Tag Archives: Puerto Rican superstition

El Cucuí


MO is my mother. She grew up in Chicago, Illinois in the 70s. She was born to two Puerto Rican parents who came to America in their teenage years. Her father is from San Lorenzo, Puerto Rico, and her mother is from Moca, Puerto Rico. They go visit Puerto Rico every summer and have done so for decades. 


DO (Interviewer): I know you’ve told me lots of stories that Lelo and Lela would tell you growing up, do you have any that you think have stuck with you until now?

MO: El Cucuí. I was also so scared growing up that he was gonna get me. Even when I grew up more, I was always a little scared in the back of my mind but I would never admit that. As a teen, I was like get it together you’re too grown for this. As I got older I asked Lelo and he said Abuela would tell it to him and his brothers.

DO: El Cucuí is basically like the bogeyman in other cultures. 

MO: Mhm. Basically it’s used to scare kids into behaving when they’re acting up. God knows we needed it as kids. 

DO: Can you explain the story a bit? Like more background and context.

MO: He’s like this scary monster that’s supposed to live in the shadows and in the dark. But the story goes, he only eats children who are acting up. Your grandpa would say he was really ugly and had red eyes and claws. Lelo would say “¡Mirar! Si no paras El Cuco – that’s another name for it – te va a venir a buscar.” If you were bad, he’d come get you when you’re sleeping at night. 

DO: Did this work on you?

MO: Of course it did. We lived in an old house so there were a bunch of corners and noises at night so I made sure I was on my best behavior. If one of your Tios acted up, I would think I’d wake up to find them gone the next morning. I would make fun of them and tell them the Cuco was hiding in their closet. Me and your Tias would run to their room the next morning and check. 


I believe this myth of the Cucuí would count as children’s lore and Puerto Rican folklore. This story’s main audience is children and is used to ensure good behavior from them. As mentioned, not only do adults tell this story to children, but children tell it to each other. In Puerto Rican culture it’s also a story that is passed down from generation to generation. It was used on my grandfather as a child and even though he knew this wasn’t real as an adult, he continued the tradition and used it on my mother, aunts, and uncles to get them to behave. My mother would try and use it on my brothers and they in turn have used it on my nephew.

Leaving a Purse on the Floor is Bad Luck

SD: Whenever I visit my family in Puerto Rico, If I ever put my purse on the floor they would get mad at me. The same thing happens to me at my house because I always leave my purse and by backpack on the ground and my mom gets really mad because they really believe it. It kind of like makes her scared that I am going to bring bad luck to us and it is just passed down to her from her relative in Puerto Rico. There is not really a reason why it is just a think they get taught when they are little, um and they just carry into adulthood and it is made to feel so real that you actually believe it. I think it is mainly like say you have a test coming up, you just screwed that up.  


SD is a 21 year old student at UCLA whose mother is from Puerto Rican and dad is American. This was taken from a casual interview over FaceTime talking about any folklore she had when she mentioned her mom has many superstitions about things that are bad luck. Neither of the know why, but her mother follows then very strictly. 


It is interesting that these superstitions have so much power with SA’s mother and her whole family living in Puerto Rico following it religiously. There is a great deal of trust and respect for tradition that these practices are followed without knowing the reason why. 

Additionally, the tension between the younger and older generation is interesting because one firmly believes it while the other does not and repeatedly breaks the rule. SD does not see it as having any merit, which gives her mother a great deal of worry that she will bring bad energy into the house.