Tag Archives: El Cucuy

El Cucuy is Everywhere

Background: The informant is a 26 year old female who lives in a suburb of Chicago. She was born and raised around the city with her grandparents, mother, and younger brother. Her grandparents, immigrants from Mexico, imparted most of their knowledge to the informant.

Context: The context was watching a horror movie and being reminded of a legend she was constantly told as a child.

Text:

VA: So, in Mexican folklore, there’s El Cucuy. It’s like the boogeyman. Mexicans threaten their children with El Cucuy coming and taking them away.

Me: Oh my. How does El Cucuy come?

VA: El Cucuy is everywhere, everywhere around you.

Me: Would you mom tell you this to scare you?

VA: Well, it was my whole family. My mom, my grandparents, all of them. It was how they scared children into behaving. Oh also, just anyone of Latin American culture like my babysitter from Central America. Basically, if you speak Spanish, chances are you know El Cucuy.

Me: What does he do to children?

VA: He eats children once they’re taken. Basically, if you don’t behave, you’re getting eaten. 

Analysis:

Informant: Her voice was extremely solemn when speaking about El Cucuy, likely still remnants of how childrenhood fears can continue to affect someone. Even at 26, she didn’t want to take any chances.

Mine: The boogeyman is a very common theme across cultures as a way to scare children into behaving. While it may not be scary to everyone, it seemed to hit something deeper for the informant. She told the story more calmly than her other ones, not making any humorous jokes, or pausing often. While it likely is still childhood fears sticking with her to some extent, it may also be because the informant has a younger brother and would have to tell him the story as well. In this case, the informant has been both the receiver of the tradition and has passed on the tradition. It brings up the interesting placement of the older sibling, in that they may become active bearers of their traditions much earlier than the younger siblings. 

El Cucuy

–Informant Info–
Nationality: United States of America
Age: 30
Occupation: Lead Associate of Operations, Chase Bank
Residence: Laguna Niguel, CA
Date of Performance/Collection: 4/19/2021
Primary Language: English
Other Language(s): Spanish

Main Piece:

The following conversation is transcribed from a conversation between me (HS) and my co-worker/informant (MR).

HS: So tell me about El Cucuy.

MR: El Cucuy was a lot like other legends that my friends and parents used to scare me when I was little. A lot like La Mano Peluda, my parents would say things like, “El Cucuy is going to come and get you!” When I was really little, probably 5 or 6, I would be scared to get clothes out of my closet at night because that’s where I was told El Cucuy was waiting to get me and eat me. I honestly don’t even know anything about El Cucuy, he was kind of just like a boogeyman type thing that I use now to scare kids into behaving.

MR: *Googles El Cucuy on her phone for the first time*

MR: Oh wow. This story is crazy weird. Hahahaha. Apparently, a father was cursed after forgetting that he left his kids locked in the closet while their barn burned down, so all his kids were killed. After years of looking for his kids in other families’ closets, he grew an appetite for them? That makes no sense but it’s nice to finally know where the story of El Cucuy came from after all these years.

Background:

My informant is my co-worker from my job. She is essentially my supervisor and she enjoys helping me to practice my Spanish and telling me a lot about her culture and heritage. She was raised in a Spanish-speaking household by two parents who both immigrated to the United States from Mexico. She comes from a devout Catholic family and has taught me a lot of traditions that I didn’t know pertain to Catholicism, seeing as to the fact that I myself was raised in a Catholic family. She also knows a lot of Mexican urban legends and ghost stories from her childhood.

Context:

This story was brought up while having a general discussion with my co-worker about her culture and traditions. We had just finished talking about La Mano Peluda and other legends such as El Chupacabra. She had told me about these traditions before but I asked her to go more in-depth for the sake of the collection project. We were sitting next to each other on the teller line at work and we would chat in-between customers. In a lot of the audio recordings, you can hear us having a conversation and then stopping abruptly because a customer walks in.

Thoughts:

Something that I found interesting, and I don’t know if this applies on a broader scale, is that there was a significant difference in my coworker’s response to talking about El Cucuy as opposed to other legends. In the case of La Mano Peluda, she recited many childhood experiences where she was genuinely afraid of it, along with talking about her scare-filled experiences of searching for El Chupacabra. She was not as passionate or enthusiastic about El Cucuy, perhaps because the legend wasn’t as effective at scaring her as a child or because it wasn’t used by her parents as much. Regardless, El Cucuy is a typical urban legend. My coworker’s comment on how El Cucuy is similar to the boogeyman made me realize that, like many other legends, it is part of a global pattern of stories made up to scare children into behaving.

To see how El Cucuy links with these other boogeyman stories, read:

Hayes, Joe., and Honorio. Robledo. El Cucuy! : a Bogeyman Cuento . 1st ed., Cinco Puntos Press, 2001.

