Saturday, May 3, 2008

Be Good or Else

Most New Mexicans have heard the story of La Llorona—“the weeping woman,” the ditch witch, the mysterious ghost who’s said to wander this state’s arroyos crying for the children she once purposefully drowned. Many people believe she really exists, most probably don’t, but nearly all are in agreement that telling stories of her seems to be a fairly effective method for scaring young children out of playing in ditches.

Another, although lesser-known, New Mexico figure of this sort is El Abuelo—“the grandfather,” the bogeyman. Known with variations as El Ag├╝elo, El Cuco, El Coco, El Cucuye, and so forth, the idea of El Abuelo undoubtedly originated as part of the traditional, masked Matachines dances performed annually in so many rural New Mexico villages and pueblos—dances incorporating Native American dance steps and European costumes, music, and history. At these events, the aggressive but clownish figure of the dancing Abuelo can seem especially frightening to young children, with a power that seems to extend far beyond the dance; he appears, as folklorist Thomas J. Steele wrote in 2001, to somehow have “a life outside the theater.”

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Be Good or Else - My Strange NM - My Strange New Mexico

I know this character as the Coco Man. I used to hear my brother in law tell my nephew of him when he was a little boy.

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