Art: ModoGráfico

Nothing truly dies when you live in the jungle. Materias—the common name given to sensitive people with a gift for spiritism and capable of perceiving what we can’t explain—can tell you about how we still share this world with the violent ghosts of the Spanish conquest and the primitive and terrible gods that natives still revere and fear.

A tropical landscape of jungle spirits and timeless beings made of night and rainwater.

Although the world seeks progress upon the foundation of its historical facts, America—trapped in a maze of wonder and terror—still walks hand in hand with its myths. Lezama Lima tells us the continent’s discovery forced men to question all their beliefs. The entire continent became a temporal fog where anything was possible. That was the first night in the world and Venezuela was a great chasm of darkness. And what’s the jungle, but different layers of night? Isn’t the sea a black plain where small ships fish what they can before dawn?

And this is why, in towns decimated by malaria, infested with drug traffickers and illegal miners, supernatural laws are still observed: if you want to avenge a murder, you make the victim carry the name of his killer in his mouth so he can haunt him. If the river overflows to the point of swallowing nearby villages, it’s because it seeks to wipe away all the damage done by the miners who lived there.When nobody chronicles what happens at the edge of reason, it’s the dead who keep our memory.

Hybrid and interstitial, the imaginary monsters of our country’s eastern region are a dense overtone where the animal, the ancestral and the human conjoin in a crucible that still inhabits and intertwines with nature.

Here, in this first release with our eyes fixed on the East, some jungle spirits, tropical and timeless beings made of night and rainwater.

El Chaure (Anzoátegui)

“¡Nos cargó er diablo! ¡Es el Chaure, primo!”

El Chaure is a bad omen in almost the entire Venezuelan coast. It’s a bird that, although beautiful, is always unnerving due to its night habits. According to the elders, it’s a harbinger of death, suffering or childbirth. Its hooting can be chased away with insults. If a Chaure follows you across a beach, you may not see the dawn.

The Seven-Headed Serpent (Bolívar)

“Is this splash normal? Or is it doomsday-by-snake?”

Legend has it that beneath the middle stone, in the Orinoco river, dwells a seven-headed serpent, each head lying under places surrounding the historic center. It is said that if the serpent were to move all its seven heads, the city would sink into the river. Already in the early 20th century, there were myths of shipwrecks and people going missing around the stone due to the serpent, because the monster dragged into the depths anything that came near the place. It was last spotted in 1985 by several inhabitants of the port who saw it stir the waters and cause large waves across the river.

Los Canaimas (Amazonas)

“Don’t disturb the waters, kiddo, don’t whistle in front of the river or you’ll end up at the bottom of it”

Pemon children don’t go out after sundown. Their mothers call for them and scold them if they see them playing so late, more so if they’re near a river or at the fringes of a swamp where Canaimas crawl. These amphibious creatures, with enormous eyes and deft, webbed hands, hunt in packs, with shrill whistles to single out the prey for their peers. They drag everything they catch into the water and devour it without even disturbing the surface.

Los Chinamitos (Margarita)

“Remember to keep the wasted salt in a little sack, remember to curse the shadows, and Los Chinamitos will remember to let you be”

Small shadow children who dwell in beaches and open fields. They confound people, steal their valuables and scare kids by projecting their silhouettes in the light of flashlights, cell phones or candles. Their playful laughter is a hollow echo in coastal nights and their empty eyes watch travellers from the trees. They always appear in groups and some inhabit abandoned houses.

El Carey (Sucre)

“Is that a human face coming out of that giant turtle’s belly?

A monstrous turtle that sinks boats, dragging them far from the coast. It initially appears beautiful and beckoning, making fishers go wild about catching it. It shows itself early in the morning when the first boats set out to fish. When the fishermen already have it in their boat and gloat over the capture, they realize that the lower part of the armored carapace shows the relief of a human face, as if a man’s head had been trapped within it. Some say they’ve heard a voice trying to speak from within, others say they’ve only heard unintelligible whispers. When the horrified fishermen throw the creature back into the water, they see how it grows from within the depths of the sea and starts to attack the boat until it’s reduced to splinters. Other legends say that anyone who kills a Carey becomes one himself.

Ghost Herd (El Tigre)

Nowadays we are all part of the Devil’s herd.

No, we’re not talking about the one the government is supposedly raising in the fields to provide the country with milk and meat. We’re talking about the Devil’s herd grazing near El Tigre, causing delays for vehicles or making them lose their way and cows crossing the field without mooing or rumbling, like a spectral procession. People have also spotted horses or mules blocking the roads, making drivers lose control and then realize, with a glance back, that there was nothing there. They can be picked out from normal cows or horses by looking them in the eye because these apparitions are blind, a pale and pasty film covers their eyes with pus and crusts. Still, they move as if they’ve always known where to go or as if an invisible something or someone was shepherding them.

Mapinguari (Delta Amacuro)

Do.Not.Be.Afraid.Of.The.Gentle.Monster

We share this monster with Brazil, a huge, heavy and furry beast spotted in the depths of the jungle. Cryptozoology says that perhaps we’re in the presence of a megatherium (giant ground-sloth) that has survived extinction. Natives respect and worship them, they allow no one to hunt them or do them harm.

