What are las Ciguapas from the Dominican Republic?

If you go to the Dominican Republic, remember one thing: Don’t look a Ciguapa in the eye.  But what are las Ciguapas, and why should you look away if you see one?

Like most countries, the Dominican Republic has its share of legendary creatures. The Ciguapa is one to the best known – and most deadly. And like many Latin American myths and legends, it relates to a beautiful woman.

Why Are La Ciguapas Dangerous?

The Ciguapa can look ugly to some people but beautiful to others, and like many mythical female creatures in Spanish speaking countries, they can bewitch men.

These wild creatures are nocturnal, and legends has it that they enjoy seducing men, luring them into the forest, only to kill them after having sex with them.

At nighttime, the Ciguapas leave their forest homes to look for food such as fruit, fish, and birds. Not only dangerous and seductive, these creatures are also mischievous. When women are not in their kitchens, the Ciguapas will come and steal from them.

What Do Ciguapas Look Like?

Image of a Ciguapa

Image of a Ciguapa

While the exact description of a Ciguapa varies, they are always female with long, beautiful, dark hair. Their hair is so long, in fact, that it is the only covering for their otherwise naked bodies.

These creatures also have feet that face backward, which makes them particularly hard to catch, as their tracks are hard to follow since it’s impossible to tell which way they are going. The Ciguapas generally have dark skin, either brown or blue.

While descriptions of their bodies differ depending on the region of the Dominican Republic – some say short and out of proportion, others say long-legged and thin – all agree that they have beautiful faces. However, no one has heard a Ciguapa speak; instead, they make a high-pitched squeaking noise, like a whine.

Capturing a Ciguapa

As dangerous as the Ciguapas are, there are still those that try to capture them.

Legend has it that they live in mountainous areas and can only be tracked at nighttime. It should be a full moon, and those trying to catch a Ciguapa should take a cinqueño dog, that is, a dog with extra toes.

But if you catch one, it won’t be for long. Supposedly, it is so difficult for them to be in captivity that they die from sorrow.

Origin of the Legend

The first written reference to the Ciguapa legend was in 1866, by the Dominican writer Javier Angulo Guridi.

Angulo Guridi didn’t invent the legend – some researchers believe that it started in the colonial era, while others even think that it goes back to pre-Hispanic times. Possible origins include the Taino people and, more recently, African slaves held during colonization.

Wat are las Ciguapas?  Another legend from Latin America, a mythical figure or a real danger?  I have not seen one yet, and honestly I would not like to encounter one.

So why shouldn’t you look a Ciguapa in the eye? That’s how they bewitch you – forever!

Have you heard of the Ciguapa? Tell us the story in the comments!

The Legend of Quetzalcoatl

Quetzalcoatl, the “Feathered Serpent,” was one of the most important and widely worshiped deities in early pre-Hispanic civilizations of Mesoamerica. While Quetzalcoatl was his name in Nahuatl (the language of the Aztecs), this god was also key to the Maya culture, where he was called Kukulkán or Gukumatz.

Importance of the Legend of Quetzalcoatl

He continues to be a central figure in modern Mexican legends and folklore – in fact, many place the blame for the fall of the Aztec civilization on his shoulders.

As one of the primary deities of Mesoamerica, Quetzalcoatl was multifaceted and was credited with many acts which were vital to humanity. For example, as the patron god of priests, learning, and knowledge, he was said to have invented books and the calendar.

As one of the gods of the wind, he figured prominently in creation myths. He is also credited with giving humanity corn, the basis of Mesoamerican cuisine and, to many, life.

The Feathered Serpent

Quetzalcóatl

Visual representations of the deity vary, but he is often depicted in one of two ways. As a god he is sometimes portrayed as a snake with wings or covered with green plumage, greatly resembling a dragon.

In human form Kukulcán is shown is a warrior with a tall ocelot skin crown and shell pendant, which represents his role as the god of wind.

The cult of a feathered serpent has been documented back to the first century BC, in Teotihuacán. While early depictions were more direct – showing the god as an actual snake – soon the god began to take on human features. In fact, in the early Maya period, snakes themselves were common as religious imagery, as they were seen at the representation of the sky.

The fall of Teotihuacan meant that the cult of the feathered serpent started to spread to other parts of Mexico. During later periods, the cult of Kukulkán continued to spread throughout the Mayan region, including such important sites as the Chichén Itzá pyramid and El Tajín.

