On December 27, 2010, I interviewed a long time friend, and fairy believer, Lili Noemi Castillo via chat, regarding her supernatural encounters with duendes (a generic Spanish term for fairies/elves) during her childhood. I have known about these stories for quite some time, for Lili was my family’s nanny when I was growing up. I decided that as a folklorist, I had to officially record her experience. Lili claims that her stories are 100% real, and that she did not make them up; she tells me these stories as vividly as she remembers.
She and her family lived in the province of Tocache, a rural undeveloped community in the region of San Martin, located in the upper part of the Peruvian Amazon rainforest. Lili tells us about two incidents that happened in 1987 when she was 7 years old. “It happened every time my little sister felt asleep under a banana plant, especially in the afternoon,” says Lili, referring to Iris Castillo, who was four years old at the time. Every time, she would wake up crying and complain that someone was pinching her, and of course, no one was. One time, she woke up, and immediately stood up in a bench and flapped her arms as if wanting to fly, however, the most terrifying occasion happened when the duende actually tried to take Iris. “She was crying a lot, saying someone was taking her. It looked as if someone was pulling her hands, but we didn’t see anything,” says Lili. She said that her little sister described the entity as an old man. When I asked her how her family managed to get rid of it, she told me that they used garlic or placed culantro on the eyes (not to be confused with cilantro, though both herbs are cousins) because the smell drives away the duendes. Additionally, she tells me of another method involving painting the face black.
The second story told by Lili is much more detailed, involving a face-to-face encounter with a duende. When she was seven, everyday about 3P.M., she and her younger sister Iris would accompany their mom to their chacra (farming ground) within the dense vegetation of the forest to feed their ducks, turkeys, etc, but one day was different, as she narrates:
“Me and Iris would play around and climb trees and pick their fruits. One day, I found myself alone up in a mango tree. I became bored and decided to climb down. That’s when I saw it behind the banana plant. I hid, thinking it was my little sister and wanting to scare her. I saw her from the back. She was naked and had long blonde hair down to its butt crack. ‘What was my little sister doing naked?’ I thought. I got closer, and I pulled her hair, and then I laughed because I quickly hid behind a plant. That’s when I noticed that she wasn’t my sister. I wanted to see its face to know whether it was a boy or a girl, and what it was doing in my chacra, but every time I tried to look, it hid. Then, I saw it—hideous with an old man’s face. I laughed because he was so ugly, and he got angry and grumbled. He was small and had rotten teeth, and I then noticed he had no feet. He was floating. I quickly turned around at the shock, but when I turned back he wasn’t there anymore. I looked for him because I wanted to ask him about his feet but didn’t find him.”Cross-referring Lili’s story with Amazonian folk belief, there is an entity with matching characteristics. The chullachaqui is an Amazonian duende that presents itself to people that are alone, or walking through the forest, and that at first glance is not recognizable due to the fact that they generally appear transformed as a person who one knows. Additionally, it has also shown to have child-like qualities, and people who have had the chance to see him say that it’s shaped like a small human (1 to 1.5 meters tall). Few have managed to see its face because it is covered or seen from behind, but those who have claim that it has a big nose, is a bit hairy, and wrinkled like an old man. Surprisingly, the reason why it is called chullachaqui is because in Quechua, the main indigenous language of the Andes, chulla means false, and chaqui means feet.  Though the reason behind the name is because they say the entity has one human leg and an animal one, and not, as in Lili’s description, because it lacks feet, however, the concept of “false feet” is still relevant.
1. Victor Velásquez Zea, “El Duende del Bosque y la cosmovisión forestal,” Monografias.com, http://www.lib.umd.edu/guides/citing_chicnotes.html