The myths and folktales of the Nicoya Peninsula
Costa Rica is a country full of legends, myths and folktales. Although people know some of these stories all over Costa Rica some of them are set right here on the Nicoya peninsula. In addition to being a valuable record of a culture’s history, they also serve as tales intended to check socially undesirable behavior.
There once lived a stunningly beautiful lady of Spanish-native heritage. Her jet black eyes, and long, cascading black hair offset her porcelain skin. Legend tells that the woman falled deeply in love with a Spanish naval officer, a colonist who tricked her into the kind of behavior that would be severely frowned upon by the family of a good catholic girl. After the silver tongued lothario disappeared the once beautiful, innocent, and good-natured girl became insane. A terrible curse befell her and she turned into a monster, destined to forever roam the streets at night and hellbent on exacting revenge on the kind of men that had ruined her life.
“La Segua” is said to pose as the beautiful lady she once was who lies in wait by the roadside for unsuspecting, drunken men returning home from a nights festivities. Unable to ignore her seductive charms they inevitably offer the beautiful damsel a ride on their horse. After which she reveals herself as a horrendous monster. With the skull of a horse, red eyes and leaving her victims butchered by the side of the road.
Have you ever walked home late at night after a few drinks and felt a presence trailing in your footsteps? In Guanacaste, if you feel someone is following you, you may well be attributed to the presence of a huge, black, goat-hooved dog with fiery bright red eyes and chains around it’s neck. Although this might sound sound awful, this creature, known as “El Cadejo” only follows drunken strangers home in order to ensure they get back safely. The Guanacaste version says it also appears at the windows of children who refuse to go to sleep.
The ox Cart Without the Oxen
Costa Rica was one of the few Spanish Colonies where the invaders where in charge to labor the land. One such fellow was named Pedro, however due to the cruelty he inflicted on native peoples the indigenous called him “El Malo” (the evil one).
It was time for Saint Isidro Labrador, a ceremony in which the priest blessed the workers and the Oxen carts. Pedro “El Malo” decided it might be fun to show up and torment the priest and the workers by stating that his oxen and cart where blessed by the Devil. He also attempted to drive his cart through the crowd of people and into the church. Unfortunately for Pedro the oxen resisted, and despite repeated lashings the beast wanted no part in this blasphemy. The priest forgave the oxen but placed a curse on Pedro and his cart saying “you will roam the streets alone with your ox cart for all eternity.” At that moment the ox broke away from the harness leaving Pedro standing alone.
Local legend states that ever since that day the ox cart of Pedro “El Malo” wanders the streets of Guanacaste causing fear and panic for anyone who witnesses it. The tale suggets anyone who sees or hears Pedro’s cart to cover their heads, make the sign of the cross and run for it is a sure sign that the devil is nearby.
Many years ago in a small Nicoyan peninsula village lived a local beauty named Maria. Her incredible allure attracted potential suitors from all over Costa Rica, all of trying unsuccessfully to win her hand in marriage. Unfortunately, this wealth of male attention went to her head. The men that sought her affections all fell way short of her expectation.
One day a suave young ranchero rode into town atop of a fine stallion. As she gazed upon this wealthy rancher she knew she’d finally met the man she’d been waiting for. The handsome cowboy reciprocated Maria´s feelings. They immediately fell deeply in love and married shortly after. At first things went swimmingly. Maria gave birth to two beautiful children and the happy young family lived a charmed life. However, as time went by the rancher yearned for his old life spent riding free on the prairies. He would leave Maria and the children alone for days at a time. His weekend jaunts turned into month long absences. He would return home only for brief periods where he would pay little attention to Maria and focus only on the children. The time eventually came when the man who Maria remained so in love with never returned.
How it all began:
Following a long period spent lamenting the loss of her husband Maria was about to abandon all hope. Then one day during a stroll by the river she spotted him riding his horse along the river bank. Upon seeing them he jumped down from his horse and ran to the children. As he left, Maria was overcome by despair and jealousy, and in a fit of rage seized her two children and threw them into the river. She immediately realized what she had done and plunged herself into the river to rescue them. The current was too strong and carried them downstream. The next morning the locals discovered their lifeless bodies. They concluded that Maria had also drowned herself.
Legend says that from night forward Maria’s ghost is frequently seen while she cries and screams whether anyone had “seen her children” by people visiting the river. These people call her “La llorona” which literally translates to “the weeping woman”.
Want to learn more about Costa Rica and it´s culture? Check our “Costa Rican Phrases” post.