La Tulivieja, Panama

This legend was collected from a friend, who was born and raised in Panama City, Panama and is 20 years old. It is the story about La Tulivieja, a ghost who turns itself into a monster and wonders through abandoned places all around Panama, especially in rural areas.


According to my friend, the story is about a spirit who seduced the most beautiful woman in the region. She became pregnant from that forbidden love, and she drowned her baby in a river soon after it was born to hide her sin. However, she couldn’t escape God’s punishment, and she became a horrible monster with a face full of holes from which long hairs came out, bat wings, chicken legs, and a tule hat (which is made from plantain). She eats carbon and ashes, which is why people believe her footprints are found near bonfires. When there is a full moon, she regains her original form and can be seen bathing in the river, but she turns into a monster again as soon as there is a loud noise around. She is condemned to look for her baby for eternity, and her breasts are always filled with milk, ready to feed the baby she will never find.


My friend first heard it from her childhood friends and she says it made her very scared. As she was growing up, she heard it many more times in many places. She says it is one of the most popular legends in Panama and everyone she knows has heard it before, she even thinks it is the only actual Panamanian legend she has ever heard.


I am from Panama as well, and everyone I know has also heard of this legend, which is not surprising since Panama has a very small population of three million people. I had never heard this legend in such detail, which was also interesting, and I do think it’s one of Panamas most culturally relevant stories that I think has been adapted from Mexico’s La Llorona.