Wednesday, December 22, 2010
Yesterday I mentioned a book by Alberto Vuletín on the name places of La Pampa province, Argentina, just north of the Patagonian border (marked by the Colorado River). Besides hairy snakes, the book also mentions another strange creature, the Chueiquehuecú.
There is a place close in the Capital Department of the province of La Pampa, known as Monte Chué, which is the abbreviated form for the Copse of the Chueiquehuecú.
This being is described as a "Fabulous animal" also known as "Chué" or "Chuel", that " lives permanently in the water or in very humid places. They believe that it harms those that swim and that sometimes it can be seen roaming the shady forests.
According to historian Rodolfo Casamiquela , the name is not a Mapuche word but perhaps of the Northern Tehuleche natives, and its meaning is unknown.
The Mapuche occupied the region after the 1600s, displacing and absorbing the original inhabitants of Tehuelche origin. The Tehuelche in turn occupied the whole of Eastern Patagonia, and part of the Pampas prairies, from Tierra del Fuego (where they were known as Selk'nam) to Buenos Aires (they were named Pampas in that area). The Mapuche, after the Spanish displaced them from their homeland in Chile, crossed the Andes into Argentina and imposed their culture and language on the Tehuelche groups and also on other natives of Neuquén province of Huarpid origin (the Pehuenches, Pichunches and Manzaneros).
If the word is of Tehuelche origin, is is indeed ancient and predates any possible myths introduced by the Mapuche.
Chel or Chuel
On the other hand, another publication , referring to a Patagonian town named Choele Choel, set on the Negro River (which got its name from a large fertile island in the river), says that the words Choele and Choel may not be Mapuche; but if they were, the name is surely spelt incorrectly. It goes on to state that the closest similar word for "Choel" is: "Chel" a Mapuche word meaning "frightening or terrifying being".
You can read about the evil connotations given to the word "Chel" in my post on the Tachwull dwarves, related to evil spirits known as "chelule" or "sechu".
A word which, as we can see is a mystery in itself: is it Tehuelche or Mapuche?
Either way, its connotation is evil and inspires fear.
The Huallipen "sheep-calf"
However, Vuletín in another book  says that the Chueiqhehuecu is no other than the Mapuche myhtical beast, the "huallepéñ", which is definitively a Mapuche beast (see my post on Huallipen, the "sheep - calf"), which is an agile and dangerous aquatic beast that attacks people and animals fiercely.
So, here we have a creature that is common to two native groups and has a distinctive name in each culture: Chueiquehuecu (Tehuelche) and Huallipen (Mapuche).
But you may have noticed that the name of the monster ends with the word "huecu", this, according to Chilean folklorist Vicuñ Cifuentes, is a "terrible", "ugly", "aquatic [being] that lives in shallow and solitary lakes", an "amphibian" that drags its victims under water with horse and all. It is found in Chile.
Its horse dragging abilities are similar to those of the Gurufilu fox-snake.
The animal seems to have quite a wide range, from Chile to Northern Patagonia. What it is though, will remain a mystery.
 Alberto Vuletín, (1972). La Pampa, Grafías y etimologías toponímicas aborígenes. B. Aires, Eudeba. pp. 142.
 Rodolfo Casamiquela, (1968). Geonimia: obra mapa de La Pampa., Biblioteca Pampeana, pp. 22.
 Alberto Vuletín (1982), Huecuvumapu. Gardenia, pp. 45.
 Vicuña Cifuentes, (1947), Mitos y Supersticiones, Nascimiento. pp. 53+.
 Boletín de la Academia Nacional de la Historia, Vol. 34. 1963, pp.798.
Patagonian Monsters - Cryptozoology, Myths & legends in Patagonia2010 International Year of Biodiversity Copyright 2009-2010 by Austin Whittall ©