The Legend of El cucuy

Background

Informant: A.G.  22 years old current senior in undergrad at USC, third generation from Honduras/Mexico

Location: Los Angeles, CA

Context

A.G.’s family is originally from South America, namely Mexico and Honduras. His family immigrated to the US when his mother was a child and have strong ties to their heritage, tradition and culture back in their homeland. Many of the stories and traditions that A.G. knows have been passed down from generation to generation, and instill a cultural and familial understanding in the younger generations. The Legend of El cucuy is one such piece of folklore, that is told to young children to scare them into behaving appropriately and being obedient. The story itself has many parallels to ones like La Llorona, or other similar ghost stories that are based around children. A.G. initially heard this story from his uncle, who learned it from his mother, whom would tell him this legend at night when he was a young boy. I have transcribed his telling below:

Main Piece

“My uncle told me that his mother, my abuela, would tell him to behave or the cucuy would get him. Cucuy is like a small, bat eared, hair monster that has huge red eyes and it would kidnap you if you did something bad or misbehaved. He said this his mom would always tell him to go to sleep on time, to behave, never doing anything bad by anybody else and to listen and respect her, which was the most important. If he didn’t behave properly, the cucuy would come and take him into the night. Some of his friends would tell him that when they were up past their bedtime or sneaking something, they would hear screeching or suddenly see red eyes in the bushes. Whenever that happened, someone would be missing the next day. To this day he says he’s still scared of it, especially if he goes back to Mexico”

Thoughts

El cucuy from Mexico that has long been known by the Mexican people and a lot of latin americans. It has traveled to the United States and spread at a tremendous rate. The legend is reminiscent of La Llorona or the American boogeyman due to the similar roles that the stories play; to scare kids into staying in their beds and not misbehaving. When asked about whether this story was relevant when he was a child, A.G. noted that while he was aware of it, it wasn’t told to him in the same way that it was told to his uncle. For A.G. he learned it more as a reference to his culture, and less as a cautionary tale used to make children behave. He also noted that in his uncle’s telling of the story, he naturally began acting out the legend, and made it sound ominous as if he was reciting it to some unruly children and really trying to convince them of El cucuy’s existence. Apparently, there is still superstition and belief in this creature, much the same way that there is belief in Ll Llorona.

It was interesting to me to hear how similar this legend is to other and the role that these legends play specifically when related to children. In the folklore course with Tok Thompson, there has been discussions about the way that folklore is used to teach children about social and cultural norms, and how to behave. It seems that in this case, the myth of El cucuy’s purpose is directly related to scaring children into acting appropriately, in the same way that Cinderella informs them of gender norms. Belief in the legend also prompts real changes in behavior and of perception, for example when a child does act out of turn and “sees” El cucuy in the bush, someone goes missing. This then strengthens in the “validity” of the legend and further impacts the cultural behavior around it.

El Cucuy – “Boogeyman” Creature in Mexican Folklore

The Cucuy, I’m not really quite sure what it is, um, but, usually, uh, when like children are acting like- out of like the norm, like when they’re misbehaving uh parents will be like “oi, there comes the cucuy!” Like he’s gonna come eat you if you don’t stop being a bad person, um…and it’s sorta like similar to like the boogeyman like if you- if you put your child to sleep, and like they don’t go to sleep, you’ll be like the cuc- if you don’t close your eyes, the cucuy’s gonna come get you…so yeah.

 

Background:

Location of story – predominantly Mexico, according to informant

Location of Performance – Interviewer’s dormitory room, Los Angeles, CA, night

 

Context: This performance took place in a group setting – about 2-3 people – in a college dormitory room. This performance was prompted by the call for stories about beliefs, ghosts, or superstitions as examples of folklore via a group message. KF approached me two days prior to this interview, but schedules did not allow for a recording until she came to ask a homework and remembered. I am good friends with KF. This story followed two of KF’s previously about La Llorona and the devil appearing on people’s horses at night.

 

Analysis: This performance demonstrates the phenomenon of children being more inclined to follow instructions based on the threat of a supernatural creature or element rather than their own parents. Likewise, the parents utilize this tactic because the effect is so immediate. It is also interesting to note that the comparison to the boogeyman is drawn because I have only known the American version of that bedtime creature: bedtime and a fear of the dark seems to conjure similar fears and potential monsters across cultures.

“El Cucuy” Mexican Legend

Main Piece: “El Cucuy is a myth that was basically a tall, furry, red-eyed creature, that had a large red ear which he would use to hear children that were misbehaving. He would live in the hills or the mountains in Mexico, and by using his larger ear he would listen for children that were misbehaving. He would then come down from his cave in the mountains, and would kidnap any kids that he heard misbehaving… he would take them back to his cave… and then he would eat them.”

 

Background: UV said that he lived in an area that was very mountainous, and so this story circulated around from his family and from people that he knew from school. There was always this fear of the unknown in the mountains, and UV said that because kids liked to play in the mountains, this story was another way to scare kids into not messing around in the dangerous area. Additionally, UV said that El Cucuy was often seen as a boogie man, and that essentially this was another way to remind kids to not only stay away from the mountains, but also to be good.

 

Context of Performance: UV told me this story at my apartment while we were discussing the classic stories and myths we were told as a kid. UV mentioned that many of the myths he was told as a kid had some kind of ghoulish element to them, or some cautionary aspect to it. There were also a couple other people in the room during the story, and one of them had also heard this story but he grew up in Arizona, so it was interesting to see that this crossed country lines.

 

Analysis: This story is very interesting to me for a number of reasons. Much like the story of La Llorona that UV told me earlier, this story also functions as a cautionary tale for children. It seeks to remind them that acting out of line or misbehaving, can have serious and drastic consequences. The other thing that sticks out to me is that it would appear that while similar in nature, they differ in their setting. So it would appear that regionally a story such as La Llorona may not work as well for people who live near the mountains or in dryer areas. But setting the ghoulish presence in the mysterious settings of the mountains would certainly draw more fear and believability out of the folk in the area. I find that this story is very much concerned with reinforcing the themes of obedience amongst children, and ensuring that they are fearful of disobeying their parents or other authority figures. And it also functions as a way to keep the children safe, as it discourages them from exploring the mountains where there could be any assortment of dangers rooted in them.