Tag Archives: #Mexico #scarystory #creature

Los Duendes

Informant:TH; Interviewer’s Sister

“Okay okay, I have one more you can write about. I know that duendes are like a thing in Mexico, but did you hear that my grandma pissed off a duende?”

Interviewer shakes their head.

“So according to my aunt, when they were crossing the river to get here [the United States], they like, found little rocks in a circle with stuff in it. And at first my grandma thought it was a campfire, so she started piling on like leaves and shrub and stuff. And they used it as a fire for the night. In the morning, my aunt was missing her lucky bracelet and her glasses. And my uncle couldn’t find his cross necklace. And so our tios have a theory that a duende’s belongings were in the little rock circle. And when my grandma used it as a fire all their belongings burned up.”

Interviewer asks: “Can you elaborate as to what that means? What is a duende and why is it taking things?”

“Yeah, so. Um, a duende is like…” *they take a moment* “how do I explain it? They’re like um, little elves or like creatures rather. And they can either be very nice or very mean. Kinda like how the witches on TikTok are always like “don’t piss off the fae or they’ll like curse you or whatever’.They’re essentially little guys that can either reward you or curse you. And so in the context of the story, the duende whose things were allegedly burned started stealing their little trinkets as retaliation.”

My interpretation: I don’t think this happened completely. I do think my uncle and aunt were scatterbrained trying to cross into a whole new country and they may have lost a few things, but the idea of my grandmother angering a mystical little being is the funniest thing I’ve ever been told. I think My uncle and aunt started telling the kids in our family this story as a way to build lore to their journey. I don’t necessarily think there needs to be a lesson to be taught here, I think it was more for embellishment.


Me: Do you have any other folklore to share with me?

CP: I actually do have a proverb!

Me: Okay perfect!

CP:The proverb is right is right wrong is wrong and right never wronged nobody!

Me: I’m familiar with this proverb also growing up.

  1. Background: The informant was always told it by her dad growing up when they were fighting with their sister to remind them of their “integrity”. The informant explained to them it was a lesson to not to sink to a level of unkindness in arguments. The informant said that they took it as a reminder to always be a good person even in situations where the other person may be acting unkind. They said that this proverb stuck with them throughout growing up and they believe that it was one of the beginning inspirations of what made them want to become a lawyer. They explained the notion of finding the right solution and dealing with conflict in a mature way connects back to the foundational characteristics of becoming a lawyer.
  2. Context: The informant verbally performed the story to me at the The Ronald Tutor Center on the main USC campus. The informant was verbally told this proverb by their father  in the context of arguments in order to teach them a valuable life lesson. 
  3. My Reflection: This performance is a proverb that acts as a way to teach a moral, valuable lesson on the importance of being kind, holding yourself to a standard in which you do not stoop to a level of unkiness even if others around you are. The informant’s father told this folklore during arguments between their sibling and them which is interesting because it then becomes family folklore in a way since it is directly applied to their immediate families behavior and experience growing up. Although I am not a part of that particular folklore (the tellers immediate family) I still immediately understood the meaning of the proverb as it is applicable to many aspects of life not just sibling rivalry. I think the overarching relatability that probers present is what makes them so impactful and carried on not just within one folk group but through many (even though there may be variations the main theme and lesson is at the foundation). The lesson taught reflects the teller’s identity by reflecting what they were taught to be important while growing up, the family values and expectations are highlighted through the performances of this text.
  1. Me: How do you spell the title of this next piece?

CP: It’s Cucuy.

Me: Okay thank you!

CP: Okay so, Cucuy are these ghosts, demon creatures that hide in the dark. They only appear to children who have been really bad and you don’t have to be outside to see a Cucuy, they can come to your room. So, if you are being a really bad kid the Cucuy come and they have scary bone faces that basically scare you straight. Basically if your mom sends you to your room after being bad  and it’s late at night they will come to you. 

Me: Why do you remember this story and like it?

CP: I like this story because I like ghost stories, it’s scary and somewhat of a warning and a fun Halloween story. 

Me: And where did you hear it from and what does it mean to you?

CP: So I was at a family gathering with my aunts, my mom and her side of the family, they are all Mexican. They were all telling us stories of their childhood and someone brought up and told us Cucuy. They were like, “oh yeah that used to scare me so much, seeing the Cucuy at night” and their mom used to warn them because they were really bad. Why are the stories I remember so dark!

Me:It’s okay that’s how mine is as well! So what does this story mean to you?

CP: For me it doesn’t really mean anything  because I know they aren’t real and my mom didn’t use it as a scare tactic for me but it’s just fun to see some of my mom’s childhood.

  1. Background: The informant likes this story because they enjoy ghost stories. The informant heard it at a family gathering with their moms side of the family who are all Mexican. They were sitting together and telling each other stories of their childhood when one of their aunts brought up this story. The aunt talked about how scared it made her and how they often got it told to them. The informant said it’s not as personal to them because they were never really told it by their mother as a scare tactic but it stuck with them as an interesting part of their mothers childhood. 
  2. Context:The informant verbally performed the story to me at the The Ronald Tutor Center on the main USC campus. The informant was told this story by her Mexican side of the family at gatherings. 
  3. This piece acts as a folktale, specifically a fairy tale with the use of mythical creatures. Fairy tales are entertaining but also convey key messages, lessons and truths sometimes through fear (this text specifically is more scary and a warning sign to the consequences of bad behavior in children). This example reflects the teller’s identity in that it was told by their Mexican family which highlights the cultural aspects of their Mexican heritage as well as family values and culture in teaching children the importance of being well behaved or else creatures will punish you. Others in the same folk group (children, Mexican) would likely find the same main meaning of the consequences of bad behavior but they may apply it to different situations of their childhood. I think those outside of the folk group would be able to understand the intended message but culturally may be met with a disconnect as all groups possess their own key values and beliefs. Although the teller wasn’t told the story by their parents as a scare tactic in their childhood, the presence of the story within their mothers side of the family shows a glimpse into the mothers childhood and culture which makes this piece of folklore relevant to the teller.

For further reading and another version of this folklore see page 57 of “Chicano Folklore.” Google Books, Google, https://books.google.com/books?id=v72wKX9I6lgC&pg=PA57#v=onepage&q&f=false.