The following is an interview that took place between me and my co-worker, Danielle, during our night shift at the School of Cinematic Arts Operations desk:
Danielle: “The Cuco is a Puerto Rican legend that basically, when a child misbehaves, the Cuco lives somewhere in the house or… in the surrounding area, and it’s basically, ‘if you don’t do what I say, the Cuco’s gonna get you.’ And it’s… like, shapeless, and it’s whatever the child imagines it to be– to maximize the fear, and for them to do whatever it is that you want them to do.”
Me: “So, why do you know or like this piece?”
Danielle: “I know it because–um– a few years ago my friend… said it to her younger cousin–um–she, like, brought her cousin to my house and the little girl wasn’t listening, and my friend was like, ‘You have to listen to me or the Cuco’s gonna get you!’ And I was like, ‘What are you talking about?’ and my grandma from upstairs, like– heard it and, like, perked up and she was like, ‘What are you talking about?’ and my friend was like, ‘The Cuco.” My grandma was like, ‘Don’t say that in my house!” And I said, ‘Well do you know what this is?’ and my grandma was like, ‘Yeah, like, it’s a monster that my–,” –her mother had frightened her with, and so she promised herself she would never tell her kids about it. And so the first time we had heard it was because my friend used it–um– and my grandma was kind of upset. Uh, but that’s also kind of why I like it is because… I found it funny (laughs) that my grandma was personally offended to hear the name under her roof.”
Me: “That’s really cool. And, did you say you were from Puerto Rico?”
Danielle: “I’m from New York, my grandma’s from Puerto Rico. But, my heritage is Puerto Rican.”
I found it really interesting how individually Danielle, her friend, and her grandmother each had different ways of looking at how the Cuco affects people. Danielle’s friend used it as a means to babysit her cousin, while her grandmother sought to abandon the legend in how she raised her children because of whatever negative effects it had on her childhood. On the other hand, Danielle saw the Cuco as amusing, and a fun way to get to know her family’s, and more specifically her grandmother’s, view of their heritage.