The Famous Evil Eye Amongst Latinos

Have you heard if the famous evil eye amongst Latinos?  To say that Latin America can be a place to find all kinds of wild superstitions would be an understatement.

In fact it may be more accurate to think of such superstitions as a basis for many Hispanic cultures.  The famous evil eye amongst Latinos holds varying degrees of validity and clout depending on which country you are in and who you talk to but there is no denying that this superstition has permeated Hispanic culture to the point that it is still relevant to this day despite its archaic roots.

What is Evil Eye

I remember hearing of the dreaded evil eye as a child but it was mostly in jest as my family didn’t give much credence to the superstition-at least not in any medical sense.  Instead my mother and her sisters would talk about the evil eye when someone gave them a cross gaze (usually from another woman).

The superstition has much deeper roots and some believe it to be an actual medical condition.  So what is mal de ojo?  The history of the evil eye can be traced as far back as ancient Babylon and Egypt.  In fact Egyptians used to paint their eyes with something like eye liner to protect them from the condition.

For Hispanics the idea that you can become ill from an envious stare or from the gaze of someone much more powerful from you came from Spain and South America ran with it.

The famous evil eye amongst Latinos refers to a gaze that is given usually unintentionally to someone and that intent look has the power to make the subject physically ill.  It is usually prevalent amongst babies and small children and can occur when someone simply looks upon a small child with admiration.  The child becomes ill, may vomit, may lose appetite, may incur a fever or engage in unstoppable fits of crying.

The condition is usually cured by passing an egg over the one inflicted with the evil eye in the shape of a cross.

The Famous Evil Eye Amongst Latinos

The Famous Evil Eye Amongst Latinos

The Significance of the Evil Eye Among Latinos

The superstition of the famous evil eye amongst Latinos most likely rose from the fear of weak or poor individuals for the strong and empowered.  The evil eye usually afflicts the weak, feeble, elderly or very young and just the malevolent look of a powerful and feared person was enough to curse an entire household.  The eyes after all have always been very telling of a person’s intent and have significant mental attachment to our spirits and thoughts. In many cultures it is a warning against envy as well.

The Practicality of the Evil Eye

In my opinion, people picked up on this tradition for valid reasons.  The eyes convey more information than we give them credit for and negative energy and the effect of ill intentions, even if not acted upon, have very real effects.

For me the evil eye is something that can be harmful in the way that surrounding yourself with negative people and being in a negative environment can be detrimental to your mind and body.

Can a person become medically ill form the evil eye?  Probably not.  The fact that symptoms accredited to the evil eye include sadness and fear is probably evidence that people who believe in the evil eye are grasping at straws and looking for any excuse to attribute their woes to.

However, I do believe that the evil eye has more of an impact on our psyches than we would like to believe. Surround yourself with ill and ill will come to you.

There are many other strange and culturally rich traditions in Hispanic culture, to know more about them check the section Hispanic Traditions.

The Tale of the Burnt Girl’s Street: Or La Calle Quemada

Having been born and raised in the states but being of Hispanic heritage gave me the gift of multiple world views.  Folk tales like The Tale of the Burt Girl’s Street in Mexico and other legends may not seem like they would have a huge personal impact on an individual but there is something unique about people like me who were raised in a land where such stories amalgamate from all corners of the world.

Of course, I am not in the slightest sense the only Latino who grew up hearing the tales of Europe like Snow White and Hansel and Gretel and the Latin tales like La Llorona, the legend of Quetzalcoatl and La Calle Quemada.  Hispanics born and raised here can attest to that.  Still, it has made me and those like me privy to legends that offer very different morals and speak to the different standpoints of cultures.

The Tale of the Burnt Girl’s Street

The tale of the burnt girl’s street in Mexico tells the story of Beatriz, the beautiful daughter of a Viceroy in Mexico.  Beatriz was not only uncommonly gorgeous, but she was kind hearted as well and devoted much of her time tending to the poor and the sick.  As a result, suitors would come from all over the world to fight for her hand in front of the mansion where she lived.  These suitors would fight and die until a suitor from Italy, Don Martin proved himself in battle and defeated all other suitors.

The Tale of the Burnt Girl’s Street: Or La Calle Quemada

The Tale of the Burnt Girl’s Street: Or La Calle Quemada

Beatriz came to love Don Martin for his bravery, handsome face and prowess.  Still, Beatriz heart was heavy with the blood of the men who had died trying to win her affection.  She proceeded to essentially light herself on fire so that her face may no longer be the cause of bloodshed.  Don Martin, despite seeing the burnt condition of Beatriz’s face still loved her and asked her father for her hand in marriage.

