El Coco – The Artist Formerly Known as El Cucuy

You’ve had a great run, lady. 

Let’s talk pure evil.

For those of you not in the know, El Cucuy (El Coco) is the Latino boogeyman. Not, like, he has leopard seat covers and wears gold chains, but he terrorizes young Latin children everywhere. He pretty much embodies all the evil in this world and the next. If you weren’t a good little boy or girl, El Cucuy would come to your bed and eat your heart or tickle your little feet. You decide which one is worse.

I considered myself a good kid. I got into fights and stuff, but I’m not hardly as bad as my 6 year old brother is now. My lil bro beat a kid in a foot race and celebrated by head-butting him in the chest. When I heard that story I didn’t know whether to be mad or really happy that I’ll have an insane brother at my disposal when we’re both older.

I didn’t like sleeping in my own bed. That’s mostly because I do what I want, but also because my parents were comfy to sleep on. I was necio (stubborn), and my mom needed to figure out a way to make me stay in bed. One night, I was laying in bed with my door open. My parents insisted on the door being open, but it freaked me out. I couldn’t sleep, and I would whine to my mom from down the hall.

¡MAAAAAA, no quiero dormir solo!” (Ma, I don’t want to sleep alone!)

::silence:: (en SAP that’s silencio)



Because I wouldn’t shut up and go to sleep, my mom decided that it was time to play on my debilitating fear of El Cucuy. It worked before. Why not now? Mother had taught me about El Cucuy from an early age. I wouldn’t want to brush my teeth. “El Cucuy te va comer, Daguito.” (The Cucuy is going to eat you, Little Dago.) Then, I’d do it.

Honestly, I’d never actually heard or seen El Cucuy. Also, no other kids talked about El Cucuy because, well, you don’t speak about such unpleasantries when you’re 5 or 6. Also, we had no reference material to be able to discern what was Cucuyish behavior. There’s no text! It’s all hearsay!

Anyway, my mom’s meowing became louder and louder. The Cucuy was about to enter my room and suck my guts straight out of my belly with his Cucu-straw. I pulled my sheets over my head and just started crying. This couldn’t be the Cucuy, I thought. That’s my mom. Oh, my God. WHAT IF HE GOT TO MOM AND DAD FIRST? WHAT? I’M DEAD!

Then, it stopped. El Cucuy was gone. My mom stopped after she probably realized how dumb she looked meowing down the hall at a 6 year old and that maybe scaring a kid isn’t the best way to get him to sleep. At some point, I fell asleep that night. I don’t know when or how, but I managed the strength to get over my traumatic, near-death experience.

To this day, I still can’t sleep with the door open.

The other night, at a bar, one of my co-workers who’s also Salvadoran and I discussed the odd truth that, no matter how reasonable and rational we may be as human beings, there will always be a mysticism and fear of spirits in us instilled by our parents and traditions brought here from the old country. No matter how much I hate El Cucuy, and how it informs my irrational fear of spirits, ghosts, and demons. I recognize it as part of being who I am culturally and individually. It’s kinda cool. I feel like sometimes I’m bonded to people, no matter what, by El Cucuy… and tacos.

So, here’s to you Cucuy, wherever you are.

Oh, crap, behind you.


(left to right: Mom, Stockholm Syndrome Survivor)
(left to right: Mom, El Cucuy Attack Survivor)