Thursday, July 25, 2019

La Malacosa -- A Texas Legend of High Strangeness

The journey of Cabeza de Vaca
Texas weirdness stretches from the latest UFO sighting to the most ancient of enigmas. One obscure account in particular, from nearly five centuries ago, still causes heads to scratch even now. Just what exactly visited one local tribe in the 16th Century? Was it man, demon, or something more out of this world?

According to chronicles published in 1542, Spanish Conquistador Álvar Núñez Cabeza de Vaca and his beleaguered retinue encountered Native Americans known as Avavares (a Caddoan people) living in South Texas who told him of a visit from a short, bearded entity they received 15 years prior to The Spaniard’s arrival in 1534 .

So vague was their impression of the being, the tribesmen weren't sure if it was even a man, a woman, or what. Sometimes the stranger would attend the tribe's ceremonies dressed as one of their men, and other times he wore women's garments. It was as if he either didn't know the distinction or simply didn't care. While at these festivals, the interloper neither ate nor drank anything. When asked where he came from, the odd man would simply point enigmatically to a hole in the ground and simply respond "from down below."

In Cabeza de Vaca's account, the entity is referred to as La Malacosa, a Spanish compound word for "the bad thing." It's not clear if the Spanish translated a local term as La Malacosa or if this was simply how they described this seemingly monstrous entity. And his actions can indeed be described as such.

The Avavares recounted how La Malacosa would visit their homes at night brandishing a hot firebrand, grab whomever he wished, and slice their sides open. He would then reach into the gaping wound and excise a section of entrails that he would then toss into the fire. He then made three cuts in one of their arms and then another elsewhere. He then dislocated the victims arm before resetting it once more. Strangest of all, when La Malacosa placed his hands on their wounds, the closed immediately. The stranger was also prone to sending their dwellings high into the air and letting them crash to the ground.

The Spaniards didn't believe this tale, brushing it all off as a folk legend. The tribal leader with whom they spoke though took them to others in the village who verified these events transpired just as described. Was La Malacosa a demon from the depths of hell or an alien from a subterranean base? Perhaps a time traveler? A traveler from elsewhere in the world who predated Spanish contact? Maybe La Malacosa was simply a strange encounter with an ordinary man that turned into a fantastic tale as it crossed barriers of language, culture, and time.

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