Growing up in Central America is a culture teeming with oral traditions in Latin American Legends, no matter which country you visit. Each culture has their own local folklore, while some of them even share similar stories with slight differentiations amongst their own cultures. As these stories were passed down via the oral traditions, many of them end with a moral being taught.
While there are dozens and dozens of legends -which we will get into in other articles – this particular article will highlight six of the most terrifying Latin American Legends talked about in central America.
The Legend of El Sombrerón
Most famously known in Guatemala:
El Sombrerón is a Guatemalan folktale, known in the region of Antigua. He generally appears as a short man dressed in all black, wearing a thick black shiny belt, boots that clink when he walks, and an enormous hat covers his face. He is usually seen with a horse and black dogs attached to him with chains, and will braid the horse’s mane and tail or the hair of the dogs. El Sombrerón courts young women particularly with large eyes and long dark hair. He will follow the young woman, braid her hair, and serenade her with his silver guitar. Once the victim falls under his spell, he serves her soil for dinner; making the young woman unable to eat and sleep—wasting away. This folktale is said to scare girls into not wandering off in the night with strange men—especially without their parent’s permission.
Chicas, watch out for el Sombrerón…
The Legend of Madre Monte
Most Famously known in Colombia:
Madre Monte is known to roam in the mountains and jungles of Antioquia and Caldes in Colombia with its roots stemming from the country’s indigenous culture. She lives in the swamps of the regions, and appears as a tall woman covered with green moss and leaves. Her hair is said to be tangled with plants and flowers (which also cover her face and other areas of her body), and coiled snakes on her upper limbs. She is known to be a defender of nature; speaking with the animals and trees, and ruling the winds, rain, and vegetation. Madre Monte haunts those who steal other people’s lands, casts plagues on cattle owners who disrespect the fields. She also punishes vagabonds, invaders, mischief makers, unfaithful spouses, and children by making them get lost in her land, putting unbeatable obstacles in their way, or having them disappear and never seen again.
Respect nature or Madre Monte will come to get you…
The Legend of La Carreta Nagua
Most famously known in Nicaragua:
If you hear a wooden cart, in the middle of the night, do not peek through the windows or peep holes because it may be the Carreta Nagua! La Carreta Nagua noisily makes its way through the streets of village towns around 1:00 AM on dark and gloomy nights, being pulled by two skeletal oxens, and controlled by the Grim Reaper wearing white robes and traditional scythe on the left shoulder.
It is said that if anyone is awake or in the streets by the time the cart rolls through, they are claimed by the Grim Reaper and taken to the Underworld. Some also believe that the Carreta Nagua announces the coming of death for a person as people have claimed that after hearing the cart in the night discovered one of the town’s citizens dead the following day. The legend is believed to be based off of slavery and the colonization of native tribes. When the Spanish caravans moved through the pueblos looking to capture the natives as slaves and plunder, the natives would know to run or hide as if they were captured they would be taken and likely never return.
If you enjoyed this cultural hearted article on Latin American Legends, check out some of our other Literary content at The Ritual blog thread here.
The Legend of La Siguanaba
Most famously known in El Salvador:
La Siguanaba is a character that shows itself in a phantom female form with a beautiful body and long hair. When you look at her closely, however, her face resembles that of a mare. The legend goes that she often appears to wander in the night usually to men known for seducing women and boasts of their conquests. The men see her from behind and follow her until la Siguanaba turns around; scaring the men to death or is driven insane by the sight. She is usually seen bathing by the river in the night. In order to keep their souls safe from the Siguanaba, it is said that men must bite on a metal cross and pray to God.
Be careful boys with what you do, or else the Siguanaba will come to haunt you…
The Legend of El Familiar
Most famously known in Argentina:
Originating from the sugar plantations in Salta, Tuchman, and Jujuy, legend has it that some time long ago, the Argentinian government was struggling economically. To sugar plantation owners, this economic downturn meant the sugar industry would take a big hit. To ensure that they would escape the country’s economic downturn, owners of the sugar plantation decided to find a way around the impending economic misfortune by partnering with the devil.
In exchange for riches, wealth, and protection of their sugar fields, the owners were required to provide a yearly sacrifice of one of their workers to the devil. The sacrifice would be determined by the owners, and the worker would then be dragged and devoured by the devil in hell. Some say the familiar was said to take the shape of a large black rabid dog, while others claimed that it appears as an immense viper with cat-like eyes. The Familiar was also said to have stayed close to the plantation fields; living in basements as a way to ensure that the owners would complete their yearly sacrifice. Legend has it the dog still rabidly wanders the sugar plantations looking for victims.
The Legend of Chupacabras
Most Famously known in Puerto Rico:
This legend originated in Puerto Rico when in 1995 signs of the first reported attack of the Chupacabra became news. Chickens, goats, and sheep began to appear dead completely drained of blood and with punctured wounds in their neck. Literally translated as “goat sucker” in Spanish, reports of Chupacabras spread from Puerto Rico to Mexico, Central and South America, and in the United States (from Texas to Florida to Maine). The appearance of the Chupacabra varies, but it is typically described as a lizard-like creature, that walks on its muscular hind legs, with large eyes, fangs a forked tongue, and sharp spines reaching from the neck to the base of the tail. Some have also described it as appearing like a hair-less strange breed of dog with sharp spines.