Salvadoran Folktales

On a recent trip to El Salvador, a friend brought me back a souvenir. Thankfully it wasn’t another painting of The Last Supper, but a book called “Mitología Cuzcatleca: Los Cuentos de mi Infancia y Otros” by Efrain Melara Méndez. (Thank you, Ángel!)

The book contains all of the Salvadoran stories I’m not able to tell the niños since I wasn’t raised on them and don’t know them well enough. My husband Carlos has also been fairly useless in the story-telling department. Most Salvadorans are good storytellers, but somehow this skill escaped my husband. He also only remembers these stories in the vaguest of ways… And Suegra, well, the only reason I know of La Sihuanaba, is because Suegra called me that as an insult during a particularly heated argument a few years ago. (And after I Googled it, my feelings were so incredibly hurt on multiple levels. Needless to say, I don’t ask her about any of these Salvadoran Folktales because I don’t want to dredge up that day.)

So, this book is much needed. It has all the traditional stories from El Salvador, (some of which are known in other parts of Central America as well.) Some of those characters include, El Cipitio, El Duende, El Padre Sin Cabeza, El Griton de Medianoche and some others I had never even heard of before.

by Flickr user jayokossa
My favorite folktale is about Los Cadejos. The Cadejos are dog-like spirit animals. One is white and one is black. The white one follows people to protect them and the black one follows people to kill them.

Which Latin American folktale is your favorite?

(Image source)


  1. La Carreta Chillona!! OMG… when I was a little girl I swear to God I heard it more than once! But then I realized the carretas were true! During the time of “las cortas de café” the carretas were used to transport people to the fincas, and yes at 3 am!
    My grandma also told me about El Justo Jez de la Noche Oscura (aparently he is the Siguanaba’s hubby and therefore Cipitio’s father.
    And what about the “Descarnada” a sexy babe who is always asking for a ride at midnight! All men who let her in their car end up piing their pants!

    • OMG – you have no idea how much you just made me laugh. The “Descarnada” isn’t in this book and I’ve never heard of her. OMG… ROFL. Wait until I tell the kids THAT one. They are going to love it, (they love anything that ends in someone peeing their pants, of course. LOL.)

      Seems sort of similar to La Siguanaba’s story — pretty woman ends up causing something bad. Are these stories guanacas made up to scare their men into not cheating? LOL.

      La Carreta Bruja is in the book – I’m assuming it’s the same as La Carreta Chillona.

      The story that scared me as a girl is “Bloody Mary”. This is not a story my parents would ever tell me though. This is something my older sister told me and something that was told at sleepover parties. Supposedly if you look in the mirror and say “Bloody Mary” 3 times, she’ll appear and try to kill you or something. In the darkness, your own reflection can creep you out, so it caused a lot of horror for me when someone would dare me to try it.

      As an adult, I still do not look at the mirror in a dark room!

  2. OH God… the only Bloody Mary I knew was the one I have after having too many drinks the night before.
    You know, I feel funny when I am in the bathroom, say brushing my teeth, facing down and the I look up! I feel someone will be standing behind me!with a knife! Ok, no more Psycho – the movie – for me!
    BTW I never knew the Siguanaba was a babe at one point! I thought she was born like that. And did you know her feet are backwards? And that if you hear her far away it means she is super close by… AHHHHHH now guess who is peeing in her pants!

    • I always get that funny feeling when I’m in the bathroom at night and it’s dark. LOL. Luckily I don’t still leap into bed so whatever is under the bed can’t grab my foot. LOL.

      I don’t handle horror movies well, can you tell?

      As for Siguanaba – She appears to be a beautiful woman when she’s washing clothes in the river. It’s not until men get very close that she appears to be hideous.

      Are you sure her feet are backwards, too? I thought that was only Cipitio, her son. He uses that trait to play tricks on farmers by walking through their fields. Then they try to follow his tracks and become lost :)

  3. Tracy,

    I am really happy you are enjoying the book. It is awesome to read your stories of how in turn you are teaching your kids about their culture. I wish there were more parents like you.

    As for the tales, I am not sure I have a favorite. They all tend to be equally amusing to me, but I certainly have heard about the carreta, siguanaba and cipitio the most.

  4. Hahaha! My 11 year old had a sleepover this weekend and I found her mirror covered in stacked pillows the next morning. Attack of the Bloody Mary!! Lol!

  5. Im 100% salvadorian but was born in nj & my family always told me stories especially one of la siguanaba my father has once told me he had came across her when he was a young boy i do believe they exist they are not myths i would not want to come across any of them but i would not get offended if someone were to call me la siguanaba shes beautiful at first she was once a goddess !

  6. I was wondering if you know a site where they sell that book. My mother is from el salvador and she told me these stories all the time and I want to tell them to my daughter. I search is but couldn’t find anything.

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