Demon Dogs & Other Tales
Those walking back home at night in Xela a little tipsy after one-too-many cuba libres will almost certainly encounter a street dog or two (or ten) on their stumble home, usually to be found devouring mountains of rubbish bags piled up high on street corners. Just about any encounter with these shaggy animals on the streets at night can feel like a scene straight-out of a horror movie, especially when they look up from their garbage gourmet to stare at you with their frenzied eyes, reflecting the lights of the streets above.
However, according to Guatemalan legend there is one dog in particular (or rather two, to be precise) that those wondering the streets at night need to be wary of. Its name is El Cadejo. Legend goes that it is a spirit that roams the streets of Guatemala (and also El Salvador, Belize, Nicaragua, Costa Rica, Honduras & Southern Mexico – he gets around) at night, taking the form of a shaggy dog with fiery eyes and goat´s hooves. It has a particular affinity with drunken people, although those under the influence need to be wary (a lot to ask I know) as El Cadejo takes two forms.
The first is the white Cadejo, and there are no prizes for guessing that this one is the good one. This incarnation will guard inebriated people against those who try to rob or hurt them, including against its doppelganger: the black Cadejo. Some say that the black Cadejo is an incarnation of the devil himself that can freeze anyone with its gaze and will attack and kill unsuspecting victims on sight. According to legend, many have tried to vanquish the black Cadejo, but have failed and perished – so we would recommend, well, running (or stumbling) if you happen to encounter him on the streets of Xela.
Regardless of which form the Cadejo takes, remember not to let it lick your face as it is said that the dog will haunt you for eternity if it does. So those with a penchant for kissing stray dogs may want to put that habit to rest whilst walking the streets of Guatemala at night.
The Cadejo is not the only creature of the night to be found on your travels in Guatemala. Whilst in the jungle, watch out for the Mico Brujo – monkeys that were supposedly witches in the past who vomited their souls into wooden containers and now pass the rest of time jumping from tree-to-tree throwing fruits at unsuspecting passers-by and playing other pranks. They certainly sound more agreeable than the black Cadejo and I would personally take an encounter with them over regular monkeys any day – having fruit thrown at you is much more agreeable than faeces, a favourite projectile of many of the monkeys in the forests here.
And finally, there is the bittersweet tale of the Jilguerillo birds, who used to be a beautiful young lady called Jilgue who had the voice of a songbird. She was sought after by a cruel warrior called Batsu, who wanted to make her his wife but she ran away into the forest to escape her fate. Batsu ordered to forest burned and told Jilgue she had to leave or be burned alive, but Jilgue said that she preferred death. Over the charred remains of her body a little brown bird rose which carried the voice of Jilgue. Since then one can still hear the sweet songs of the Jilguerillo birds whilst walking through the forests of Guatemala.