Meanings and Parallels

La Calle Quemada stresses the importance of inner beauty and the fleeting nature of superficial beauty.  Beatriz was so pure at heart that she wanted to end as much suffering as possible even it meant deforming her own face.

Having read tales like Bluebeard as a child, where a woman is essentially punished for her curiosity despite discovering her husband’s grizzly slaying of past wives, it compels me to compare Mexican folktales and Latin American folk tales to the European ones that have become so popular in American culture.

The tale of the burnt girl’s street in Mexico stands as an exalting tale of a woman’s character whereas tales like Bluebeard condemn women for minor transgressions spurred by innocent curiosity.

I feel fortunate to have been exposed to Latin and European folk tales like these because it has made my perception of the world all the sharper, focused and broader at the same time.  The stark contrast of morals between the two kinds of tales speaks volumes about the cultures that birthed them.

The Legend of El Chonchón in Chile

If anyone has ever told you they were all ears, be thankful that you weren’t in Chile.  In this South American country, the legend of El Chonchón has turned these humble organs into a creature that can make your skin crawl.  its cry means death.   The other name for this evil spirit is Tue-Tue, after the warning sound that it makes while flying on moonless nights.

Almost as frightening as the call of El Chonchón is its appearance. Simple, but scary: a human head with huge ears, which it uses as wings to fly.  Terrifyingly, its body stays at home. The creature also has feathers and claws, making it a species of horrific bird.

Not content to be horrible to look at, the Chonchón also has a bloody habit. It stalks the sick, flying near their rooms doing battle with their spirits; if it wins, it sucks the sick dry.

The Origins of  El Chonchón

El Chonchón is one of the Latin American myths and legends that are part of indigenous mythology, specifically Mapuche.  This group of indigenous people is from the south-central part of Chile, as well as southwestern Argentina.

The name Mapuche refers to a number of groups who share a common language and social structure which together make up about 80% of the indigenous people in Chile.

As such a large group of people, it is not surprising that they have a complex and established set of beliefs, with a mythology that talks of the different spirits and gods in their culture.

Mapuche legends have made their way in broader Chilean culture – the group is 9% of the population of Chile. In fact, the legend of El Chonchón has since been incorporated in Chilean folklore and even that of parts of Argentina.

Importance of El Chonchón

El Chonchón stalks the ill, doing battle with their spirits.

El Chonchón stalks the ill, doing battle with their spirits.

More than simply a legend, El Chonchón has a relationship to important figures in Mapuche mythology.It is considered the transformation, representation, and servant of a kalku (calcu), a Mapuche witch that performs black magic and has the secret to flight.

The transformation of a kalku into a Chonchón is due to the application of a special magical cream that it puts on its neck, massaging it until the head loosens and is able to fly on its own.

Some versions have the witch saying, “Sin Dios ni Santa María (With neither God nor Holy Mary),” adding an element of Catholic Hispanic religion to this indigenous tradition.

Other post-colonial additions include the saying of certain prayers to provide protection from the creature or to make it fall to the ground, thereby associating the creature with witchcraft which served the Devil.

The Legend of El Chonchón may be based on a local bird, with the most mentioned being the mochuelo and the queltehue.

Have you heard of El Chonchón? Tell us about it in the comments!

The Chupacabras Legend – Mexico & Puerto Rico

The Chupacabras may be the most famous of all Latin American legends. And that’s saying a lot for a culture rich in folklore and myths. Even non-Hispanics have heard of this fierce creature, which is blamed for the death of livestock and pets throughout the continent.

The word “chupacabras” comes from its supposed favored victim: it means goat-sucker (chupa: suck and cabra: goat). In some places, it’s known as a chupacabra (no “s”). Despite the name, they are said to kill other animals, as well: cats, dogs, ducks, hogs, and other domesticated animals.

History of the Chupacabras Legend

the-chupacabras-legend-mexico-puerto-rico

Believe it or not, the chupacabras legend is a recent one. When we think of myths and legends, we usually think of those that have been seen or spoken of by our great-great-grandparents.  Not this legend.

The first reported attack of the chupacabras was actually in March 1995 in Puerto Rico. Eight sheep were drained completely of their blood, which was sucked out through three wounds on their chest.