 

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Mérida-based writer, who won the Monte Ávila Editores Contest for Unpublished Authors in 2014 with my book «La Coleccionista». Some of my poems are part of the poetry anthology «Amanecimos Sobre la Palabra, Antología de Poesía Joven y Reciente Venezolana» (2016). 'm interested in writing chronicles and make investigative journalism focused on the west side of the country.

32 COMMENTS

  1. Well, I was having a good chuckle until the Ghost Herd part.

    Dammit! I have listened to norteamericano gringos singing about the Ghost Herd all my life, and they are not prone to myths and fantasies. Gotta be something to it:

  2. A few years ago I went fishing on an oxbow off of the Orinoco River on the North bank near Soledad. We had fished most of the day, and in the evening went back up the bank to fix supper at our campsite. After dinner, our small group grew thirsty, but realized that we had left the cooler of beer down the steep bank where we had been fishing, so I went down to retrieve the beer. As it was dark, and the rest of the group was awaiting refreshment up on the bank, I began to imitate the howl of a wolf. (I am not aware of any wolves or coyotes in Venezuela) When I got back with the beer, the Vaquiano was scared out of his his wits and wanted to leave post-haste. When asked what was bothering him, he told us of a 100 meter long anaconda with seven heads which lived in the river, he had heard the anaconda howling. I told him that there was no anaconda, that was me. But he wouldn’t take this for an answer, even when I repeated the wolf howls. We couldn’t get him to go back fishing the next day. although that night he did help us drink the beer.

    • My wife’s family honestly believed in ghosts and other ghouls that go bump in the night. My wife was/is absolutely terrified and she is a physician! She still makes me get out of bed and close her closet door if she forgets to close it.

      We can’t sleep with the windows open when at the cabin (Minnesota), because she hears “beasts” with fangs and claws and such. I did shine a flashlight on one of these fearsome monsters once. It had beady black eyes and a nasty looking pointy snout and looked like a dirty mop. I’ve been told these man-eaters are all over the place…

        • Funny story. Once I went outside the cabin to “investigate” a sound for Mrs. Guapo. I warned the kids ahead of time about the prank ahead, so they wouldn’t freak out. I grabbed the flashlight, and out the door I went. I found nothing… but that didn’t matter…

          I started screaming and yelling for help. My kids played along, and started screaming “DAD! DAD!” My wife… ran up the stairs and hid in the closet and SCREAMED HER FOOL HEAD OFF for about a minute until I came in and settled her down. Boy oh boy was she PISSED OFF for the next 24 hours. No sex for me.

          • It’s at those times that I learn new Venezuelan words and colloquialisms. Who knew there were so many ways to say “ASSHOLE!”?

      • Guapo, obviously a north woods Bigfoot. Next trip just take some JackLinks beef jerky to throw to him and you will be fast friends (according to the commercials)!

      • ElGuapo: As an expert on Minnesota monsters I can verify that your description exactly fits the dreaded county-property-tax-auditors that sneak around and use those fangs to suck the prosperity from our very souls.

        • We call these vile things, “Lakeshore Management” in our neck of the woods. They hiss and slink and make a noise like, “Your boathouse is 4 inches too tall”, and “your setback is too close to the setback”.

          • Just invite them on a one way ice fishing trip……Ensure the ice house has a directv antenna on top. The rest takes care of itself….

  3. Here in Anzoátegui, if a woman is menstruating and touches one of your plants, look out, that sucker is doomed.

    People can look at a plant the wrong way, and it dies…..something of the “evil eye” from what I can tell.

    Most businesses have an auyama sitting on the counter. The exact reason I’ve never been able to understand though it’s been explained to me a number of times by multiple persons.

    Oh, and during the rainy season, if you have hens on eggs, put some charcoal with the eggs and it protects them from thunder. Otherwise they won’t hatch.

    I’m sure I’ll think of more.

  4. My uncle when young was a rural doctor in the andean mountains , once he was called urgently to attend to a dying man , the man died despite his ministrations and he left the wailing family in the dead mans bedchamber and started walking alone out of the house to continue his rounds , as he approached the zaguan (enthrance corridor) he saw that at each side of the zaguan there was a hooded monk standing absolutely still holding a candle , he shut his eyes tight and rushed to the end of the zaguan to the outside , once outdoor he turned his eyes to the zaguan and it was empty !! he swore to the truth of this tale to his end of his life…….!!

  5. Great Ven. tourism concept: instead of “Tales From The Crypyto-Currency” (with valuable contributions by CC writers), “Tales From The Crypt”, with visits to haunted locales, including “La Tumba”.

  6. I can’t believe anyone actually read this whole thing. And isn’t embarrassed to admit it.

    VZ is officially Haiti now with this ridiculous nonsense.

    Talk about a STUPID!!!

    • And this is only Part ONE of this worthless crap?

      Am I supposed to “respect” it because it’s part of the culture?

      No thanks.

    • Ira, you would be surprised. I have met some extremely educated people (Ph.D, MD) in my 54 years, and they INSIST that ghosts and demons are real. I was in Galicia, Spain about 10 years ago, and some very educated young men confessed to how afraid they were of ghosts.

      I don’t, but I was at one time sure of it after I saw the movie Poltergeist years ago… every sound was “proof”. Of course, I am afraid (logically) of clowns.

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