Get To Know Belizean Folklore

Macal River canoeing in San Ignacio, Cayo, Belize
Reading Time: 3 mins

Every country has its folk tales, some have more than others. And Belize’s diverse and vibrant cultures have contributed to one of the most unique and interesting mixes of folklore.

As a child, I recall spending Sunday evenings at my grandparents’ house listening to countless tales of old Belize. Stories that date back before Belize had radio and television. When rivers were the main form of transportation, men rode horses to work, and logwood and chicle extraction was the main livelihood of most Belizeans.

My grandmother was the storyteller; she really enjoyed telling her grandkids how different everything was when she was growing up. She didn’t only take pleasure in telling us about rural life, early Cayo days, the dense jungle and little Sacbe roads. She loved telling us about the folklore characters that were part of everyday life growing up in a small British colony.

Here are the most popular Belizean Maya, Creole and Mestizo folklores:

Tata Duende

Belize's Tata Duende
Tata Duende or El Duendito

Tata Duende translated English means grandfather demon. He is depicted as an old mischievous character that is very short, has backward feet, wears a tall pointy hat, and has both of his thumbs missing. If you ever encountered him, you couldn’t show him your hands since he’d cut off your thumbs. Parents also warned their children that if they skipped classes, Tata Duende would lure them into the jungle and they would never be seen again.

Tata Duende was blamed when weird things happened around the farm. I remember him being blamed once for destroying the neighbor’s crops. And once in a while, he would braid a horse’s hair and it would have to be cut off completely as it couldn’t loosen.

La Llorona

Belize's La Llorana
La Llorona

La Llorona translates to “weeping woman” in English. She is typically depicted as a tall and slender gorgeous woman with long black hair that reaches her waist. She was always at a distance and no one could ever see her face unless they caught up with her.

There are several variations of what she did; one of the most popular versions was that she lured children to rivers that were deep in the jungle, hoping that they got lost. Legend says that she lost her children near a river and she did the same to others as a way of revenge.

La Llorona was also known for luring young men that were on their way home late at night from bars. Young men were warned by their parents not to stay out late drinking since if La Llorona caught them, they would never be seen again. La Llorona would charm the drunken man into the forest and when they were far away from the town, she would show them her ugly and distorted face as she let off a shrieking cry. The men would either immediately die or fall terribly sick for weeks.

Sisemite or Sisimito

Belize's sisimite hairy monster
Sisimite or Big Foot?

The Sisemite or Sisimito is a tall hairy monster that may be the equivalent of America’s Big Foot. Usually depicted as a male, Sisemite lived in caves and survived by eating raw game meat. What he was most commonly known for was kidnapping young women and forcing them to live with him. His prisoners would then bare children for him.

The Sisemite was said to commonly roam the river banks at dusk, hunting for food and searching for victims. Therefore young women were always warned by their mothers to never stay too late at the river when they were washing clothes (a common practice in the old times).


There are several more mystical characters of Belizean folklore but the above are by far the most popular. As an adult I now look back at the fond times I had when my grandmother shared these eerie stories with me and my cousins – bless her for that.

Did you enjoy learning about Belizean folklore? And how about your culture, do you have any similar folklore characters?



Reader Interactions


  1. Steve Collins says

    Interesting to see the different folklore characters. One in particular stands out for me: La Llorona. There is a variation in New Mexico in which she lives near a river and tries to lure unsuspecting children.

    • Lorenzo Gonzalez says

      Indeed its interesting to see how these characters pop up in so many other cultures. It’s almost like they copied them from each other or maybe the are actually real and love to travel… 😉

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