Not much later, a woman named Madelyne Tolentino, also in Puerto Rico, claimed to have seen what is now known as the chupacabras, near a village that experienced a massacre of some 150 domesticated animals.

Deaths of animals at the hands (or teeth) of the chupacabras have since been reported in most Spanish speaking countries in Latin America. Given its origin, it’s best known for being a Puerto Rican legend, but it’s also considered a part of Mexican folklore.

Reports of the chupacabras came as early as 1996, just a year after it was first reported in Puerto Rico. Since then, the creature of Mexican legends has returned a number of times, always attacking large groups of livestock.

What Does the Chupacabras Look Like?

Researcher Benjamin Radford, who spent two years investigating the chupacabras legend, has noted that there are three different physical descriptions that are associated with the creature.

The first and perhaps the best-known is the original one, given by Tolentino, the first woman to “see” a chupacabras. It looks a bit like an alien, and may actually have been inspired by a sci-fi movie that Tolentino saw. It’s tall, stands on two feet, and has spikes down its back.

The second is more tied to recent sightings of the creature, as well as supposed chupacabras that have been captured: a coyote or dog-like animal.

And then, the catch-all third, for people who have seen “something” and feel that it was a chupcabras. Pretty versatile for one mythical creature.

Recent Sightings of the Chupacabras

Of course, Latins have had reason to believe in the chupacabras legend for years, but one of the most famous recent sightings was in 2014, when a Texas couple found a hairless animal that they didn’t recognize. Noting its claws, its “unusual” (ugly) appearance, and its shrieking sound, they claimed it was a chupacabras… but it turned out to be a hairless raccoon.

Unfortunately, it’s common for real-life creatures that are considered to be chupacabras to turn out to be sick animals, such as dogs or coyotes with mange, a horrible disease that eats away at their flesh.

So the next time you hear of someone who has found a chupacabras, recommend they take it to the vet instead.

Do you believe in the Chupacabras? Tell us in the comments!

What Are The Nazca Lines in Peru?

As human beings, it’s in our nature to try to find explanations for phenomena that seems impossible to explain. One of the most fascinating- of these ancient mysteries is the Nazca Lines in Peru. This series of geoglyphs, or a large-scale artwork, in Southern Peru, is the subject of research and theories due to the immense size of the structures and the unusual figures that they reflect.

The Nazca Lines are series of hundreds of designs created dragging shallow lines in the ground of the dry Pampa soil.  By breaking through the surface of the red dirt, the white soil below was revealed, creating the figures.

The most impressive aspect of the Nazca Lines is how huge they are: the largest are over 200 meters (660 feet) across. That’s more than two football fields.

History of the Nazca Lines in Peru

The Astronaut, one of the most famous of the Nazca Lines.

The Astronaut, one of the most famous of the Nazca Lines.

The Nazca Lines date to between 400 and 650 AD and are named after the indigenous people believed to have created them.

The designs reflect a large variety of different figures, many of which represent animals or human figures. Some of the most famous figures are the Spider, the Hummingbird, the Condor, and the Whale, a surprising choice for the Peruvian pampa.

There is even one that has been called the Astronaut. This other-worldly figure fed the theory that extraterrestrials were somehow related to the creation of the Lines.

Another category is figures from nature such as plants, trees, and flowers. There is also a collection of geometrical figures, such as triangles, rectangles, spirals, and circles, as well as straight and wavy lines.

If you’re wondering how they have been preserved all this time, it is thanks to the area’s climate. The soil has a great deal of lime, meaning that the lower layer of soil would eventually harden. Combined with the pampa’s general lack of wind and an isolated location, the Nazca Lines were preserved for these hundreds of years.

They are, however, only 10 to 30 centimeters deep, and so there are concerns about seeing the Nazca Lines destroyed by human activities as well as extreme weather.

Explanations of the Nazca Lines in Peru

Like other mysterious phenomenon, people have made up all kinds of stories about them. Given their size, it’s easy to see why some believe that they were flight paths for aliens or designed to be seen by gods.

It is indeed hard to understand how it was possible to make such huge, yet accurate, drawings without being able to see them from above. Even now, to see many of them in their full glory, it’s best to view them from a plane.

