La Patasola of South American Folklore
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"I'm more than the siren
I live alone in the world:
and no one can resist me
because I am the Patasola.
On the road, at home,
on the mountain and the river,
in the air and in the clouds
all that exists is mine."
— López, Javier Ocampo from Mitos, Leyendas Y Relatos Colombianos
7.96 billion—that's a recent estimate of how many humans are alive right now. But, no one really has a precise count of how many humans live on earth now or how many have ever lived here. I find that shocking. Think about what that means. We can't even get an accurate count of ourselves. How are we ever supposed to know everything there is to know about the universe, our own planet, or even a single continent? We don't even know what's happening right now, let alone everything that's happened in the entire history of the earth (around 4.5 billion years).
What am I getting at here?
I think you know where I'm going with this. Obviously, that means when I say there's an immortal one-legged woman called La Patasola living in the jungles of Colombia that loves devouring human flesh and drinking human blood, there is absolutely no way for anyone to prove me wrong. No one can even give me an accurate count of the people alive right now.
Pronunciation & Spelling of La Patasola
Learning what a word sounds like and how to pronounce it helps you retain it. It's a fact. This particular word is in Spanish, so if you know Spanish, it'll be easy. For all of the non-Spanish speakers out there, we have wonderful resources like Forvo's How to pronounce Patasola. You can click that link and hear a native speaker say the word "patasola."
Without diving into a complete lesson on the International Phonetic Alphabet and without clicking that link to hear a native speaker say the word, you can get a rough approximation of pronunciation by following along with these four syllables.
My pronunciation guide, approved by no one who speaks Spanish nor IPA:
The name La Patasola is Spanish. "La" is an article equivalent to "the" in English, and it's the feminine singular form of the articulos. "Patasola" derives from two Spanish words: "pata," meaning "leg," and "sola," meaning "only." Put "pata" and "sola" together, and you get "patasola," meaning "one leg." But, we're not talking about just any one leg here; we're talking about La Patasola, with proper capitalization—THE One Leg.
Therefore, putting together everything we've learned here, we know to call this woman, The One Leg, who will devour your flesh and drink your blood: La Patasola.
The Legend of La Patasola
La Patasola, the vengeful protector of the Andes, the destructive femme fatale of South American jungles, the hideous one-legged vampire driven by hatred—she's called a lot of things based on what she is now, but let's look at the legend of how La Patasola came to be.
Once upon a time, there was a beautiful woman named Maria. She provoked envy from women and desire from men. Eventually, Maria married a hard-working man named Henri. Henri's boss, Horacio, had a wife, but like every other man in town, he was jealous of Henri and wanted Maria for himself. Horacio couldn't stop himself from flirting with Maria, going out of his way to visit her and bring gifts to her and her children. Henri was surprised but only thought that Horacio was a kind man.
After some time, Maria began to flirt back with Horacio. She found him more charming than her husband, and the two fell in love. One day, Maria passionately kissed Horacio, but the two were seen by a woman in town who warned them against infidelity. It didn't matter, though, as temptation drew them both toward each other. Day by day, Maria succumbed more and more to her whims. She flirted more with Horacio, passionately kissed him every time she saw him, and started wearing tight clothes and makeup. Looking in the mirror, she was unrecognizable to herself; her own demons had taken over.
Poor Henri didn't suspect a thing at first, oblivious to the other man—his boss. But, after a few months, Maria's strange behavior and sudden change in looks made him think she was hiding something. Henri asked Maria about Horacio, and she couldn't help but blush while denying anything was going on between them.
Sometime later, Henri was working on Horacio's estate, and because he was such a diligent worker, Horacio's own wife let Henri go home early. He bought flowers for Maria on the way home. When Henri arrived at his house, he gently opened the door to surprise his wife. Henri heard strange sounds coming from upstairs, so he walked up to the second floor carrying the flowers. He entered the bedroom, only to find his wife Maria and his boss Horacio locked in the throes of passion. Stunned and angry, Henri watched, speechless for a moment, before grabbing a knife. Maria spotted him and began to beg forgiveness, but Henri took the knife and stabbed Horacio dead.
