Tag Archives: Mexican legends

Lechuzas in Mexico

Background information: IJ is a 20-year-old student at USC, who currently lives in Los Angeles, CA. He often visits family members in Mexico, and learns about different types of folklore and traditions during his visits.

IJ: So it’s said that Lechuzas, which is a type of owl, like a barn owl, are actually witches, and they fly around waiting for someone to invite them in. The story comes from this one time that someone saw a bird – it was a barn owl – and threw a rock at it and hit it. And it fell dead on the floor, and the next morning in the same exact spot…there was a nude lady laying there dead. She was a known witch, so they concluded that those bird are the form that witches take sometimes in that town.

Me: Wow, that’s spooky. When did you learn about this?

IJ: Well when I go to Mexico, all my uncles tell me their stories about when they all lived there together back in the day. And they talk about all the paranormal stuff that goes on.

Many different cultures have versions of shapeshifting witches who watch humans in their animal forms, and I think it’s very interesting that folklore from so many different places share this concept. Because IJ learned this from family members while he was visiting Mexico, what he shared with me is entirely oral and specific to the town his family lived in.

For another version of this legend, see https://www.scarymommy.com/la-lechuza.

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.


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.


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.


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.

La Llorona


MV is a 2nd generation Mexican-American from New Mexico. Half of her family is of Japanese-Mexican descent and much of her extended family lives in Mexico. I received this story from her in a video conference call from our respective homes. She learned this story from her grandmother, who told it to her as a child. She grew up in near the Rio Grande in Albuquerque New Mexico, a river which also goes through Mexico.


MV: So the story goes that um.. there was this woman. She doesn’t really have a name, but… she was like a really beautiful woman and she lived in this little town and she fell in love with this man and she loved him so much and they got married, and she was like really obsessed with him, she really wanted to like… marry him… and just have him. So they ended up getting married and they had a few kids, a boy and a girl. She really loved the kids and they were really beautiful too because she was the most beautiful woman in the village.

One day, like, she was noticing that he was, like, was coming home really late, and was really sus, and wasn’t telling her where he was going or if he was at work or what was going on. And so, she found out that he was having an affair, and this, like, shattered her entire world… she went crazy!

So, she goes into the Rio Grande, and she takes her kids, and she’s so sad about what happened and she can’t stop crying (which is why she’s called La Llorona, hehe) So she’s bawling and bawling and she drowns her kids! In the river, cuz she’s just so sad, crazy, and like, I don’t know she was really into this guy… She drown herself in the river too, with her kids, after that. And pretty much, the legend after that is like, when you hear the wind going through the bosque (forest) near the Rio Grande, like that howling is her crying… that’s La Llorona!

JS: What do you think the story means?

MV: I think it’s just, like, a heartbreak. She had her heart broken really badly and she didn’t know how to handle that.


The legend of La Llorona appears across a wide swath of Mexican and Central American folklore. In her historic-geographic study of the legend, Ana Maria Carbonell finds this destructive motherly figure to date as far back as the early days of colonization in the Americas. La Llorona is often seen as a figure to be feared, a deranged mother bent on murdering her kids, but Carbonell reads her against the patriarchal system which backgrounds her, and which causes her to place her self-worth or ontological justification within the (patriarchal) institution of marriage which, when shattered, has disastrous and deadly effects. This narrative shows the loss of the children not as a result of psychological derangement, but of hierarchical relations which compel la Llorona to destructive acts of love. Water is here a figure for destruction as well as birth. This figure of la Llorona, instead of a passive subject of the patriarchal gaze, has some subjective agency and is able to act out against a patriarchal order which subjugates her and which she fears for her children to enter. Note that the informant explained la Llorona’s actions in terms of the violence that was afflicted upon her and her inability to cope with it, not because of some internal fault, but because of external oppressions.

Carbonell, Ana Maria. “From Llorona to Gritona: Coatlique in Feminist Tales by Viramontes and Cisneros.” MELUS, vol. 24, no. 2, Religion, Myth, and Ritual. Summer 1999

Legend of El Serro de la Campana ( The Hill of the Bell)

 Context: AB is a 49 year old mexican woman that works in the auxiliary department for the USC payroll. I met her with her twice when I applied for on campus jobs. I asked if I could have coffee so she could tell me about known legends from her hometown. 

