The Frightening Folklore of ‘El Cucuy’by Cherlyn Gardner Strong on Jun. 27, 2010, under General Paranormal, Life, Monsters, Paranormal
No one knows what “El Cucuy” looks like.
What we do know is that El Cucuy is some sort of a gobbling goblin with an appetite for children who fail to obey authority. This goblin, ghost, monster, or whatever he may be, will eat you if you don’t listen to your parents.
I remember the first time I was issued a warning about El Cucuy. During a sleepover at a cousin’s house, decades ago, my cousin told me that I better get to sleep. If I didn’t, El Cucuy was going to get us. What was this El Cucuy? My cousin said it was a monster his mom told him about. He didn’t know what it looked like, but he did relay that it had big razor sharp teeth and liked to eat misbehaving children. Misbehaving, in our case, would be to not go to sleep as instructed by his mom.
The fright in his eyes relayed a certain urgency that made the story believable. The story was so believable that I was too scared to sleep. However, I did outsmart El Cucuy by faking that I was asleep until I finally passed out. From that day forward, I did go to sleep when I was told.
I was one of the many countless Mexican-American children frightened into obeying authority, due to the fear of this monster. At least the Tooth Fairy offered some sort of monetary reward if you went to sleep. Santa Claus would bring gifts, but only if you slumbered.
Not El Cucuy, he meant business. The only reward you would get would be the gift of life. Fair enough.
Around the time that I realized that there was no Santa Claus or Tooth Fairy (around 7 years old), I also realized that there was no El Cucuy. El Cucuy is an effective threat, which has been used as a last resort by frustrated parents for many centuries. El Cucuy (known in different regions as Coco Cuco, Coca, or Cuca) is the equivalent to the bogeyman. The bogeyman is thought to have originated in Scotland.
No matter where you come from, there’s some variant of this monster. Belgium’s version of the bogeyman is Oude Rode Ogen (Old Red Eyes). In Iceland, Grýla takes the form of a female troll who performs the same disciplinary function as all the others.
El Cucuy did his job during my formative years and did get me on a regular sleep cycle. For that, I am grateful to this horrid mythical creature.
This threat is still utilized by parents today, even if they won’t openly admit to it. At a recent outing to a movie, I passed by a small child who had just noticed a scary movie poster. His eyes became as wide as saucers. Pointing to the poster, he gasped two words to his friend: El Cucuy!