Mexican Boogieman

Interviewer: Do you have any legends or superstitions or stories of magic that you’ve been told or that runs in the family or any Mexican folklore?


Informant: So I’ve heard this story and variations of this story multiple times and from different people.  This one is the one I know best because it involves our family.  It is more of a story that exemplifies a belief of my great grandparents and some of the superstitions they had in Mexico before coming to the U.S. But basically it was told to me and my cousins to explain why my oldest aunt on my father’s side was not allowed to come around the family anymore. I think I was ten or eleven when I first heard it and my grandmother told it in Spanish but my dad would translate.  But it started back when my grandmother and grandfather lived in Brawley, Ca. which was close to the border in San Diego county.  And they lived in an old two story house and the boys would go to work with my grandfather and the girls would stay home.  But my oldest aunt was said to be very pretty and she wanted to leave home and was seeing this older man who was proposing to take her and run away together.  And my grandmother found out about him and her friends who had come from the same part of Mexico as her, told her that the man was from an old part of Mexico and they believed that this man was part of a family in which the devil came from. So my grandmother warned my aunt and told her to stay away from the man.  Until one day the boys and my grandfather had gotten home from work and my aunt was angry because my grandmother kept chasing off the man, and wouldn’t let my aunt see him. My grandmother kept calling him the Spanish equivalent of the boogieman or the devil, the “I Cucuy” but I forget the word now. But so my aunt went up to her room because she was angry and then a little bit later when they were getting ready for dinner they heard screaming and rustling in her room.  So my dad and my other aunt ran upstairs and my grandfather ran around the side of the house.  And when they got to the room my aunt was on the ground screaming and they looked on the window sill, the window was open, there were two hooves coming off of the sill.  My grandfather said there was a ladder on the outside of the house but no one there.  So after this happened the family left the house and they told my aunt that she couldn’t come with them because the bad energy or the bad magic would follow them.


Interviewer: So the hooves were said to belong to the devil?


Informant: There’s an old folk belief that the devil has a somewhat animal form and so it made sense that when my grandmother said the man was from a family associated with the devil that my father and aunt would see hooves.


Interviewer: So they never returned to that area?


Informant: No, they moved north and tried to distance themselves from the area as much as they could. They all firmly believe that this was some dark spirit magic.


Background: The informant, Joe Reyes, is a Mexican American 2nd generation in America. His family immigrated from a rural part of Mexico and migrated with the crops through California.  His father was one of seven children with both brothers and sisters.  He learned much of his folklore from his father who learned it from his father and so on.  Joe Reyes has a brother and a sister who were also told some of this folklore passed it down to their own families.

Context: This interview took place during a weekend at home with the family.  Sitting in the living room on a Saturday night and asking about family history and folklore.  The informant first heard the narrative when he was around eleven or ten years old at a family gathering after he kept asking his father about his estranged aunt.  Upon starting the tale, other sisters of the informant’s father, had to leave because of the upsetting nature of the story.  The informant is not sure whether or not he believes it but his father’s family had the belief deeply engrained in them.

Analysis: This was the first time I had heard this story and I was deeply affected by it.  The story also was in line with much of the Mexican folklore surrounding the form and image of the devil. It was also interesting that my grandmother who was in the room understood the name of that was used to call the man and could recall it from stories and legends she had heard in her youth.  But this version is not a child’s tale and varies in structure as it pertains to my family.