Tag Archives: latin america

El Cuco

Context: Subject grew up in New York City, but spent his high school education in California. 

Text:

“So El Cuco, which is basically like the boogeyman in Latin households. It started in Latin America basically. So my parents grew up with it and they passed it down to me. What it basically is is that it’s a boogeyman for children who misbehave so parents can say oh you better behave or el cuco will take you away. It’s basically just like a way to prevent children from acting up, because the way they describe the figure is sort of a demon-like figure. So it makes children afraid, also because he’s always watching you. He’s like the anti-santa clause. He knows when you misbehaving and at any moment he can take you away”.

Analysis: 

This piece of folklore here clearly aligns itself with the pieces of folklore created for the sole purpose of teaching children how the world works. The harmless white lies told to children in order to indoctrinate them into society, teaching them lessons of empathy and responsibility, are best done through stories such as this. 

Peruvian New Years Tradition: Run the Suitcase Around the Block

AS is a USC game design major who’s family hails from Peru, she enjoys spreadsheets, Dungeons and Dragons, and spreadsheets about Dungeons and Dragons. AS grew up in Texas after her family moved there from Peru.
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AS: My family had a lot of traditions for New Years, I’ve heard a lot of people do this one though

AS: We fill like a like a suitcase of some sort and we run it around the block and that’s supposed to represent like good luck in traveling and like safe travels and all that stuff.

AS: So my mom makes me do it every year cuz you yeah gotta have that good luck

MW: Do you have any particular attachment to this?

AS: I mean I would still do it if I didn’t live in South Central LA and that’s dangerous

AS: I guess it’s it’s it’s kind of just like a superstitious thing to me

AS: Or it’s just like it’s a cute tradition that makes New Year’s feel different than what like normal people celebrate even it doesn’t have like a very deep impact I guess it also fills me with nostalgia for things you did as a kid so you feel like you should do it anyways.
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Analysis:
The symbolism of running around the block mimics the cyclical nature of the calendar year and separates it from the idea of linear time. The suitcase is also filled, meaning that the carrier takes home with them when they travel and provides a direct connection to home and family life. Likewise, the fact that you run around the block and return to the starting point sort of carries the message that no matter where you go you can always return home, this centers the importance of home even in a tradition that’s all about travel. The desire for safety also reveals anxieties about leaving the home. Travel to new places is scary, a journey into the unknown thus the hope for good luck works in combination with the carrying of the known with you and the promise of a safe return to that known space.

La Llorona

The informant heard the legend of the mythological creature, La LLorona (“She who cries”) was heard when she was a child in Guatemala.


 

EO: La Llorona. I guess she–I don’t know if she was poor or tired of her kids… so she took her kids to a lake and drowned them. And then afterwards, she felt really bad, so she killed herself. And now she just goes through all eternity crying for her kids. And she screams like “Mis ninos! Mis ninos!”.

Is she supposed to be scary?

EO: I would say so. If I hear La Llorona, I would probably cry.

Where’d you hear that one from?

EO: Um, my mom. I don’t think I heard it from anyone else. My mom.

Why do you think she’d tell it to you?

EO: In Latin America, um, they tell stories to scare children into behaving.

 


 

La Llorona is a famous legend in all Latin America, and is one of many used by parents to teach their children about the dangers of the world.

For example, this is a film based off the folklore of La Llorona

El Viejito

A legend heard by the informant in Guatemala, El Viejito is an old man that abducts children.


 

EO: “In Latin America, um, they tell stories to scare children into behaving. So there’s this old man, they call him “El Viejito”, and he just always stealing kids. So if you’re misbehaving, he’s going to come and get you…steal you forever.

El Veijito?

EO: El Viejito, “The Old Man”. My mother told me about it many times to keep me polite and well-behaved.


 

The informant also told of other legends that were used as precautionary tales in order to use fear to keep children behaving. Others include La Llorona and La Sihuanaba.

Although “El Viejito” is a legend of Latin America, it literally translates to “little old man”, so there is bound to be confusion between the folklore and basic application of language. For example, “El Viejito” is a nickname Latinos use for  Senator Bernie Sanders.

Chupacabra

Primary Informant: “The Chupacabra, which is one that I heard from my dad all the time ‘cause he thinks it’s hilarious, um and basically, Chupacabra is like, like “goat sucker” and so, I don’t know if it’s just specifically from people in, like, the rancho or, like, the more, um, I don’t know, pueblo, village, type of areas that talk about this because they own animals. And it’s basically this kind of— they can’t, no one has seen it, but they have seen—or people have said they’ve seen it, you know, speculation – um, but it’s this kind of animal that comes and it, like, literally just, like, sucks or, like, sucks the blood out of and kills goats and other small animals like that, and so there was, I think there was an article recently where some guy was like, ‘Yeah I totally caught it.’ And it was just like a big ol’ rat or something, but that’s basically what it is, the Chupacabra. And so that’s the one he always talks about because he thinks it’s hilarious and thinks he can, like, scare us with that, you know.”

Secondary Informant: “The one that I grew up with was, ah, the Chupacabra was like this fucking, um, government, um, experiment gone wrong that escaped and, uh, is this alien, this half-breed alien thing, you know and, that’s what I got…”

Primary Informant: “And, like, no one can find it?”

Secondary Informant: “Yeah, no one can find it, it’s just, like, this fucking thing…”

Primary Informant: “Roaming Mexico and Latin America.”

Secondary Informant: “Yeah, it’s like—it’s an abomination.”

Primary Informant: “Right.”

Secondary Informant: “To life.”

 

Both informants who shared information about the Chupacabra are of Mexican descent and heard this story from their families. This story was shared in the primary informant’s apartment. We spent the afternoon sharing stories and combining the information we all had about each legend. These stories are important to the informants because they have been passed on from the older generations in their families. Because they value their older relatives, they value and enjoy the stories they’ve been told.

The Chupacabra is a legend that has been around Latin American for innumerable years and almost anyone from a Latin country could tell you the story. It’s primary purpose is to explain away bizarre disappearances of animals on rural farms, but in all likelihood those animals were probably harmed by a coyote or a bobcat. Now the Chupacabra just serves as a tale to help scare children into proper behavior.

For more information on the Chupacabra:

http://www.princeton.edu/~accion/chupa.html

http://animal.discovery.com/tv-shows/weird-true-and-freaky/videos/legend-of-the-chupacabra.htm