Since Halloween is just around the corner, I thought I’d share some of the folklore and legends that are told around Belize. There are a lot of different versions of these stories that have been told over generations, here are a few examples.

La X’tabai

One legend tells us of two women fighting over the same man. One of them, determined to win him, gave the other girl a potion that awakened her erotic desires so she shamelessly went into the arms of countless men. She eventually fled into the forest and took the form of the X’tabai who seduces men and sometimes kills them if they cannot satisfy her heightened sexual desires. So if you are ever seduced by X’tabai, you better hope you brought your “A” game.

La Llorona

From a Spanish word meaning “The Crying Woman”, La Llorona is described as being a slender, tall and very beautiful woman with very long black hair. Her face is always shrouded although it is believed to be misshapen and rather ugly.

La Llorona is said to be the spirit of a woman named Maria who drowned her children in the river as a sort of lover’s revenge. After realizing that her children were dead she drowned herself. Maria was challenged on the whereabouts of her children at the gates of heaven and was denied entry until she could locate them. Since then La Llorona wanders the river banks at night mourning the loss of her children by weeping and asking them for forgiveness. But that’s not all, she’s also looking for other children to drown in the river to take their place. The tale of the La Llorona is used by parents in Latin America to discourage their children from wandering out at night.

The Scary Sisemite


Legend has it that hairy male Sisemitos and female Sisemitas live deep in the caves of Belize. Their short, hairy figures made them appear closer to apes than modern men. They ate fruits and leaves just like apes, but they preferred the taste of human flesh.

A man would usually die within a month of looking a Sisemito in the eye. However, women were much luckier, as a Sisemito’s gaze would prolong her life if only she could escape. The male Sisemitos were known to abduct and rape women, while the female Sisemitas would molest and kill the men.

The Sisemito and Sisemita weren’t without weakness though. They were petrified of water and dogs. Smart Belizeans knew they could escape an attack by walking near a river or with a canine companion.

Tata Duende

One of the most popular folklore characters in Belize is Tata Duende. Tata is the Mayan word for “old man” or “grandfather” and Duende, Spanish for “dwarf.”

He is described as a short man, three feet in height, with an ugly old face, wearing a large red hat, often carrying a machete or knotted stick. He is also missing both thumbs, and his feet face backward to throw people off his trail

Tata Duende is the traditional guardian angel of all animals and people of the forest. A kind creature by nature, he is often said to feed, protect, and cure people that are hurt or lost in the forest. 

Most all Tata sightings occur at night when it is raining. When Tata is getting close, a whistling sound can be heard. If the sound is loud and close, have no fear, Tata is a trickster. It is time to worry only when the whistle is distant because that means he is actually close by.

Tata does not have thumbs, and this fuels his strong desire to steal anyone’s thumbs he encounters. The only way to stop him is to hide your thumbs in the palms of your hands as soon as you see him. If you are quick and hide your thumbs, Tata takes an immediate liking to you.

When Tata is irritated or annoyed, he can make anyone who sees him or is seen by him immobile, speechless, and fever-ridden for many days after their encounter. Tata’s mean streak comes out when anyone attempts to imitate his whistle.  He is also feared by hunters because if Tata sees them carrying a gun or a shovel in the forest on Fridays, he will chop off their heads and use them to decorate his own home.

So next time you hear a whistle in the jungle, we suggest hiding your thumbs and definitely don’t go hunting or carry a shovel on a Friday.

Happy Halloween!

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