Cholula, Puebla, was a significant site of worship; in fact, the world’s largest pyramid, built in Cholula, is dedicated to the legend of Quetzalcoatl (Kukulkán). The Great Pyramid of Cholula rises 180 feet above its surroundings, and when completed it was 1300 feet by 1300 feet. It is even larger than the Great Pyramid of Giza!

The Fall of the Aztecs

Perhaps one of the most important aspects of the legend of Quetzalcoatl was the idea of a god that was to return, in human form, from the East.

Although there is controversy, many believe that when the Spanish conqueror Hernán Cortés landed on the Gulf Coast of Mexico in 1519, the Aztec Emperor Moctezuma thought that he was the reincarnation of Quetzalcoatl.

This belief is supported by the fact that the god was to return in a One Reed year (on the Aztec calendar), which fit the year 1519. It quickly became clear that Cortés, due to his less-than-benevolent behavior, was not the well-loved Quetzalcoatl, but the story remains.

The legend of Quetzalcoatl has even spread beyond the religions of Mesoamerica. For example, New Age practitioners place importance on the legend.

While Quetzalcoatl’s importance in the conquista of the Aztec people is still controversial, it’s clear that this is one of those Latin American myths and legends that continues to be of great cultural importance for the Mexican people.

Do you think Quetzalcoatl’s legend played a part in the fall of the Aztecs? Tell us your opinion in the comments.

La Casa Matusita, Perú

Every major city has its share of haunted houses, and Lima, Perú, is no exception. One of the most famous is La Casa Matusita. The subject of documentaries and numerous articles and television programs, this house has been surrounded by mystery for more than fifty years. This year there will even be a feature film released about it, with the actor Malcom McDowell.

The second floor of this house on España Avenue may look ordinary, but La Casa Matusita is the inspiration for one of the most established Peruvian legends. Stories abound – from spirits doing penance and murders being committed to ghostly apparitions and voices from the grave being heard in the night. It’s like a real-life Halloween in Latin America.

Origin of La Casa Matusita Peru

At La Casa Matusita People claim to hear voices from the beyond at this haunted house.

At La Casa Matusita People claim to hear voices from  beyond the other side.

While the reasons behind the Casa’s supposed haunting have not been explained, there are many popular stories explaining its origin. Two of the most popular are also two of the bloodiest.

One tells of a man who found his wife in bed with another man. After killing both the woman and her lover, he killed his children and then himself.

The other common story is about a group of servants who, intending to drive their cruel masters crazy by poisoning their food, instead cause them to violently murder each other due to the effects of the drugs. Seeing the resulting massacre, the servants themselves go mad.

As with many urban myths, no newspaper reports substantiate these stories, despite their being significant enough that they would have been reported upon at the time.

The Perfect Location

One of the most unusual aspects of the Casa is its location, which seems predestined to urban legends. Located on one of the city’s most important avenues, the current location of the house may have been used as a pre-Hispanic religious site.

The ancient Lima wall also passed by there, serving as a military defense. In fact, the city’s penitentiary (known as the Panóptico) was right in front of the house, and prisoners continued to live – and die – there until it was closed in 1961.

There are even those that believe that the United States Embassy, which is located in front, was somehow involved in spreading the ghost stories in order to increase the security of their facility.

Who Were the Matusitas?

The Matusitas which gave the Casa its name were not even its owners, but rather a Japanese family that rented the first floor, where they had a plumbing supply store.

The Lima landmark was built at the end of the 1800s and purchased in 1924 by the grandfather of the current owner, Ladislao Thierry. Thierry, not surprisingly, insists that the legend is nothing more than stories, invented, perhaps, when a guard or gardener had too much to drink, opened a gate closed with chains, and dragged the chains along with him to his room. Add a lantern and it’s the perfect vision of a suffering spirit, when viewed from the street.

La Casa Matusita is now a bank – but only on the first floor, of course. One can assume that the bank clerks haven’t heard the spirits crying out. But that still doesn’t stop those ready to believe the ghost stories. La Casa Matusita is one of those Latin American myths and legends that many people want to see – and believe.

Have you ever been to a real haunted house? Tell us in the comments!

The Legend of El Sombrerón in Guatemala

One of the best-known pieces of folklore in Guatemala involves El Sombrerón, a man in dark clothes and a sombrero who  enchants young women with his song. El Sombrerón, who many know him also as Tzipitio, appears at dusk with several mules.

