El Cadejos

–Informant Info–

Nationality: Costa Rican

Age: 47

Occupation: Unemployed

Residence: Los Angeles

Date of Performance/Collection: 2022

Primary Language: English

Other Language(s): Spanish  

(*Notes: The informant will be referred to as GC and the interviewer as K. Many parts of this story were told in Spanish and appears here in its translated form, translated by her son)

Background info: GC is a mother of 2 who grew up in a small town in Costa Rica. She recalls a story she was told by her mother as a child to scare her away from sins such as drinking and partying late. She recalls this story was always told when an uncle or a brother came home drunk.

Context: GC told this story to me over drinks, laughing at the scary parts and occasionally pausing for humorous, dramatic effects. She also elaborated that she never told this story to her children, but her siblings would tell it to theirs. She says her own experiences were scary enough. 

K: Ok so, whats the name of this folklore and how do you know it? Like who told you?

GC: It’s called “El cadejos” and I was always told it growing up by my grandma when my uncles or brother would come home drunk *Laughter*; I think it was more to shame them than it was to scare me!

K: *Laughter* Ok ok, so the context of the performance is like a scary story meant to teach you a lesson, that was told when an event, like someone coming home drunk, occurred?

GC: Yes yes *Pause, pours herself a drink* I suppose it didn’t teach me much, I never encountered it

K: So you want to get into the folklore now?

GC: So, the story goes that El Cadejos is a large, terrifying dog that stalks the streets of uh my hometown-

K: What’s the name of the town?

GC: Santa Domingo

K: Ok sorry uh…you can continue

GC: Already scaring you huh? *laughter*. As I was saying, he would prowl the streets of Santa Domingo, especially the bars, and pray on young drunk teenagers, killing them. His origin story goes that he was once a young teenager himself, and to punish his abusive father for coming home drunk, he planned to uh…scare him by dressing up in like…uh…furs and such to look like a dog

K: Wow, I mean I get it

GC: Exactly! *laughter*, no one uh blamed him for trying to scare his dad. They blame the dad for how he reacted! Most people actually uh…felt bad for el Cadejos at first. But then he started to uh…*pause, drink* kill their kids so that feeling went away.

K: Yeah I think that would turn most people away from your side ya know? *laughter from both parties*. You can continue, please

GC: So he tried, and actually uh succeeded in scaring his dad. His dad, super drunk and angry, said to him “if you want to be a dog so badly, you can be one forever!” Which is kinda extreme if you ask me *laughter*. So, el Cadejos was cursed to live as a terrifying, ugly immortal dog. No one really knows why he started killing younger teens.

K: Do you have any like… hypothesis?

GC: Yes, everyone does. I think it started as killing drunk adults as revenge and anger towards his…his father but then it devolved into like inward anger? Like…he was so mad he couldn’t go out and have fun as a teenager he started killing other teens.

This folklore is meant to scare children and younger teens away from “undesirable paths” like the obvious drinking and less obvious thinks like wandering the streets at night and teen pregnancy. As the informant says, it didn’t really work on her or anyone she knew, people grew out of being scared and wanted to go have fun. taking the informants Costa Rican background into consideration, we can gather a few key themes. First, Costa Rica, like many south American countries, is heavily catholic. The idea od a terrifying creature killing those who sin (drinking in this case) reflects those deep set values of staying pure. The nonchalance with how the informant told the story is also interesting to note. The feelings toward drinking had obviously changed since the story’s origin. This story, meant to be scary and teaching a lesson, had turned humorous when telling it to me. The information also said that she didn’t tell it to her children, but some of her siblings did. The transformation of El Cadejos from a boy to a dog for disrespecting his father also speaks to the culture. Although it made a point that the father was not a good man (drinking, abuse), it still thought an appropriate enough story to tell to children, as a lesson for respecting your parents, which also runs deep in Costa Rican culture.