There are endless proposed explanations for the Nazca Lines in Peru: aliens, irrigation schemes, maps of water sources, fertility symbols, and astronomical calendars. Explorer Jim Woodman even theorized that the Nazca must have invented the first hot-air balloon.

Visiting the Nazca Lines in Peru

It is possible to view them from the foothills nearby. In fact, that’s how they were discovered (or re-discovered, actually) in 1927 by Peruvian archaeologist Toribio Mejia.

Still, despite decades of archaeological research into the Nazca Lines in Peru, facts haven’t been found that create a consensus as to their meaning.

The Nazca Lines in Peru were designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1994 and, as such, are a protected area.

The best way to see the lines is to fly over them, preferably in the early morning before sunlight makes them hard to see. 200 miles south of Lima, the area is also accessible from Cusco and Arequipa. They are fairly near Machu Picchu, making them a popular tourist destination.

If you are fascinated with unexplained phenomenon, the Nazca Lines in Peru are a must-see in any trip to South America.

Are you intrigued by the Nazca Lines? Tell us your theory in the comments!

El Cadejo Legend – Central America

Have you ever gotten home late at night, perhaps after a few drinks, and felt that maybe you weren’t alone? In Central America, some might say that you were followed by El Cadejo. This mythical creature is present throughout Mesoamerica.

Although each country has its own version, all agree that El Cadejo is a huge, black dog with bright red eyes, often with goat hooves and dragging chains. From afar, it follows those who go out at night, drinking and partying, until they get home safely.

Versions of El Cadejo Legend

In some versions, there are two dogs: one white and one black.

In some versions, there are two dogs: one white and one black.

What makes the El Cadejo legend unique among Latin American myths and legends is that each country of Central America has a slightly different version.

In several countries, for example, Honduras, Nicaragua, and El Salvador folklore, there are actually two Cadejos: one white, representing good, and one black, representing evil.

In these countries, the black Cadejo is the dog that follows night dwellers and drinkers, while the white one serves to protect against the other. If they meet, they fight, but don’t kill each other – just as in the struggle between good and evil, neither wins.

In Guatemala folklore, there are even regions with three Cadejos: black, white, and grey, with the white protecting women and the grey protecting lost and sick children.

In Costa Rica, the creature is called El Cadejos, and in addition to searching out partiers, it also appears at the window of children that won’t go to sleep.

Origin of El Cadejo Legend

It is not surprising that the El Cadejo legend is present in many parts of Mesoamerica. Dogs have been an important aspect of the region’s folklore and mythology since the golden age of the Mayan civilization.

One common theme was the dog as a companion or guide to the underworld; for example, dogs were painted on burial-themed pottery and were even buried with the dead in some of the region’s cultures.

It’s also possible that the legend comes from Mayan traditions which held that human beings had companion or spirit animals, called nahuales, which protected them from evil. The name itself is likely to come from the chains that the dogs drag – chains being cadenas in Spanish.

Given the Cadejo’s choice of “victim,” one of the most common explanations is that the legend serves a morality tale, discouraging heavy drinking and staying out late.

A Real-Life Cadejo?

Another origin of the El Cadejo legend is the weasel-like animal the tayra (Eira barbara), which is called a cadejo is some parts of the Central America. Most are dark brown or black, and they do have one unusual feature: the fur on their heads, which gets lighter as they get older.

This has led to some of its other names: viejo de monte (old man of the mountain) and cabeza de viejo (old man’s head). Still, it’s unlikely that this is the actual source of El Cadejo, as tayras are only about two feet long, not the huge, terrifying dog that inspired this legend. They do have long claws, though.

Still, the next time you have a long night, be on the watch for a big dog – and those bright red eyes…

Do you know a legend like El Cadejo? Tell us in the comments!

The Legend of the Whistler or El Silbón – Colombia & Venezuela

Venezuela and Colombia have a lot in common – they are neighbors, after all. Colors of their flags, arepas, the Orinoco River, and more. But it’s less known that they also share a ghost: La Leyenda del Silbón, or the Legend of the Whistler.

On the plains (llanos) where Colombia and Venezuela meet, lives a tall, thin man called El Silbón who haunts the night carrying a bag of bones. Not just any bones, but those of his father.

Called El Silbón due to the whistling sound that he makes in warning, the Legend of the Whistler is one of the more gruesome of Latin American myths and legends.

The Legend of the Whistler

El Silbón carries with him a bag of bones, said to belong to his father.

El Silbón carries with him a bag of bones, said to belong to his father.

