For English speakers, it’s Edgar Allan Poe. For Latin Americans, the equivalent is Horacio Quiroga. But the best horror stories are always those of the collective imagination.
Latin America also abounds with stories and legends that we have inherited from our ancestors. During the last century, it has made it impossible for us to sleep a wink.
From La Llorona to El Silbón, these are the most terrifying stories of Latin American folklore.
One of our grandparents’ favorite tales of terror has always been that of La Llorona, a specter of Hispanic American folklore that roams the towns, rivers, and cities. Legend has it that La Llorona drowned her children and carries the curse of wandering in sorrow, frightening the living. Although the character is an Intangible Cultural Heritage of Mexico City, there are versions of her story throughout Latin America.
Legend has it that in a certain region of Tolima Grande, Colombia, a tenant farmer had a very pretty woman as his wife, with whom he had three children. When he found his wife cheating with the hacienda’s owner, he attacked her with a machete, leaving her without a leg while she tried to flee. It is said that this woman has been wandering through lonely farms, forests, and jungles since that terrible night.
In the plains of Venezuela and Colombia, you often hear the story of El Silbón, a boy who, after murdering his father, is condemned to wander the world carrying a sack full of his father’s bones on his back. As his name indicates, El Silbón emits a characteristic whistle by which he is recognized. However, there is no danger if the whistling is heard nearby, for El Silbón is far away. But if it is heard far away, the specter of the plains is very close.
The story of this creature is told on starry nights in the Dominican Republic, Cuba, and Puerto Rico. La Ciguapa is a mythical female creature that walks with her feet turned upside down. According to Nahuatl mythology, La Ciguapa comes out at night, at the edge of streams, searching for men to bewitch.
The spirit of Kanaima
Deep in the Amazon jungle in Venezuela, the story of Kanaima (or Canaima), the spirit of vengeance, is well known. Kanaima is not fever, but it can cause it; it is not pain, but it can cause pain. For the Indians, Kanaima is everywhere and threatens all peoples and all tribes.
When the Indians go into the jungle or stray on their way home, Kanaima waits for them in hiding and makes them stumble and fall. The spirit strikes them all over their bodies and then infuses its magical breath into their heads and feet to make them sick.