Myths & Legends of El Salvador

Ghost stories.

Those two words have had the power to inspire your heart to pump excitement through your veins in double time ever since you were a kid, and undoubtedly will do the same as you embark on a getaway to a new country and hear those two words while learning about the local culture and history.

Aside from tropical beaches, uncrowded waves, and mouthwatering pupusas, El Salvador is rich with legends and folklore that help to contribute to the unique people and culture that make your vacation destination what it is today.

While South and Central America are rich with folklore, many of the legends and stories overlap and vary from one country to the next, each having its own special twist characterizing it as unique. A great deal of these tales go back to the colonization of El Salvador and are still told to scare children today, mostly used to keep people from wandering alone in the night! While the options are overwhelming, here are a few of the more prominent tales told in El Salvador to send shivers down your spine…

La Llorona

This sad, ghostly woman can be heard crying along the riverbanks at night, looking for any children that may be unfortunate enough to cross her path! In an attempt to get back at the man she loved who chose another woman, La Llorona decided to drown her children in an act of revenge; once she realized the horror that she had committed, she drowned herself as well. However, she was not allowed to pass on into the afterlife, and was sent back to the earth to find her children and gain their forgiveness. Trapped between the living world and the spirit world, she now wanders around crying and searching for her children, and isn’t afraid to take any random children in the hopes of passing them off as her own! Never, ever follow the sound of her cries in the night, she may try to drown you next…..

El Tabudo

A popular tale among fisherman, El Tabudo is also known as The Man With Big Knees. According to legend, he was once a wealthy fisherman who was one day taken by the sea, and eventually reappeared as something more fish than man, his signature being his large, knobby knees. He now awaits all visitors to lakes and lagoons, appearing to people as a humble fisherman in order to win over their trust and confidence so that he can lure them out to the middle of the lake. Once he gets his victims where he wants them, he reveals his true appearance and turns the men into large, colorful fish and transforms the women into sirens of the sea. El Salvador is full of delicious fish, so beware of the Man With Big Knees the next time you go out to catch your meal…!

El Cadejo

This story comes in the form of two huge dogs, one with black fur and one with white, one representing good while the other represents evil. The black cadejo is an evil spirit who appears to those who wander alone late at night, using his red – hot – coal – like eyes to hypnotize his victims in an attempt to steal their souls. The white cadejo is there to provide protection for his faithful believers – especially children. Some report to have seen a brawl break out between the two in a fight for the soul, while others claim that the white cadejo has appeared to help a drunk wanderer get home safely. Some versions of the legend state that after realizing how many difficulties and obstacles arise for mortal humans in everyday life, some good – fortune gods decided to create the white cadejo in an attempt to offer some sort of comfort and protection to those of good will and good faith on earth; after seeing this, the devil got jealous and decided to make a black dog of his own to wreak havoc, counteracting the powers of the white dog. Regardless of the origins of El Cadejo, it’s safe to say that the story inspires children to avoid wandering about after dark!

La Siguanaba

La Siguanaba, Sihuanaba, Cigua, or Cegua, refers to a ‘horrible woman,’ previously known as Sihuethuet, and is a ghost to beware of late at night. She appears in the night as a beautiful woman, in a sheer, often white dress, with long, beautiful hair. She summons men wandering in the dark, often targeting those who are drunk, conceited, and looking for a conquest, as well as men who are unfaithful to their women. She then seduces the men who are looking to seduce her, but once they get close enough to touch – the men thinking they have just about scored – she reveals her true self, transforming into a thing of horror. Some versions say that she was so terrifyingly ugly that she was nearly deformed, while others say her face was a bare skull, and some variations even claim that she had the head of a horse! Regardless, she is such a terrible sight to see that the man who has the misfortune of laying his eyes on her will either die of fright or go completely mad!

La Siguanaba came to be this way when, as Sihuethuet (beautiful woman), she was married to the son of Tlaloc, the god of the rains, and had affairs while he was away at war, and became pregnant with the son of her lover as a result of these affairs. As punishment for her seduction and infidelity, Tlaloc sought out the help of an almighty god named Teotl, and together they cursed and condemned not only Sihuethuet, but her son as well. Now, Siguanaba is stuck in a state of horror and deceit, and terrorizes those who are guilty of the same crime she once committed, and is stuck to forever look for her son.

El Cipitio

Cipit, a name originated from the Nahuatl word used to refer to children, is not only one of the most popular tales in South and Central American culture, but also happens to be the illegitimate son of the infamous Siguanaba. While his mother was condemned to forever wander, this young boy was sentenced to eternal youth. He is not a threatening spirit, but is instead known for being a jokester. He is dressed rather shabbily, and has a big hat and a big belly! Interestingly, many versions say that his large, bare feet face backwards, so nobody can find him when they try to follow his footprints. While he is harmless, he is obnoxious, known to throw pebbles at pretty young girls as they wash their clothing in the river, along with appearing in the night to laugh, dance, whistle, joke, and ultimately just make a great deal of noise! Most legends say that he is often seen eating a banana, and some stories say that he has the ability to disappear from one place and reappear in another. El Cipitio is known to eat ashes leftover in rural kitchens, and is often used as an excuse when people wake to find a mess in the kitchen in the mornings! This character is perhaps one of the most popular among folklore, and he seems entertaining enough to deserve that title!

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