10 Latin American Myths to Tell Around the Campfire

Two women talking in front of a campfire

Even if you don’t believe in the supernatural, you gotta admit that being shaken up by a good old-fashioned scary story or myth is unmatched. Feeling that chill running down your spine is super fun, especially when you share the experience with others. Scary stories are a big part of Latino culture as myths are passed from generation to generation and they’re a big part of our childhoods. We call them “leyendas” (legends) and here are 10 of the best ones to tell around the campfire:


Los Aluxes (The Elves) from Mexico

This image, generated by AI, illustrates the legend of Los Aluxes (The Elves) from Mexico

This image, generated by AI, illustrates the legend of Los Aluxes

In the Yucatán peninsula, the legends of the Aluxes are a big part of Mayan culture. Aluxes are spirits who look like tiny children who wear sandals and a hat, and they live inside caves. Interestingly, a dog usually joins them. They’re playful and naughty keepers of the forest who also protect farmers’ fields. Mexican farmers believe that Aluxes treat you as you treat them. If you enter their territory, you should be nice to them and offer them food. If you want Aluxes to take care of your crops and harvest, you should also build them a tiny house.

But some say that their mischievous nature eventually rears its ugly head, leading people to believe that after 7 years, you must seal the doors of the tiny house or they will start acting up against you. How do you know if they turned against you? Well, some of your most precious belongings go missing out of the blue or you’ll have uncontrollable nightmares and sleepwalk in the middle of the night. If you don’t do as the Aluxes expect upon encountering them, they might make you ill and delirious. Among the Mayans, this illness is known as “mal aire” (bad air), and the only cure is to visit a specialized healer. If you go to a regular doctor, they will get sick as well. At the end of the day, Aluxes aren’t bad spirits, they’re just fickle, like children, and they expect respect.

El Carruaje de la Muerte (The Carriage of Death) from Guatemala

This image, generated by AI, illustrates the legend of El Carruaje de la Muerte (The Carriage of Death) from Guatemala

This image, generated by AI, illustrates the legend of El Carruaje de la Muerte

According to Guatemalan myths, this is the legend of a black chariot led by black horses with fiery red eyes. People claim to have heard it charging down the streets of Guatemala City, as it seeks the souls of the dying. Don’t be fooled, though! Some say if you come across the carriage, you’re at risk of having your soul taken right then and there.

According to legend, the driver of the carriage is dressed entirely in black and has the power to make you pass out through eye contact alone. What’s more, the charge of the chariot rumbles loudly and clearly, but instead of hammering its wheels to the ground, it actually floats. Other versions of the myth say that the carriage parks itself in front of houses where people lie on their deathbeds, just waiting for them to take their final breaths. This is why Guatemalans go inside if they hear anything resembling the sound of a carriage, no questions asked.

La Tatuana (The Tatuana) from Guatemala

This image, generated by AI, illustrates the legend of La Tatuana (The Tatuana) from Guatemala

This image, generated by AI, illustrates the legend of La Tatuana

Unlike other scary stories or myths, “la Tatuana” isn’t a spirit or ghost. She’s believed to be a witch who was purchased as a slave by an old warlock during the Spanish Inquisition. He taught her all kinds of dark magic and tattooed a small ship on her arm, telling her that if she was ever caught only the ship would save her from the inquisitors. After a misunderstanding with some neighbors, they accused her of witchcraft, imprisoned her, and sentenced her to death.

Legends say that when La Tatuana was locked up, she lost her mind. When the day of her execution came, she made a final request for a piece of coal, candles, and white roses. With these things, she made an altar and drew a ship on the wall with the piece of coal. The drawing was identical to the ship she had tattooed on her arm. Very quietly, she spoke a few words, then boarded her black, chalky depiction of a ship, and disappeared! She was never seen or heard from again.

El Cadejo (The Dog with Red Eyes) from Guatemala, El Salvador, Honduras, and Mexico

\u200bThis image, generated by AI, illustrates the legend of El Cadejo (The Dog with Red Eyes) from Guatemala, El Salvador, Honduras, and Mexico

This image, generated by AI, illustrates the legend of El Cadejo

One of the most popular myths in Central America and Mexico is the legend of “El Cadejo.” According to the legend, there are two entities that share this name. The first Cadejo takes the shape of an evil wooly black dog with fiery red eyes and goat hooves, while the other Cadejo materializes as a noble and friendlier looking wooly white dog, also with goat hooves. The black Cadejo stays close to men who live a life of excess (including drunks or drifters). Once he clings to them, he licks their faces to prevent them from escaping their life situations and ultimately leads them to their death.

The white Cadejo on the other hand, is a protector of the weak. He takes care of women and children in the streets, protecting them from evil. The white Cadejo is the only hope for people haunted by the black Cadejo because they’re natural enemies and they will fight it out. Legends also say that El Cadejo cannot be seen, but if he stands guard for you, you’ll feel a presence around you and a strong rotten or sulfur smell.

La Niña de Negro (The Girl in Black) from Guatemala

\u200bThis image, generated by AI, illustrates the legend of La Ni\u00f1a de Negro The Girl in Black) from Guatemala

This image, generated by AI, illustrates the legend of La Niña de Negro

Since the early 1900s, an annual supernatural event repeated itself in the Guatemala City Cathedral: A mysterious, frail, and delicate young woman dressed in black appears with a look of anguish and concern. According to some, she also appears in the church of San Sebastian, which is also in the city center.

Her identity remains a mystery to most unless she decides to approach you after you’ve seen her. Stories say that she offers a gold chain to people who can see her and on that chain, there’s a piece of paper with her address written on it. This is already creepy, but get this: the address leads you straight to Guatemala City’s General Cemetery. That’s a no for us!