YM: So can you tell me about some interesting stories you know about 

AB:  Oh my god, yes ! There’s a lot of stories i know about ghosts and stuff, but I have a favorite one in which I had a personal experience 

YM: wow that’s awesome ! tell me more 

AB: Alright so it has nothing to do with ghosts but it is about an enchanted hill. So in San Miguel Tilapa, there had always been rumors and stories that ranchers from outside town would see strange things on this hill on their way to Puebla. It wasn’t specific when these strange things happened but that there were times at night when people would pass by this hill named El Cerro de la Campana, la campana because it was shaped like a bell. And…t is said that this hill would open up because it was enchanted. That the person that had the luck or had the vision could see this hill open up. 

YM: So it was selective ? meaning it only happened to some ? not everyone ?

AB: Yes! not just anybody, because that hill was enchanted. I guess it was for people that I guess the hill wanted to bless. 

AB:They would see the hill open. They would look and would see a store with a lot of beautiful things. So when people would see this they would become enthusiastic and would you know think “ wow what a beautiful store, I’m going in.” The story goes that the person who would enter the store or the hill and do it quickly and come right back out before the hill closes… And a lot of people know this… people that would go in quickly and come back out with an item they grabbed from the store… that item would turn into gold.

AB: But some people at the sight of these beautiful things would get excited and lose track of time and stay in there. They would stay in there for years. For them it seems like a moment that they were in there. And when the hill opens up again, and the person comes out he dies when the air hits him. 

YM: and that’s because they were in there for a song long that the air sort of kills them ? 

AB: aha right.. That is why they have to go in quickly and come right back out as soon as possible. You know people were found dead there and no one knew what had happened to them. The people would then remember that they had disappeared long ago

YM: wow and people knew of people that had come out?

AB: yes and this people would say that the item they had grabbed had turned into gold… and something actually happened to me and my sister on that same hill when I was 13 years old. I remember when I told my dad about what we’d seen he got super mad at us because during that time there were no crops of any kind. You couldn’t even seed any plant and on that hill we saw a plant with two HUGE tomatoes… I mean HUGE, out of the normal kind. And me and my sister were surprised to see this, my sister being the older one said we shouldn’t go up and pluck them since… sometimes there were snakes around. So we went our way… on our way back the plant wasn’t there anymore! When we got home I told my dad what we’d seen and he exclaimed “ why didn’t you guys pluck them ! it was money!” so the enchantment was the tomato plant. Had we plucked them they would have turned into gold. At the time I didn’t know about this, if I had I would have snatched those babies hahaha 

YM: hahaha oh my god… so the enchantment wasn’t just a store? 

AB: no, there were all kinds of enchantments that people saw that were strange but the most common one was the store

YM: that’s so interesting 

AB: And years after around 1994, people dug up part of the hill to plant cane and underground they discovered gold ! the government even came to claim the gold. It’s true… I guess the hill would bring out its gold in a magical way to the people it thought were deserving of

YM: What ! that is crazy! Amazing. So you believe this ? 

AB: Yes 100%, I think there are parts of the world or land that are more magical than we think they are

YM: Beautiful 

Background info: AB was born in Tilapa, Puebla. As a child she would often pass this hill and it wasn’t until her strange encounter with the hill that she learned about this legend. Years would pass by and never again did she see a strange thing . 

Analysis: This legend includes a memorate: personal experience explained by traditional narrative. This experience reinforced the belief that this hill is enchanted for AB. It also seems to have localized history inside the contemporary realm. However this history is unofficial. You can tell this legend was also reinforced by FOAF (friend of a friend) telling. Meaning these strange occurrences that happened to people were passed along from people to people. The legend is liminal, in between or right on the line between the real world and a supernatural world. 

The Legend of El cucuy


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

Location: Los Angeles, CA


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”


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.