When El Sombrerón courts a woman with large eyes and long hair and she returns his affections, he serenades her with love songs on his silver guitar. He braids her hair and the hair of her horses and even dogs. After that, the young woman is not able to eat or sleep and will find soil on her plate.

Variations of the Legend of El Sombrerón

The Legend of El Sombreron in Guatemala

The Legend of El Sombreron in Guatemala

The legend of El Sombrerón has many variations. In some Guatemalan myths and legends, he appears at each full moon and his mules carry coal. He wears all black but has loudly clanking boots and a huge belt buckle.

El Sombrerón is usually intimidating and ghostly, and Latino parents may tell their daughters that if they do not behave properly they will be put under his spell.

Like many Latin American legends such as La Llorona legend, El Sombrerón began with the story of a beautiful young woman.

In Guatemalan folklore, in La Recolección, a man with a black sombrero and a silver guitar serenaded a señorita with long braided hair and big eyes named Susana.

Susana’s parents worried about the man courting their daughter, so they forced her to come inside and eat, only to find that their daughter’s food had soil in it. Every night the mysterious man serenaded Susana, and she could not eat or sleep.

Eventually Susana’s parents took her to a local priest who cut and blessed her long hair. The strange man did not return to bother Susana, but the legend of El Sombrerón was born.

In areas of Mexico El Sombrerón is known as “The goblin” and is a scary creature, casting a spell on impressionable young women as he searches in vain for his true love.

Besides being a warning from parents, Tzipitio likely emanated in part from a cultural desire to explain love and to help women understand the changes they undergo when under the spell of romance.

Who hasn’t lost sleep and been unable to eat when enchanted by a mysterious lover? Even braiding hair nervously is a sign of courtship in women.

In this way the legend of El Sombrerón may reinforce the idea that Latin American women need to stay coy and in control in their romantic dealings.

Are El Sobrerón and El Zorro Similar?

El Sombrerón’s unwavering passion, mysterious comings and goings, ability with horses, large hat and black clothing are all similar to the popular Latin American legend of Zorro.

Although Tzipitio emerged in Guatemala in the cobblestone Catholic mission of La Recolección, the legend is also known in southern Mexico.

El Sombrerón is a strange mix of bizarre, scary and enchanting. The story was modified in many ways in Guatemalan folklore and the scary parts of the story may even make it to a television series called “American Horror Story” soon.

Have you felt the enchantment of love like that of El Sombrerón? Share in the comments!

What Is La Llorona Legend?

La Llorona legend is one of those legends that every culture has.  One of those that seem one part cautionary tale and one part plain old hair-raising ghost story.

Hispanic culture has La Llorona, or the Weeping Woman, a ghostly figure whose wails echo from Mexico to Argentina. Many versions of the La Llorona legend exist, with different countries putting their own spin on the story, but the core themes of loss and punishment always hold true.

The First Weeping Woman

Like many Mexican legends, the inspiration for La Llorona can be traced back to pre-colonial times.

Just before the arrival of Hernan Cortes’ army in the Aztec capital of Mexico, the goddess Cihuacoatl appeared in the streets among the temples, crying out for the fate of the people: “O-h-h, my children, the time for our departure draws near. O-h-h-h, my children! Where shall I take you?”

La Llorona Legend

La Llorona Legend

Long after the conquest and the establishment of New Spain as the capital city of colonial Mexico, a mysterious figure in white continued to appear in the streets, wailing “O-h-h, my children.” No one dared to leave their homes after curfew for fear of encountering the woman on her nightly rounds around the city.

Every night she cried for her children in the Main Square, and every morning just before dawn she vanished at the shore of Texcoco Lake.  Sometimes, a young child vanished with her, stolen by La LLorona in a futile attempt to replace her own lost children.

This weeping woman was not a goddess, but the ghost of an ordinary woman doomed to suffer for all eternity for her mistakes. Legend has it she loved a Spanish nobleman. She bore him three children, but being an indigenous woman she could not marry him. When her lover finally married a Spanish lady, the woman went insane with grief, drowned their three children, and committed suicide. When she reached the gates of Heaven, she couldn’t explain where her children had gone. She became doomed to walk the earth for all eternity searching for them.

Even today, the ghostly figure of La Llorona continues to haunt Mexico City. She has also expanded her search for her lost children to many other cities and countries. You might hear her cries one dark night, or even see her veiled white form disappear into the waters of some river or lake.