El Mohan (Bigfoot) from Colombia

This image, generated by AI, illustrates the legend of El Mohan (Bigfoot) from Colombia

This image, generated by AI, illustrates the legend of El Mohan

This is perhaps the most popular Colombian legend. Like many other legend creatures, there are two versions of “El Mohan.” Some stories say he appears as a robust man with golden skin and long hair, while others say he appears as a tall hairy creature with big hands and feet; very similar to Bigfoot. El Mohan lives near rivers in large caves with underground entrances. He’s mischievous, treacherous, and collects jewelry and gold that he uses to lure women.

Legends say that the women who follow him are never found or heard of again. In some parts of South America, it’s also said that El Mohan steals bait from local fishermen and scares away their potential catch, making their day-to-day job unbearable. When someone drowns in a river and their body is found, many suggest El Mohan is responsible. I don’t know about you, but there’s not enough gold in the world for us to follow this guy anywhere.

El Chupacabras (The Goatsucker) from Latin America and the Caribbean

This image, generated by AI, illustrates the legend of El Chupacabras (The Goatsucker) from Latin America and the Caribbean

This image, generated by AI, illustrates the legend of El Chupacabras

If you grew up in the 90’s, you probably remember hearing about the “Chupacabras” in mainstream media. It’s one of the scariest childhood stories and tales of the Chupacabras continue to creep us out. The name “Chupacabras” comes from the Spanish words “chupar” (to suck) and “cabra” (goat). This creature is said to be a four-foot-tall, bloodsucking, reptile-like creature with red eyes and sharp quills on its spine. Some stories say he resembles a wild, strange dog or kangaroo.

The first reported sighting of the Chupacabras was in Puerto Rico in 1995 when a local woman discovered dead livestock. The animals had strange puncture wounds and their blood had been fully drained. After this, reported sightings started popping up in other parts of Puerto Rico, the Dominican Republic, Bolivia, Chile, Argentina, Colombia, Honduras, El Salvador, Nicaragua, Panama, Peru, and Mexico. To this day, people believe that the scary stories of the Chupacabras are real.

La Siguanaba (The Siguanaba) from Guatemala, El Salvador, Costa Rica, and Nicaragua

\u200bThis image, generated by AI, illustrates the legend of La Siguanaba (The Siguanaba) from Guatemala, El Salvador, Costa Rica, and Nicaragua

This image, generated by AI, illustrates the legend of La Siguanaba

La Siguanaba is an important part of Central American myths and we can see why. This creature appears at night in isolated roads and ravines to traveling men who are unfaithful or are up to no good. To them, she appears as a beautiful woman with long hair, and she lures them to nearby cliffs only to push them to their death so she can take their souls.

Other scary stories say she appears close to bodies of water, where she bathes and brushes her hair using a gold comb. The men who stumble upon her are immediately bewitched by her beauty, but when they get closer, they realize she has the face of a horse with red eyes, wrinkled skin, and a terrifying laugh. In Guatemala in particular, you can find plenty of people who swear they’ve seen her wandering around.

El Sombrerón (The Man with the Big Hat) from Guatemala

This image, generated by AI, illustrates the legend of El Sombrer\u00f3n (The Man with the Big Hat) from Guatemala

This image, generated by AI, illustrates the legend of El Sombrerón

Legends say “El Sombrerón” is a short man dressed in black with boots, a thick belt, and a shiny buckle. He stands out for wearing a disproportionately large hat that covers his entire face. Creepy enough, but it gets worse. Legends say he roams the streets of Antigua, Guatemala, with four mules and a large guitar, but he has also been seen in other areas.

The stories say that he lures young, long-haired women by serenading them with his guitar and sweet singing voice. Women who fall for this classic frat boy act, get haunted by el Sombrerón, who keeps them from sleeping and eating as he tightly weaves long braids in their hair. The only way to get rid of this guy is to immediately cut your hair. So, you know, never play the guitar at night on the streets of Guatemala unless you want to creep everyone out.

La Llorona (The Wailing Woman) from Guatemala, Mexico, Colombia, Venezuela, and more

This image, generated by AI, illustrates the legend of La Llorona (The Wailing Woman) from Guatemala, Mexico, Colombia, Venezuela, and more

This image, generated by AI, illustrates the legend of La Llorona

“La Llorona” is one of the most well-known Latin American legends and the story varies a little depending on the country. In Mexico and Colombia, she was an indigenous woman who fell in love with a wealthy, married Spanish conquistador. While in Guatemala, she was a wealthy high-society woman. In Venezuela, her social status isn’t specified, but she’s a scorned woman who got cheated on by her husband. No matter how the stories change, each version has a few major elements in common. The main common element is that she was married and had two children.

Her husband either dies and she loses her wealth and the ability to support her children or he cheats on her and she loses her mind. Eventually, desperation makes her do the unthinkable: take her children to a river and drown them. When she realizes what she’s done, she spends nights wailing and crying for her children, until she can’t take it anymore and drowns herself. But here’s the kicker: her spirit stays around, still wailing for her kids. In some versions of the legend, she actually appears to married men as a beautiful woman and if they plan on cheating on their wives, she shows her true appearance as a drowned corpse and haunts them until they lose their minds. Yikes...

graphic design that highlights the image of Adela Velarde Pérez, an important figure in the Mexican revolution

You may be familiar with the famous “Adelitas,” known as the women who fought alongside men in the Mexican Revolution. But did you know there is a real woman behind this name?

Keep ReadingShow less
From left to right: LaToyia Figueroa, Natalee Holloway and Tamika Huston, all of whom went missing in 2004-2005.

A phenomenon known as "Missing White Woman Syndrome" has long plagued the media, referring to a tendency to sensationalize and disproportionately cover cases involving white women who are often also young, attractive, and middle-class.

Keep ReadingShow less