El Hombrecito

Posted on December 1, 2013

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         The child, they said, was old enough to collect leña—kindling—from the rugged Chiapas hillsides and to mount and ride a burro. His peasant parents called him “hombrecito”—“little man”—and trusted him to care for the few chickens and goats that provided the family with sustenance. One moonless night, awakened by the barking of dogs, he crept past his sleeping brother and sisters to investigate the commotion. How long he was gone depends upon who is telling the story but the boy returned trembling and screaming about horrible, evil things out there in the dark.

         For weeks—months—he refused to leave the family’s tiny thatched hut after nightfall. Nor could he explain what the “horrible evil” was, only that it was there and he was mortally afraid of it. Finally his father, exasperated by the little hombrecito’s fear, took him out of the hut and up the hillside to prove to him that no horrible, evil things existed in the dark.

         Again the stories vary. Some say there was a flash of lightning, others the howls of wolves or the leap of a jaguar. The father, startled, turned, momentarily losing his grip on the boy’s hand.

         The boy vanished.

         The father spent the rest of the night and the days following calling and searching but the little homebrecito didn’t appear.

         At least not in human form.

Residents of that part of Chiapas still catch sight of his ghost. Many insist that it is important to heed his appearances because he foretells disasters and other horrible events: hurricanes, fires, contagious diseases. Or, more recently, criminal or drug dealer attacks.

First published in Mexconnect

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