Nationality: United States of America
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
The following conversation is transcribed from a conversation between me (HS) and my co-worker/informant (MR).
MR: So La Mano Peluda translates to “hairy hand.” It’s basically an old legend that my parents used to scare me with when I did something that I wasn’t supposed to do, like not taking out the trash or doing chores. So I would literally crawl into a ball at night and make sure that my legs weren’t hanging out of the covers because I genuinely thought that this terrifying hand would come out from under my bed and drag me by my ankles out of my room to who knows where.
HR: Hahahaha. So how old were you when you heard this story?
MR: It went back to when I was probably like 5 or 6. Because I was in school already, and if I didn’t do my homework my mom would be like, “If you don’t do your homework La Mano Peluda is gonna come and get you!”
HR: And do you know where this legend came from?
MR: Well my mom got the tradition from her family in Mexico, but after you asked me about it I did a little googling. Apparently, it was a man’s hand that had survived from the Spanish Inquisition. He wanted to seek revenge on the people who had pillaged his home or something like that. But when I was little, I didn’t really care about the origin and just got freaked out when I thought about an old hand hiding under my bed.
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 used to be intimidated by the legend of La Mano Peluda as a young child but grew to see it as a funny way that her parents made her do her chores.
The legend of La Mano Peluda was brought up while having a general discussion with my co-worker about her culture and traditions. She had told me about the legend 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.
The story of La Mano Peluda is a classic legend that is prominent across a wide range of Latin-American cultures. I would equate it to classic American campfire stories where the goal is to scare and entertain the audience. I have heard multiple recollections of this folk tale and they all seem to stem from having a fear of something hiding under one’s bed. For particularly young children, the legend of La Mano Peluda is used as a sort of scare tactic to get them to do their chores, while in older adolecents it is seen as an entertaining folk tale. What is interesting is that there is a pattern of “hairy hand” stories across the globe.
For another “hairy hand” story, see:
Mary Curtis Special to The Star. “Dartmoor Nights and Scary Tales Stir Imagination: SA2 Edition.” Toronto Star, Torstar Syndication Services, a Division of Toronto Star Newspapers Limited, 1990.