In episode one of Espooky Tales, we covered the story of La Siguanaba. In order to not flood the podcast description in apps, we chose to do a more detailed blog post containing show notes and references. Here you can find what we used to create episode 1, enjoy!
La Siguanaba is a Central American mythological creature, she is known as La Siguanaba in El Salvador (sometimes spelled with a c) and Guatemala.
In Honduras she is known as La Cigua and in Costa Rica as Cegua. Her legend is also known in Mexico, but somehow has become tied/conflicted with la Macihuatli or X’tabay, which means Horse-Faced woman, which I believe are two different entities, but they are similar.
Depending on where you are, her story changes a bit. In El Salvador, she was originally called Sihuehuet, which means beautiful woman in Nahuatl (an indigineous people of El Salvador). Legend says she used her charms and with help from a bruja, she got the Nahuatl prince, Yeisun to marry her. Yeisun went to war and Sihuehuet took this time to have affairs, of these affairs, she birthed a child, known as el Cipitio (we’ll do another episode on him). El Cipitio’s father was a God called Lucero de la Manana (Lucifer Morningstar).
Now here the legend differs a little, some versions say that Tlaloc (father of Lucero de la manana) discovered that Sihuehuet would leave his grandson alone to meet with lovers and for that he cursed her, so that when she was first seen, she appeared to be beautiful but when she turned around, she became a horrible horse faced woman. She was cursed to wander the countryside, preying on mujeriegos, don juanes, also also known as man whores or players. Men would see her, often naked or in a see through gown, and follow her, then she would turn around and frighten these men to death with her face.
Other versions of the story say that Sihuehuet’s affair with el Lucero de la Manana was an insult to the god of Gods, Tlaloc. Sihuehuet decided to get help from a witch to poison Yeisun, take the throne and give it to el Lucero de La Manana and this was to take place during a festival type thing. So Yeisun drinks the poison, but it doesn’t go well and instead of dying, he turns into a giant two-headed monster and kills everyone in the festival, guards at the event eventually manage to kill the two-headed monster. Yeisun’s father finds out what happened to his son, and begs Tlaloc, the sun God or god of gods, to help him avenge his son. Now, Tlaloc is already out to get Lucero, so he takes this chance to do it. He turns Sihuehuet’s son, into what he becomes (won’t go into this because he’s gonna be a separate episode) and he condemns her to from then on, be la Siguanaba, which means hideous woman in Nahuatl. She will from then on, she will roam the countryside, usually found by a body of water (this differs based on the country).
- In guatemala she is always found by a barranco, or cliff, where she lures men to then heave them off the cliff.
When men look at her, they are supposed to die, but if they live, she will touch them and then they go insane. After they go insane, she leads them further away from where they saw her, causing them to lost forever.
A Guatemalan version of the legend says she was a young woman, who was forced to marry a man 40 years older than her and that man cursed her, turning her into la siguanaba
In most versions, in order to save themselves from la Siguanaba, men must bite their cross or medalla. In other versions, they have to pull her hair and that will scare her into running away. My favorite version is that a man must yell “no te vas a ir Maria, pata de gallina” 3 times, which in english is translated into You are not leaving, crabgrass Maria and these words will cause her to flee. I read another version of the legend, where a man must bite a machete to be rid of la siguanaba too.
For me, this along with other mythical or folkloric entities are rooted in misogyny. The belief that a woman can’t be trusted, and that although men cheat on women, a woman is punished for it (Sihuethuet and el Cipitio were punished for her acts, but what happened to el Lucero de la Manana), women are to be feared, women are vengeful.
I did find another version, by Dichos de un Bicho that I really liked. The blog post is in the show notes, but in this, Dichos de un Bicho says their mother told them this version and her mother told her this version and basically it was passed down from generation to generation. In this story, La Siguanaba is an ancestor, a spirit that is tied to rivers, she was an indigenous woman, wronged by men and her duty is to protect women and punish the men who wronged them. So instead of being this vengeful woman that is out to punish cheaters with her beauty, she is the spirit of rivers, and she protects the rivers and women and this is a beautiful powerful version of her.