If your child claims a goblin lives in their closet or underneath their bed. Do you believe them? A family in Argentina may be having second thoughts about that question after their three-year-old son disappeared and was found nearly drowned – actions they blamed on the Pombero, a legendary, sometimes invisible South American goblin reputed to kidnap children and commit other less dangerous acts of mischief. Why was a Pombero the leading suspect in the disappearance of a little boy dressed as Captain America?
"He never went very far from home. He does not know the mountain. He walked almost three kilometers, crossed seven wire fences and two mountains to get there. We found zigzag tracks in the mountain and this is not natural. We are sure that Sebastián The "Pomberito" kidnapped.” (Google translation)
Diario Epoca interviewed Mariela Escalante, a butcher shop owner in northeast Argentine province of Corriente, who claimed she was unloading cattle when her three-year-old son Sebastián put on his Captain America outfit, told he was going to look for the Captain, and headed to a nearby relative’s house. Instead of that imaginary adventure with a superhero, Sebastián allegedly had one with a local supervillain – the short, hairy-footed humanoid of Paraguayan mythology known as the Pombéro, Pomberito or Pÿragué ("hairy feet").
According to Diario El Libertador, the Guarani people of Paraguay, along with many other cultures in Argentina and Brazil, describe the Pombero as a small, ragged goblin who lives in the forest or in abandoned houses, walks at night, can become invisible at will, runs on all fours, imitates the songs of birds and the hiss of snakes, and performs many other mystical feats. While normally just a mischievous prankster, the Pombero is also blamed for kidnapping young women and occasionally impregnating them (the cause of unusually hairy babies). To keep a Pombero away, they will accept gifts and bribes of tobacco, rum, honey or other sweets – with enough offerings, Pombero are known to do good deeds in return, like guarding a house or pets and livestock … and keeping his hands off the unmarried women. And, of course, parents tell their young children that they should not go outside at siesta time because they can meet the Pombero and he’ll kidnap them.
"We are waiting for the priest to come to my house and give him a new baptismal blessing. We here believe that this being kidnapped my son."
Mariela Escalante believes a Pombero kidnapped Sebastián because her toddler never wandered off that far – 3 km is 1.8 miles – and his path was strangely zigzagged. (Although she admits he has wandered off before.) Sebastián was accompanied by his dog Morocho, whose barking alerted a woman who rescued the three-year-old from the lagoon he had fallen into. The other reason so many believed Sebastián met up with a Pombero is that this is not the first time it happened in the area – a few years ago, a girl named Seba was also kidnapped and fortunately returned alive.
Was little Sebastián kidnapped by a Pombero? Probably not. The mythical being comes from the Guaraní people, and historians believe it could have arisen from their conflicts with another indigenous culture – the Guaycurú. As in cultures around the world, old people, those with deformities or with mental illnesses often end up being feared rather than cared for. Children, negligent mothers and those who make mistakes they would rather keep hidden often take the easy way out and blame the mythological creatures … especially in cultures where the beliefs are still strong.
Just in case, maybe his mother should give Sebastián a cigar.