October 2011 Issue
Aside from the story of La Llorona, La Lechuza is one of the most popular folktales heard all throughout Texas and Mexico, particularly in the Chicano and Mexican communities. Unlike La Llorona, many know the story of La Lechuza all too well and have claimed to have encountered this mythical creature. La Lechuza is a large owl–like bird that some say has the face of an elderly woman. It torments individuals by whistling while perched directly outside of their home, flying in front of their vehicles while driving, scratching at the exterior of their home and banging on their windows and doors. Legend has it that La Lechuza is either a bruja/o that shape-shifts into the bird or is sent by a bruja/o to pay a visit to spite someone they hold a grudge against. It is said that some people have gone insane from the torment brought on by La Lechuza.
In a very small South Texas town, population only 306, everyone knew each other but were not necessarily fond of each other. Gossip traveled faster than the blink of an eye. Everyone knew that my Wela was dating Jose who was only 24 years old, the same age as my mother. Jose’s mother, Yolanda, was not very thrilled with the fact that her son was dating my Wela who was 25 years his elder. In fact, Yolanda despised my Wela because she was dating her son. Yolanda was known around town to practice brujería. My Wela mentioned to my mother that whenever Jose spent the night, they had to sleep with the lights on because he would hear voices telling him to kill her and she also mentioned that he reassured her that he would never do such a thing.
Dusk was setting in and the breeze was gently blowing on a cool South Texas Winter day. As I sat out on the wooden porch with my mother, little sister and Wela, we heard a whistle and noticed an enormous owl-like bird perched on the telephone pole at the edge of our property. My mother advised me and my sister not to look directly at it. My Wela mouthed the word “Lechuza” to my mother. They rushed me and my sister inside the house, closed all of the curtains and tried to disregard it the best they could. Around this time my Wela was encountering La Lechuza on a daily basis.
We were catching a flight to Houston in the morning and went to bed early that night. I slept beside my Wela on a bed of blankets and pillows on the living room floor. It was around 9:30 p.m. and everyone was asleep in the house except for my mother, who was finally drifting off to sleep until she heard a woman singing outside, “la la la laaa…la la la laaa….la la la laaa”, like something out of a Nightmare on Elm Street movie. She looked outside and didn’t see anyone, so she ignored it as she had to get an early start in the morning.
In the middle of the night my mother was awakened by a growling noise and thought to herself, “What now?” She went to the long, dark hallway and turned on the light. The light shone into the living room only slightly. My mother noticed that the growling noise was coming from my Wela who was levitating in mid-air like nothing she had ever seen before or since. It looked as though something was pulling her up by her chest. My mother ran into the living room and frantically yelled “Amá!” and turned on the light, just then Wela fell to the floor. She sat up and asked in a state of confusion, “Que esta pasando?” She had no recollection of what had just happened to her.
My mother looked out the front window, she saw a shadow of what appeared to be a woman near the trash cans, by the dirt road in front of the house. Not knowing what to do, they began to hold hands and pray. Feeling unsafe and horrified at the events that were taking place, my mother called her boyfriend who was only walking distance away, but did not give him an explanation as to what was happening. As my mother’s boyfriend walked into the house he told her, “How did you get inside so fast and why didn’t you wait for me?” My mother was puzzled and asked him, “What do you mean?” He replied, “I just saw you out by the trash cans in the road.” Neither my mother or Wela had been outside. He saw the same figure in the darkness that my mother did when she peered out the window.
My Wela was fed up with being tormented by La Lechuza and whatever brujería that was being done to her. One day while watching Walter Mercado on Primer Impacto, he said to drive away La Lechuza and evil occurences that one would need to put out a lit cigarette in the middle of a glass of wine.
Walter Mercado was right, when was he ever wrong? It seemed to have worked because she never saw La Lechuza again after taking Walter’s advice. Wela continued dating Jose for a few more months afterwards, but of course they kept the lights on when they slept, just to be on the safe side.