La Ciguanaba

“There was a woman who was born with the name Sihuehuet, which means beautiful woman, but it changes into Ciguanaba, which means hideous woman. Apparently, she was beaten to death by her husband or boyfriend. She initially appears to be this beautiful woman who gains the attention of every man. She is particular to men who appear to be unfaithful or abusive to their girlfriends and wives. So when she confronts one, she seduces them, takes advantage of them sexually and then turns into this horrible-looking devil. She contorts her body in every direction and scares the men that they too twist their bodies due to the extreme fear that comes with seeing la Ciguanaba. It is also believed that she gave birth to a boy before she died, named El Cipitio. And apparently, this son grew up and preys on virgin girls. People in El Salvador have confessed to seeing her, but whether this is true or not is still unknown.”

My informant heard of the “La Ciguanaba” legend as a little girl in El Salvador. She claims that the story originated in El Salvador; however, other sources indicate a different origin. The story is typically told to teenage girls and boys of Hispanic descent, especially if they come from Central America (e.g. El Salvador, Guatemala, and Costa Rica). It is usually a time where females and males are believed to begin relationships and also develop a sense of ethics. I recall her telling me this story during my teenage years, and asked her to recite the piece again. She found this piece interesting and found some importance in retelling this story, because it creates a sense of fear that simultaneously places an importance on morality. She uses the example that by believing in this legend, men will become more wary about how they act in relationships and in the domestic environment. She believes that as a result of this legend, women should symbolize virtue and purity that is sought for by all people. And if this goal (or woman) is tampered with, then people are moving further from achieving proper moral behavior and leading sinful lives.

I think the “La Ciguanaba” legend can be interpreted in multiple ways. The legend is versatile in this sense. It can act as a way for people to understand the notion of karma. It is usually told to children when they are suspected of doing anything rebellious in order to instill fear. Its reinforcing children to avoid conducting mischievous behavior, because their actions may decide their fate in the future. Alternatively, it can be viewed as a way to tell children to make rational decisions, because, again, their actions may dictate what happens as a result of the decisions they make. For example, Hispanic mothers often tell their daughters this story, because they want them to be wary about the decisions the make, such as the partners they choose.

To note, there are multiple variations to the Salvadorian “La Ciguanaba.” I have a friend who is from Guatemala, and I had her recite the Guatemalan version, spelled “La Siguanaba,” and refers to a female who is initially very beautiful. As she is confronted with men, she turns into a horse-like figure and causes males to be disoriented after she has intercourse with them. The men can no longer recall who they are or identify with what is occurring in the world, and they ultimately kill themselves as a result. I also heard of the Costa Rican version, “Cegua,” which is similar to the Guatemalan legend, but uses a different setting.