10 Terrifying Latin American Leyendas to Recount on Halloween
Tric o tri season is here and we put together a list of 10 Latin American leyendas that creeped us out as kids and still do today—a spooky must read before your chilling adventures on Halloween. Featured are the folktales of la Llorona, el Sombrerón, la Carreta Nagua, Madre Monte, el Muki, and more!
Read through to revisit some of these legendary folktales, and make sure to leave us a comment with the stories and terrifying figures that you grew up hearing about!
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 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 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.
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 La Llorona
Most famously known in Mexico
La Llorona is the spirit of a doomed mother whose children drowned in the river. She is so distraught by what occurred that she now spends eternity crying in search of her children in rivers and lakes. In some versions of the folktale, she kidnaps wandering children who resemble her missing children, asks them for forgiveness, and kills them to take the place of her own. People who claim to have seen her say she appears at night or late in the evening by rivers or lakes with long flowing black hair, wearing a white gown, tall and thin. Some believe those who hear the wails of la Llorona are marked for death, and children are warned not to go out in the dark for she might snatch them—dragging them to a watery grave.
Do not let children wander late at night by the river, or else La Llorona will lure them…
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 El Muki
Most famously known in the Andes regions of Bolivia, Colombia, Ecuador, and Peru
This goblin like creature originates in mythology of the central Andes regions of Bolivia, Colombia, Ecuador, and Peru. He is said to be a lonely miner that lives in dark, underground spaces like caves and mine shafts. The Muki is said to appear as a goblin like creature that carries a lantern, with reddish hair, a white beard, no neck, and a deep, husky voice. It is said to attack and instill tremendous fear on its victims, and is especially known for stealing children. It is believed that the creature has the power to make metal veins appear, disappear, soften, and harden, as well as, sense the emotions of the miners it encounters. Miners have been said to have made pacts with el Muki, where the creature requests coca leaves, alcohol, or the company of women. Tragic deaths befell on miners who did not complete their side of the pact.
The Legend of La Sucia
Most Famously known in Honduras
This popular story is of a beautiful, strong woman who lived with her parents, and at a young age met and fell in love with a boy. The boy asked for the young girl’s hand in marriage, and her family accepted. On the day of their marriage, she was denied marriage at the altar because she was unbaptized. She fell into a great depression and went insane. She began to wander the streets, never removing her increasingly filthy dress until she died of heartbreak after her ex suitor married someone else. Her spirit is said to appear in rivers and streams still wearing her dress, in search of the man she loved. It is said that La Sucia transforms into a beautiful woman, luring drunk men near waters, and once the men get close turns into something horrifying that made men lose their own sanity.
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.
The Legend of THE Bacà
Most famously known in the Dominican Republic
The Bacà is considered to be a diabolical creature conjured up by people who want to make a pact with the devil in exchange for usually some type of prosperity like wealth and property, or sometimes for protection. It comes about to make sure that those who made a deal maintain their end of the pact. In return, the Bacà may ask for property, livestock to feed on, or even for the suffering of loved ones from illnesses. In some myths this conjuring is described as a dog from hell with burning red eyes, while others describe the creature to come in the form of livestock like cows, chickens, or bulls.
Words by Anaís González
Image credit found below images and illustrations
About the Writer:
Anaís González is a Nicaraguan, born and raised in Los Angeles, California. She attended Cal State University Northridge, and studied History with Central American Studies.
Anaís is the founder of a social media platform Quién Sos Vos, and is currently utilizing her social media to advocate for the Nicaraguan Social Political Crisis.