Thursday, July 30, 2009

Myths of My People

I don't know if it's all parents but the myths and stories that come out of the Latino culture are either really clever in stopping kids from going with strangers and doing bad things, or they show that parents will say anything to get their kids to behave.

I clearly remember walking to a pay phone with my mom when I was about 5 and a lady stopped to talk to her. I didn't hear what it was about but later my mom told me that the lady had offered to buy me if I was being a difficult little girl. I later came to realize that the women in my family did this a lot. They'd threaten your bad behavior with the possibility of selling you to a stranger. 

Even us kids started some myths of our own. Whenever I was angry with my brother I would tell him that the local bag lady was his real mother and that our parents found him in the trash. I've heard other kids tell their siblings this too. My brother would even tell it to me sometimes.

There are, of course, the classics. Which I'm realizing more and more were about getting kids to do their chores and yes, maybe keeping them safe. In El Salvador there is this evil entity named El Cipitillo. He wears a big hat so you can't see his face and his feet are backwards. So if you were to see him and you think he's facing away from you because his feet are turned the other way, he's actually staring right at you. The kicker is that he only comes and kidnaps little girls and is lured to your house by any ash left in the kitchen or stove. My mother told me that when she was young she always feared him since cleaning the kitchen was her job. 

There are also myths to keep men honest. There's a certain boogie woman named La Siguanaba. She tricks and attacks men who are single or living out of wedlock or who are unfaithful to their wives. She'll go after them at night on dark country roads. I guess that's El Salvador's idea of feminism.


  1. I'm amazed at how universal some of these things are. I'm Romanian, and in Romania, where gypsies are something of a paria, naughty kids were told that they were bought from the gypsies, or that they would be sold to them if they didn't behave. I remember my mom telling us that all the time. Our version of El Cipitilo is Baba Cloanta (a woman!). Oh, and I love La Siguanaba. She sounds like an awesome lady!

  2. I'm mexican and my grandmother always told me that if I watched a cat take a shit it would give me a stye. I'm not even joking.

  3. @Patricia
    Wow, that is very interesting. I guess parents run out of threats and selling you is one of the worst things a kid can hear. It sounds funny as an adult but it really creeps you out as a kid.

    I heard a version of that one but it was with a dog. But I guess it would be true if you got very, very close.