I’ve never been a fan of demons or ghosts. The thought of having the dead come back to life in an untouchable physical form only brings fear and shock to my stomach. They appear in spirit form, yet this is only told through many individuals’ experiences. Consequently, it is hard to provide credible proof that any monster occurrences are true. Hearing about evil spirits wandering at night and just standing there, and knowing it is possible for something lifeless to cause harm is quite unsettling. One of the most famous stories that terrified me as a child was El Catrin (The Gentleman). In Spanish culture, stories of The Gentleman have been passed down through generations as a lesson about cultural allegory for the man of many forms or as a good scare for children to become obedient. The story alters among traditions. However, it continues to live through generations, becoming memorable in one’s life. Although the purpose of El Catrin is to be used as a disciplinary tool, the story represents monsters as a cultural aspect through Jeffrey Cohen’s Seven Monster Theses and is a monster that is 3/4. He is definitely a monster whose origin stories are worth hearing if you are into fear. His fear factor is what makes him such a respectable monster.
A Catrín was a term popularized in Mexico’s “Porfiriato” that was used for men who would dress in an elegant manner and came from an upper class which could see on the bottom left of men dress formal. Posada mocks the style of elite men (Wikipedia) when the style of men was changed. These guys loved and were not afraid to show it off. Their outfits would normally include striped pants, a cane and a bowler hat (top hats were also worn). Catrines became a national icon thanks to the lotería game, which is like Bingo but with images and names. Have you ever spotted a mysterious figure in the middle of the night? As you approach it, you catch a glimpse of a tall dapper man wearing a pristine suit. However, there was something eerie about him. He asks you in a polite manner for directions to a nearby town that you might or might not be familiar with. Even if you doubted about helping this stranger at first, you showed him the route. He thanked you for your time and headed to his destination. “Who was he? Why was he wearing a suit?” you ask yourself as his shadow fades into the low-spirited darkness. You are not sure why, but you get the feeling you have just greeted an otherworldly being. A… monster. A… Devil. The Catrín has been seen walking on people’s rooftops, riding his horse in lonely roads, inviting townsfolk for a drink at his home, strolling through the fields of agave or just waiting in the cemetery for anyone willing to make a deal with him.
This demonic being was told by my grandparents a day when we were playing Loteria. My grandmother picked up the card of “EL CATRIN” (The gentlemen) and asked us if we knew who he was. My brother said Yes, it’s “El Catrin”. She responded by saying NO! With a straight face, she said i’s the devil. We knew at that point she wasn’t playing around because she never does. She sat down and told us the first time she saw him. It was after dark; they we’re coming back from picking up some flowers for a party they were hosting. It took them a while. She said it was a 2hr drive back and there weren’t any freeways like here in the U.S. it was a dirt road. My grandfather was driving, and my grandmother was sitting passenger side just having a conversation so the time could pass by. They noticed that it was getting dark and it really hard to see the road. They noticed a man well-dressed along the sidewalk trying to get their attention.
They thought it was odd because they wondered why a well-dressed man would be in the dark and that you don’t see that around here. They kept driving. They noticed that the gentlemen were always trying to get their attention again and again even more. This gave them chills because it also looked like they weren’t moving forward at all. Every time they saw him, his face would change into something sinister. At this point, my grandmother pulled out her rosary and said she started to pray with my grandfather until they didn’t see this disturbing figure anymore. Once the road was finished, it was clear to see and “El Catrin” was nowhere to be seen. Until this day, they said it was all real. I believe my grandparents because they’re not the type to be fooling around they’re a very catholic family. My uncles, aunts and cousins would always bring this story up to us. Till this day they said it’s real they seen it too.
“El Catrin” (The Gentlemen) meets the criteria of a lot of the monster theories that are stated by Cohen. Moreover, one of the better theories he meets the criteria of in my opinion is thesis 2. He represents the anxiety of the unfamiliar and if he is left to his own devices there is no telling what he can do with his divinity like strength and rule. Another reason to why he always escapes is because there has never been a single way to even stop the devil himself in the first place. Some may see this as a defect to a monster, but in my opinion, it fits very well with the intent behind the monster. You cannot stop the unknown, you can only ignore it by staying in bubble. Now on to thesis 3. Whenever “El Catrin” shows up, the crisis has already started. When the monster is in his torpor-like state, he can still affect the mind of people and make bizarre things happen, which makes people stop what they’re doing and go see him. By which then it’s too late. He doesn’t even have to physically intervene to cause a fear but once he does, then the fear prolongs. Thesis 7, I have been referencing him, what makes him the scariest is because you have no idea what he will do next, he brings back our fears of the unknown, and the monster itself can’t be scary, people see it his final form which he later reveals himself as the devil. We terrorize what our imagination makes of him.
With everything I have stated about “El Catrin” I have concluded and have no hesitation in my mind that he is a rating 3 outa 4-star rating monster. He represents our fear of the unknown, something we can never get away from no matter how hard we try. There’s no way to kill it, and no way to make it go away. Even if you think you are out of his grasp, he always has a way of showing back up. When I think of truly demonic, he is the first monster I think of because he is the one that makes you think about just how scary he is. Not only that, my grandparents were also the ones who told me this story, which made it scarier since they’re not the type to be telling scary stories. So, the next time you play Loteria, think twice when you pick up his card. Or if you find yourself driving at night and see a well-dressed man trying to get your attention, grab your rosary and start praying so he could go away if not your soul could become his………
Cohen, Jeffrey Jerome. “Monster Culture: Seven Theses.” From Monster Theory: Reading Culture. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1996. 3-25.