... Legends ...
by Infocostarica Staff
Once upon a time, in Costa Rica, there were many drunk peasant men. There were also many young girls who were rather premature in their romantic wanderings. Once upon a time, of course, applies to the current reality and to that of all countries. In Costa Rica, the most famous legends seem to warn against moral vices such as drunkenness and pregnancies out of wedlock. These wonderfully colorful tales entertain, but they intend to keep the social and cultural fabric intact, by inspiring fear in those who dare to trespass the norms…
First, let's investigate the legends that discourage drunk peasants. There once was a young man called Joaquin, who lived in the old capital city of Cartago. Joaquin loved to party, and to party hard, and he used to cause much suffering to his parents, especially his father. Sometimes, his father tried being tender and soft with him, at other times strict and authoritative, but nothing seemed to work. Then, his son didn't come back home until after a one-week rampage through all of the local bars and corrupt places. His father looked at him with burning red eyes, a look which was passed on to his son's eyes, and ordered him not to ever come back to the house. However, Joaquin wouldn't move or answer anything, and his father's scoldings and curses were so harsh, that they transformed him into a black dog called "Cadejos" that wanders forever, with a chain around its neck. The dog will follow any person that is straying from "the good path" by drinking and staying out late, and will not part from their side.
"La Segua" is another legend directed towards drunk and unfaithful men. "La Segua" was a beautiful woman during colonial times in the capital city of Cartago. She was in love with a Spanish officer who broke her heart and caused her terrible curse- to be transformed into a she-monster who haunts men that are riding alone in deserted paths. "La Segua" is a beautiful apparition of a woman, of porcelain-white skin, large black eyes and long, black hair. She asks the unsuspecting traveler, who is often drunk, for a ride on his horse, saying that she needs to see her ill mother. The rider lifts her up unto the saddle and pretty soon, he turns around to see the gorgeous woman turn into a hideous creature with the face of a horse's skull, burning red eyes, and large and menacing teeth!!! Women of course, were happy to tell this story, so that their husbands and boyfriends would think twice about sharing their saddle with a lovely woman.
Men weren't the only targets for the moral teachings of legends. Young women who had strayed from tradition and morality were also protagonists of some of the most famous legends in Costa Rica. "La llorona" is one of the most popular legends directed towards women. During colonial times, a pretty girl called Maria, lived in a small town by the Reventazon river. She fell in love with a good man but he had to go off in an expedition into the mountains, promising to marry her when he returned. Another man called Ximeno, who had come through the mule road from Panama, met Maria and fell in love with her. In a cold and rainy night, Maria's family decided to let Ximeno stay in their home, since he didn't have another place to go. That night, Maria gave in to Ximeno's caresses, and became pregnant. When she gave birth, she went crazy, and screaming "va a venir" (he's going to come- her fiance) she ran to the river and threw the baby in the torrent. People wandering near rivers sometimes hear the shrieks and lamentations of the unfortunate woman, who wants her baby back.
Another terribly sad and depressing story about young women who have babies out of wedlock, is the famous "Tulevieja." This creature wears an old "tule" or hat and is short and skinny; some say that it has the body of a chicken and large breasts that hang down. Regardless of the details, most will agree that she isn't a pretty sight...The "Tulevieja" was once a thirteen year-old girl who became pregnant, thus getting kicked out of her job and causing the anger of her parents. When she gave birth, she refused to breast-feed the baby, thus killing him. She was sent to Puntarenas by her parents (province by the coast), where she got sick and died only two weeks later. Because of the injustice that she committed, she's doomed to wander around houses, looking for children that she can breast-feed.
The popularity of these legends hasn't disappeared completely with modern times and new pastimes like T.V., the computer or Internet. Luckily, Costa Rican children are told these stories by their family or friends, especially in the countryside. As a young girl, I remember one day that my grandma scolded me for playing in the street late in the afternoon. She told me that if I didn't come into the house, the "Cadejos" would come and get me. I continued roller-skating outside, but I suddenly stopped when I felt something behind me... It was a black dog!!!! Even though it didn't drag a chain or it's eyes weren't red, I screamed and raced into the house. I never disobeyed my grandma about coming into the house again. Legends in Costa Rica or in any country are designed to pass on norms and "correct" behavior, thus accomplishing a cultural function. The "Cadejos" legend sure worked for me, and I'm sure that it did for many, many more people.