It’s no secret Belize is the epitome of the ubiquitous ‘melting pot,’ but what many don’t know are the traditions and urban legends that keep Belize’s cultures alive generation after generation. Every culture and its people are made up of the stories that become them, and the Maya, Mestizo, Creole and others in Belize are no exception. Here are some of Belize’s folkloric ‘creatures’ that have plagued our ears since we were children.
- Tata Duende. Translating loosely to demon grandfather, this curious creature is said to be the guardian of the forest. Many woodcutters have sworn encounters with this four-foot-tall dwarf with ‘backwards feet.’ Donning a large straw hat and no thumbs, El Duende lives in the forest and if spotted, you should hide your thumbs so he won’t harm you. Others claim you can tell when he’s nearby when you hear some far-off whistling or when you hear a guitar playing at night.
- Anansi. More of a Caribbean folktale than Belize’s, bra (brother) Anansi is a clever spider that is known for his quick wit and ability to manipulate folks. Many of the children’s stories about Anansi tell of him sweet talking his way out of situations or stealing something without being caught. Whenever someone calls you ‘Anansi,’ they more than likely are referring to your ability of being a silver-tongue talker that can get away with anything.
- La Xtabai (ish-ta-bai). An enchanting seductress, it is said this mythical creature is compared to a goddess with beautiful features and long, silky black hair. Often used as a scare tactic for misbehaving children or husbands, the legend goes La Xtabai lures drunk men to her Ceiba tree where if they try to leave, are cursed with a fever for days before eventually dying. Some have claimed she has a goat foot instead of actual feet, while others swear she can shapeshift into a prickly tree or snake. Though there’s no set origin for this tale, it’s one of the more unique ones in Belize.
- La Llorona. By far the most ‘popular’ one, La Llorona (weeping woman) is another folktale shared among Latin countries. Though her origin story varies, the consensus seems to be that she drowned her children in a fit of rage at her unfaithful husband, and now roams the earth wailing her regrets and looking for revenge. Many have claimed to hear the Llorona’s cries around three a.m., often heard underneath a specific type of tree in certain rural villages. Her cascading, dark hair and white dress is how she is often described. They say she lures intoxicated men into the river where she subsequently drowns them.
Whether some of these folk tales are true or not, they undoubtedly make up the backbone of the cultures in Belize. To learn more about cultures in Belize, email us at firstname.lastname@example.org or call us toll free at 1-800-624-0686.
Illustrations from “Characters & Caricatures in Belizean Folklore”