Although the reasons for killing the father differ, the most common story begins with the father promising the young man a deer heart to eat. Unfortunately for him, he had no luck in the hunt. The son, spoiled and angry that he didn’t get what he wanted, killed his father in a rage.

Still, he took back his father’s organs to be cooked, but the mother discovered what he had done. His family then whipped him, doused his open wounds with pepper, and set the dog on him.

But his punishment did not end there. As a lost soul, this Colombian and Venezuelan ghost continues to roam the llano. Nightly he stops on the doorsteps of local homes to open his bag and count the bones.

If you hear him counting and don’t stop to listen, you will have bad luck, and someone in your household may even die.

Even his whistling is deceptive: when it sounds close, it’s actually far away. But worse – when it sounds far away, it’s actually right by you.

El Silbón, as the ghost of a young man, appears to miss his drinking days, as he is known to target drunk men on their way back from partying.

He doesn’t just scare the drunks: he grabs them and uses their belly buttons as a straw, sucking out the alcohol in their stomachs. Not a great way to end a night. Not surprisingly, in folklore ghosts that prey on drunk men are common and served as a way to curb this behavior.

Variations in the Myth

As with many myths, there are variations. In Colombian folklore, he can also be called El Silbador. There, some say he is the lost soul of a womanizer who died alone; others claim that instead of drunks, he targets pregnant woman. His whistle can also predict death – if it’s high-pitched, a woman will die, and if it’s low-pitched, a man.

This is one of Venezuela’s most prominent ghost stories. Beyond El Silbón, Venezuela also has El Ánima Sola (the Lonely Soul), who scares people into lighting religious votive candles; La Sayona, a ghostly woman who punishes unfaithful men; and, of course, the La Llorona legend, which is present throughout Latin America.

The Legend of the Whistler is said to date back to the 19th century. Is it based on fact? I sure hope not.

Have you heard similar ghost stories? Tell us in the comments!

La Luz Mala – Argentina & Uruguay

Of the many Latin American legends, perhaps the spookiest are those which we know are real – those that are based around natural phenomenon that anyone can see with their own two eyes. One of the most famous of these real-life tales is La Luz Mala (the evil light) of Argentina and Uruguay.

La Luz Mala is a kind of mythical light that can be compared to a will-o’-the-wisp, also called a fairy or ghost light. In Spanish, this type of natural phenomenon is called fuegos fatuos, from the Latin ignis fatuus (foolish fire).

Just as in the will-o’-the-wisp European legend, in Argentina folklore, la Luz Mala appears in swampy regions, for example, in the Bahía de Samborombón (Samborombon Bay) in Buenos Aires province.

What Does La Luz Mala Look Like?

A simulation of a will-o-the-wisp, or luz mala.

A simulation of a will-o-the-wisp, or luz mala.

La Luz Mala resembles wisps of lights, floating just inches above the swamp. They resemble flickering lamps and seem created to draw in passers-by from safety into the dangers of the swamp. These phenomenon are more common during certain parts of the year, particularly the dry season.

Also called Ailen mulelo (“glowing ember that walks”) by the indigenous people of the area, this phenomenon has a scientific explanation. It is likely to be due to methane emissions which are common in swamps, due to the gases released when organic substances decompose.

Another cause may be the phosphorescence of the calcium salts that make up the skeletons of animals that are scattered in the area. Other explanations for lights seen at night are the reflection of the moon off white birds such as owls, or the light produced by bioluminescent plants and insects, such as fireflies and certain fungi.

The Legend of La Luz Mala

But the fact that la Luz Mala has a scientific explanation doesn’t make it any less creepy.  As with other unusual natural phenomenon that at the time was unexplained, la Luz Mala was feared and became the source of stories and legends.

It was thought be the souls of the departed that have not been forgiven of their sins, and therefore must continue on earth. As such, it was a message from the underworld that should be avoided.

In order to protect oneself from the evils of the light, upon seeing it, locals will pray and bite their knife or sheath, as this weapon is considered to be the only defense possible. When paths were known to have apparitions of la Luz Mala, they would cease to be used for a long time.

La Luz Mala has a number of other names, including Farol de Mandinga (Devil’s Lantern) and Boy Tata. It is considered one of the most famous myths and legends of Argentina, and the legend itself can even be found in neighboring country Uruguay.

What do you think about la Luz Mala? Tell us all about it in the comments!