La Llorona in Colombia

In Mexico La Llorona inspires fear but also a touch of pity due to the unjust society whose prejudices led to her madness. She wears white like a bride, and there is a purity to her pain.

In Colombia she cuts a much more terrifying figure. La Llorona in Colombia wears a black robe with a hood, like Death. Crickets, fireflies, and butterflies alight in her long curly hair, but when you catch sight of her face you see nothing but a skull with two glowing orbs for eyes. She too wails, but she has not lost her child.

The dead babe rests in her arms, its angelic expression marred by the tears of blood the mother sheds over it. In this version of the La Llorona legend, the ghost appears to girls in danger of having their own illegitimate children to frighten them.

No matter which version of the legend you believe, you would not want to meet La Llorona out at night!

The Legend of La Patasola

I am from the mountains of the Andes in the region of Antioquia.  Growing up visiting coffee plantations and listening to “Mitos y Legendas” or myths and legends under the light of the moon was the custom.  Well known stories like the legend of La Patasola, La Llorona, El Silbón, El Cuco, etc., abound as they are part of Hispanic culture.  We used to gather late at night, my cousins and I, to tell stories and scare each other, and we all loved it.

If you ever visit the famous coffee-producing region of Antioquia, Colombia, take care not to wander beyond the boundaries of the towns or coffee plantations you visit, especially at night. According to La Patasola legend, you just might encounter a supernatural creature that will drink your blood for daring to disturb the peace of the jungle.

Origin of The Legend of La Patasola 

la-patasola-legend-1

Everyone agrees La Patasola used to be a human woman. But beyond that, different versions of La Patasola legend disagree on why this woman must now take such a monstrous form.

One version of the legend of La Patasola says that she killed her own child to be with a man who later rejected her. Another version paints a picture of a beautiful but cruel and capricious woman who enjoyed tempting men.

Perhaps the most popular version has La Patasola playing the part of an unfaithful wife whose husband murdered her after discovering her infidelity.

All the origin stories agree that La Patasola suffered a horrible mutilation just prior to her death, namely the amputation of one of her legs at the hip. After dying of her wounds, her soul became trapped in a one-legged body, which now wanders the mountainous jungles of Antioquia, looking for victims.

She especially likes to catch and kill hunters, miners, loggers, and other men engaged in work that harms the jungle and its creatures.

According to some versions of the legend she also enjoys stealing children from their beds, taking them deep into the jungle where she can suck their blood with her fangs.

How to Identify La Patasola

La Patasola is a shape-shifting siren that draws men to her with pitiful cries of a woman lost in the jungle. At first she looks like a beautiful woman, but once she feels certain that her victim is well and truly lost in the forest, she transforms into a monster. In this form she has an ugly face with bulging eyes, fat lips, a hooked nose, and catlike fangs, which she sometimes hides behind her wildly tangled hair.

La Patasola has one breast and her thighs are fused into one leg with a hoof rather than a foot at the end of it. Despite this she can move extremely quickly through the jungle.

As she hops along, her hoof leaves bear tracks on the ground, making her virtually impossible to track, even with dogs. When it suits her, she can also transform into a big black dog or a black cow.

The legend of La Patasola says that when La Patasola feels happy, she climbs to the top of a tree or a mountain and sings this song:

Yo soy más que la sirena, en el mundo vivo sola:

y nadie se me resiste, porque soy la Patasola.

En el camino, en la casa, en el monte y en el río,

en el aire y en las nubes, todo lo que existe es mío.

Meaning of La Patasola Legend

Many Latin American legends as well as legends from other cultures feature a siren-like figure who draws men to their doom.

These kinds of folkloric legends seem to exist to help reinforce cultural norms, serving as a warning to men and women alike not to deviate from acceptable sexual behavior.

The legend warns the men not to sneak off into the forest with strange but lovely ladies lest they get eaten, and it warns women not to be unfaithful or wanton lest they get turned into monsters themselves.

La Patasola Today

While the cultural message of the legend of La Patasola legend may not have as much relevance today when all kinds of sexual behaviors seem permissible, it is still a core part of Colombian folklore.

If you want to meet La Patasola without risking your life, you can visit the Path of Myths and Legends at the National Coffee Park in Montenegro, Colombia, or attend the annual Myths and Legends parade in early December in Medellín, Colombia to get in touch with true Latin American legends.