Maria knew she was next. She took off down the stairs but tripped and fell, tumbling down. Maria sat at the bottom of the stairs, begging for forgiveness and telling Henri that she was happy with him. Henri followed her and decided not to kill her. Instead, he took the knife and cut off one of her legs. He left Maria and went to fetch their children, deciding that he should kill them. Was it revenge? Spite? Madness he was feeling? Henri picked up the kids from school, told them Maria was sick, and took them back home. He poisoned them, bringing them in front of Maria and waking her as they died so she could watch. Henri, not yet done, retrieved his gun. He pointed it at his head and said, "You were the most beautiful lie in my life," then pulled the trigger. His skull blew up into pieces and all over the room and Maria.
No one in town heard a thing, and it was weeks before anyone thought to check on the family. Maria, though mutilated, survived by feeding on the human blood of her family, though her soul left her. She became a demon, forgot her own name and history, and only thought of one thing—revenge. La Patasola, as they call her now, roams the forests, luring men out alone in the jungle, where she kills them and drinks their blood.
This is an abbreviated version of the story of La Patasola that I found from Andrea Vera in Colombia. If you'd like to read the full version translated into English, check it out here—La Patasola: The Transformation of a Woman Victim of the Cholera of Love. There are some oddities in the translation, but a huge thank you to Andrea Vera for making this available for free to English speakers.
According to some accounts, the story may originate in the region of Tolima in Colombia. Folklore like this usually doesn't trace back to such a specific region, so there may be some real-life events from a town in Tolima that inspired the legend. Or, perhaps it is entirely real, and La Patasola is stalking the jungles, seeking revenge. I'm not ruling anything out.
La Patasola now inhabits mountain ranges and dense forests, and at the edges of these places, at night, she lures males deep into the wilds to kill them. During the day, she occupies herself by making trouble for travelers: blocking shortcuts, disorienting hunters with strange noises, and throwing dogs off scent trails. She's said to be a protector of nature, the forest, and animals, and she's unforgiving toward humans who enter her domain and hurt the natural environment.
Variations & Other Names
Stories of La Patasola, even if some minor details vary, all proclaim her to be a scorned, unfaithful, or otherwise evil woman. She's been described as a mother who killed her own son, a wicked temptress of men, and a cheating wife. In all variations, men seek revenge on her for being "bad" and mutilate her by chopping off her leg while killing her.
La Patasola shares similarities with other tales of South America: La Sayona of Venezuela, La Tunda of the Chocó department of Western Colombia, and even Matlacihua and La Llorona of Mexico. In many ways, she most resembles stories of vengeful ghosts around the world, which often come from tales of women who were disfigured by an attack, then killed by men.
What exactly does all of this mean? Why are there so many tales with similarities? While researching La Patasola, I discovered that many legends from South America are said to have a moral lesson embedded in them. So, what moral lesson is this precisely? The obvious one is that being an "evil" woman will get you mutilated and murdered. But, based on my research, it seems it's more of a tale about how men should be wary of seductive women. Scratching below the superficial, though, I see another one. Taking revenge by murder will cause you, all of your descendants, and maybe an entire continent to be cursed for eternity.
Relevant & Related
- If you read Spanish, or if you are learning Spanish, check out La Patasola by Beatriz Caballero, Iván Cardozo, Esmeralda Pinzon.
- A film titled The Curse of La Patasola was just released (2022), and it has pretty mixed reviews. Some have called it the worst movie of 2022. We don't often get movies about South American vampire creatures, so check it out for yourself. The film is available on most major streaming sites, and you can see the movie trailer here. If you give it a watch, let me know what you think.
- La Patasola isn't the only one-legged legend: The Monopod, or The One-Legged Man with a Giant Foot To Block the Sun
- For those who read Spanish: Mitos, Leyendas Y Relatos Colombianos by Javier Ocampo López. Javier Ocampo López is a Colombian historian, writer, folklorist, and professor, with many books about stories of South America. Someone really should translate his works into other languages.