Beyond mate and asado, Argentine traditions range the length and breadth of the country. Tango, empanadas and football are obvious Argentine reference points. Food, music and dance are part of the deeply-rooted traditions best known to the outside world, but many popular beliefs and stories are also taken for granted throughout the country, despite the lack of empirical evidence. These beliefs rely on word of mouth to transcend generations and social classes, and have their fair share of devotees. In this article, we will examine some of them – because believing, too, is an Argentine tradition.
El Pombero, the mythical goblin of Argentine tradition
Unlike other goblins which appear in popular Argentine myths, El Pombero is rarely spotted. As the image above illustrates, this mysterious being is said to have inverted feet, so its footprints cannot be traced. Those who claim to have seen El Pombero liken it to an upright capybara, standing on its hind legs. It is also noted for its eyes, flat like a toad, its extremely bushy eyebrows, and white teeth like piano keys in its giant mouth. El Pombero is known as the lord of the night, owner of the sun and the birds, and it is said that he goes out walking when it starts to get hot in Argentina, in October and November.
The history of this myth, part of Argentine traditions, tells of a grudge between El Pombero and a lumberjack in the Formosa province. Legend has it that it repeatedly took the lumberjack from his ranch in the middle of the night, bed and all, and left him in the middle of the mountainside. This went on until one night it beat the lumberjack until he was left paralyzed. The victim had a first and last name – Marco Gavasa – and he died in 1972. The story goes that El Pombero loves good children and hates naughty ones. If someone dares to imitate its whistle, it will drive them crazy by whistling back – although it can be driven away with garlic.
El Lobizón, another legend with many popular roots
When it comes to Argentine traditions, the legend of Lobizón, whose likeness is illustrated in this article, cannot be left out. Its origin, it is said, is in Mesopotamia, in the Argentine Northeast. The Lobizón is reportedly the seventh male child of its family, with six older male siblings.
The physical characteristics of this being, popular in the stories of Argentine tradition, are its great height, slenderness and abundance of hair. He has a difficult personality, and angers easily. Legend has it that the Lobizón turns into an animal when the moon is full, and it can only be killed by a bullet which has been blessed in three churches, by a cross-shaped knife or by using a flashlight with dead batteries.
Difunta (Deceased) Correa, a veneration
Not all Argentine legends and traditions concern masculine figures. Many people in the country venerate La Difunta Correa., by leaving bottles full of water for her in the sanctuaries, which are usually along the side of national routes.
Legend has it that in 1841, Deolinda Correa died of thirst in the province of San Juan, when she tried to flee from her husband’s captors. The belief is that, before she died, Deolinda asked God to keep her son alive, and that the miracle was granted: the baby was able to feed on her breasts until it was rescued.
The Luz mala (Evil Light)
This popular legend is perhaps one of the most deeply-rooted Argentine traditions. It is said that this myth was born on routes in the north of the country. The Evil Light is also known as Mandinga’s Lantern (another way of referring to the Devil).
According to those who believe in the Evil Light, it appears suddenly at night, on the roads between provinces, and dazzles everyone who lays eyes on it. In its glow, it is possible to see the souls of the dead which are still in pain.
While Argentine beliefs and traditions may vary throughout the national territory, the country as a whole is full of myths, stories and legends, of devotees and unbelievers. In Argentina there is a popular saying: “believe or burst.” That says it all!