a good omen?”
J: “Okay this is from like stories what my dad would tell us, like stories that they’re actually like bad creatures and like they live in Latin America because I haven’t heard of them here in the U.S. Like for example they would try to steal babies or a little kid’s soul. They’ll like snatch it and they’ll take it to like some river”
Me: “What happens after that?”
J: “You’d have to go to the river to claim it back. That’s what I know about them. They’re small and like a lot of little kids have said that ‘oh I’m playing with so and so’ and then the parents will be like ‘well who’s so and so?’ and the kid will be like ‘oh my little friend.’ Like little kids are the ones that can see them. For example, when a baby is crying like a lot a lot its because like the soul got snatched by the duende and the parents has to go to the like, to a river and like reclaim it. I don’t know how they reclaim it or what they have to say but that’s pretty much how they get it back.”
Duendes are cryptids that are said to inhabit places such as Spain, Portugal, the Philippines, Iberia, and Latin America. These mythical creatures are characterized differently with each culture that talks about them. Some describe Duendes as kind, helpful creatures that guide lost children while stories such as the one J gave depict them as mischievous and evil creatures that harm children. Although the characteristics of the Duendes change, their general description is consistent through ought as they are described as small, swift creatures with exaggerated facial features. I also found it interesting how J heard about the lore of the Duendes. Although she nor her father had “first-hand experiences” with the Duendes, they heard it through other people. The spread of lore in this case was through storytelling, this is so important because it continues to spread lore from one or multiple regions and distributes them across the globe