Belizean Folklore: The Legends of Belize
Folk Tales of Belize
From a local term meaning “Gradfather Demon”, Tata Duende is a wizened old man who is very short, has backwards feet, and has just four fingers on each hand. Tata Duende always wears a tall hat and is used as a bogeyman in Belize, a figure to scare misbehaving children with threats of being kidnapped and taken into the jungle to be lost forever.
In Belize, Tata Duende is also a scapegoat, blamed for crop failures and other mishaps. He’s also a bit of a mischievous figure, occasionally pulling odd pranks like braiding horse’s hair in knots that can never be untied and have to be cut out.
Sometimes known as Sisimito, the creature is Belize’s local version of Big Foot or the Sasquatch. Usually described as a male creature, Sisemite is supposed to live in the extensive cave network in Belize and survives on consuming raw meat from jungle animals that he hunts. Unique to this version of Big Foot, Sisimito is commonly rumored to have a fondness for human women, kidnapping them and taking them to his cave lair, which he then impregnates to create new Sisimitos.
Sisemite is most commonly seen along river banks at dusk. Traditionally, women were warned to finish up their laundry duties at the riverside in order to avoid falling into Sisimito’s clutches.
From a Spanish word meaning “The Crying Woman”, La Llorona is described as being a svelte, tall and very beautiful woman with very long black hair. Her face is always shrouded although it is believed to be misshapen and ugly.
Different areas of Belize have different origin stories for La Llorona. One such tale is that her mission is to lure children into the jungle, tricking them until they get lost and can never find their way back home again. The legend states that she originally was a normal woman whose children got lost in the jungle and so now she exacts her revenge on other children in an attempt to quench her grief.
Another tale involving La Llorona depicts her as a siren, luring healthy young men into the jungle after they’ve had a few drinks at the bar. Parents would counsel their sons never to stay out too late drinking for fear that La Llorona would lure them to their doom. Once they’ve followed her deep in the forest, La Llorona reveals her hideous visage, followed by a loud piercing scream. The benighted victim would then die immediately or be severely weakened and suffer from strange debilitating illnesses for weeks.