While millions of children grew up fearing La Llorona or El Cucuy, my maternal grandparents Manolo and Margarita raised me to be afraid of the Zamacun monster.
The weird thing was not that I was afraid of an imaginary creature called Zamacun, but that I never knew or even asked what this monster really looked like.
Growing up, my grandparents made extensive use of Zamacun. He was helpful to them because I was a very hyperactive, rebellious kid who often drove them NUTS. At night, whenever my grandparents wanted me to stay away from the refrigerator, our dining room or my grandmother’s super secret guest room (she hid private stuff like gifts and jewelry there), all they had to do was to tell me that Zamacun was in the house and that was that. Zamacun was so effective that I think it contributed to why I would sleep in a cot next to my grandparents bed until I was 14.
Many years later, when I had my own children, I decided not to use Zamacun or monsters to help me parent my older kids Jonathan (now 12) or Elena (now 8). Oh, I would use monster stuff and weird sounds to give them a fun jolting scare here and there but it was always just for quick fun. From the time they were little I taught my older kids that God is bigger than monsters. My paternal grandmother Micaela, the one who directly helped me conquer my fear of monsters and ghosts, was fond of saying: “Be afraid of the living and not the dead.”
The legendary Zamacun was all but forgotten until just a few weeks ago when I decided to resurrect him to help me control my cute but decidedly rebellious three year old daughter Briani.
It happened at Disney, of all places. My wife, kids and I were at a conference in Orlando when a giant coral-looking character on stilts came walking to the pool area where Briani and my older kids were congregated. Briani was being her usual wild self until she noticed the coral-looking creature. In three years I had never seen her go more bonkers with fear. (Her teachers say she’s both fearless and defiant).
When I saw my terrified daughter, I had one immediate reaction. “ZAMACUN!,” I yelled at the creature from a distant.
My wife and kids were in the process of trying to calm Briani down about the coral monster when I discovered the historic opportunity to formally introduce this monster to Briani: “ZAMACUN!, ZAMACUN!,” I said to the creature as if that were his name. “ZAMACUN, GET BRIANI! GET HER, ZAMACUN!”
Briani was publicly shrieking with even more terror, my wife and kids were confused and the coral monster was probably saying inside his body suit, “What the heck is going on with this crazy dad?” but there I was, seemingly doing something most parents would never do but feeling completely justified that perhaps for Briani, a little Zamacun in her life was necessary.
Almost four decades after my own grandparents introduced me to to the faceless creature that helped keep me in check, I had presented Zamacun to my own little daughter and this time Zamacun actually has a face. I even have a photo to prove it.