VS is my friend here at USC. They are from San Jose, California, raised by parents who were born and raised in Mexico. They travel to Mexico multiple times a year and consider it to be like their second home. They translated the story into English for this interview.
DO (Interviewer): Do you have any ghost stories that you remember as a child?
VS: Yes dude. There was one that always scared me. My parents would tell me and my sisters it and I would have nightmares about her sometimes. The story is called La Nahuala. Apparently, some lady, well, La Nahala, sold her soul. She wanted to be beautiful and young forever because she was conceited. When she sold her soul the devil didn’t make her pretty. Actually, the opposite. He turned her into some ugly monster thing. Because she was obviously upset by this she wanders around Mexico and tries to get revenge on people she feels like wronged her.
DO: What does she look like? Is she described in a certain way?
VS: She’s like dressed in all white, which is already super creepy. But then she’s also a skeleton and has dark hair and her eyes glow. My dad also told me that she can like change into different shapes like spiders and cats. I think the point is that she can turn into animals and stuff that people think are creepy, since she’s a ghost and all.
DO: Is this a famous story?
VS: I’d say yes. Obviously it’s more of a Mexican thing. I think it’s mostly told to kids to scare them because La Nahuala is known to snatch up kids and like younger people. I think there’s even movies about her.
This myth has cultural ties to Mexican culture, specifically Oaxacan culture. I believe that it serves the purpose of frowning upon and discouraging vanity and being conceited. Because this character wanted more beauty and youth she was punished and given the exact opposite. It can be a metaphor for showing that while she used to be externally beautiful she was internally “ugly” for being vain. As a punishment, she was then forced to be ugly externally as well. It can also show Mexican ideas on religion. This story showcases someone selling their soul to the devil and then being tricked into something terrible. It can be told as a way of discouraging people, especially children, from the occult and anything that goes against religion and God.