Author Archives: Alex Aroeste

La India Dormida – A Panamanian Legend

“The youngest daughter of the chief of the native Guaymies tribe was a warrior girl. She was a simple girl who fought against the Spanish invaders. And then, she fell in love with one of the Spanish guys. So she left the tribe to visit him one day and one of the warriors of her tribe who loved her, knowing that his love was not going to be returned, killed himself by throwing himself from the top of a mountain. And then, the daughter of the chief tried not to betray her tribe, so she said no to the love of the Spanish soldier, and while crying, she got lost in the forest and laid down and died. Where she laid down and died became the mountain we know today. It is named after her and looks like her as well.”

According to the informant, the La India Dormida (translates to The Sleeping Native Woman) story is meant to explain how a famous mountain received its shape and name. It is intended to be a tragedy, as the young woman in the story was forced to abandon her true love and eventually ended up dying alone. The mountain is nearby an important highway in Panama, so many Panamanians see it often and are quite familiar with it.

The informant, Jonathan Castro, is a 21-year-old student from Panama. Because until recently, he had spent his entrie life in Panama, he believes that he is well informed in Panamanian folklore. Jonathan explains that because he drove by the mountain so many times as a child, his curiousity about it eventually compelled him to ask his mother about it during a car ride. It is then that she told him the story of the mountain and the tragedy behind it. To Jonathan, the story is a peek into what life was like for the native Panamanians during the Spanish invasion. It was clearly a difficult period for them, and this story only reflects their hardship.

In the United States, it is uncommon for the general public to hear tradtional creation stories about how our nation’s natural formations were made. This contrasts drastically from Panama, where stories like this are much more common. Although it is difficult to say why this difference exists, a likely explanation concerns the American emphasis on science and the reasoning derived from it. The average American would probably look at the mountain and try to find a scientific reason for why the mountain is shaped in such an interesting way. This doesn’t appear to be the case in Panama, however, as people seem to have the need to have an explanation for the shape that comes in narrative form.

Getting “Rick Rolled”

On sites like YouTube, it has been customary to “Rick Roll” someone who is looking for specific content/video. Often, when someone is searching for something of interest online, it is common to click on a seemingly relevant link to instead find the music video for Rick Astley’s 1987 song “Never Gonna Give You Up” playing. Even though this prank is harmless, it tends to be incredibly frustrating for its victims, as they are left feeling deceived and without whatever it is they were looking for. For the pranksters who are uploading these videos intentionally, this prank is quite entertaining because it allows them to feel that they have tricked a complete stranger.

The informant, Ian, is a 21-year-old university student who considers himself a gamer and internet enthusiast. He was first introduced to this phenomenon in the 9th grade after attempting to find a video he had been looking for on YouTube. He admits that while it can be frustrating to fall victim to it, it is still highly entertaining because it is so unexpected. He also enjoys how silly the video seems compared to today’s music videos. To him, the trend is interesting because it represents the randomness of and complete lack of control over the internet.

This phenomenon is fascinating because of its unpredictable nature. In American society, people tend to value completely understanding their actions and being able to predict their consequences. It is because of this that these videos are so disconcerting. We are so used to being able to easily find what we are looking for that it is genuinely surprising when something completely irrelevant shows up instead.

The relevant video can be found here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oHg5SJYRHA0

Chain Emails

Chain emails are emails that are sent to several recipients so that more people eventually receive the message. They appear while individuals are checking their inboxes. Often, these emails contain messages contain requests asking recipients to forward the email to others. These can manifest in many ways. For example, one may offer a funny joke and ask that it be shared with the recipient’s friends. Others threaten recipients with bad luck unless they share the story included with someone else. Some may even offer monetary rewards in return for passing the email along.

The informant, Ian, is a 21-year-old university student who considers himself a gamer and internet enthusiast. Ian initially received one of these emails soon after creating his first email account while in middle school. He feels that most of these emails are frustrating scams, since they often ask for private information and the email addresses of others so that the senders can have more victims to spam. He was taught this idea by his parents, who had been using email accounts for much longer than he had. Over time, Ian has programmed the junk inbox in his email account to detect and delete these messages, since they are impossible to predict and completely avoid.

This phenomenon is fascinating because it represents a negative aspect of the internet that we have become accustomed to. Because so many of us have come to expect these emails, we have learned to simply accept them as an unavoidable nuisance, even though the true intentions of the senders can be quite nefarious in nature. The internet is not that old, so it is interesting to see that so many have accepted its unpleasant features without attacking their sources head on in order to end them.

Examples of Email Chains can be seen here: http://www.units.miamioh.edu/psybersite/cyberspace/folklore/examples.shtml

Imler, Dan, Ben Nagy, TaraLyn Riordan, and Asmeret Tekeste-Green. “Examples of Chain Letters.” Folklore and the Internet. Miami University, 11 Mar. 2014. Web. 24 Apr. 2016.

The “Trollface”

The “trollface” is a popular image that can be found online. It is meant to represent the face an internet “troll”, or prankster, makes after playing a prank on another. The image often appears on an online discussion when an individual intentionally interrupts the flow of the conversation by mischievously misdirecting the original poster. The image usually follows one of these situations, indicating that a trick has been pulled. Sometimes, the image includes intentionally misspelled words or grammatical errors in order to frustrate readers even more. Because of the negative connotation surrounding it, the image can be frustrating for those who had been taking the conversation seriously.

The informant, Ian, is a 21-year-old university student who considers himself a gamer and internet enthusiast. The image has a special place in his heart, as it is one of the first internet memes that he encountered in his younger years. He learned about the image after seeing it posted in the popular comedy website ebaumsworld.com, where many similar humorous images and videos are posted. For Ian, this image in particular is entertaining because it represents the triviality of the many arguments that internet posters have. He argues that after coming across so many useless and childish arguments that people on the internet have, it is refreshing to see someone mess with them with a quick joke and the posting of the image.

What is interesting about this image is the fact a simple image that used to be insignificant has gathered much connotation and meaning. Even though the image was posted by a single individual, thousands of people came together online to assign a definition and purpose to it. Because of this, the image should be considered a strong indicator of the collaborative nature of the internet.

 

trollface

Oyfn Pripetshik – Yiddish Song

Oyfn pripetchik brent a fayerl,

Un in shtub iz heys,

Un der rebe lernt kleyne kinderlekh,

Dem alef-beys.
Zet zhe kinderlekh, gedenkt zhe, tayere,

Vos ir lernt do;

Zogt zhe nokh a mol un take nokh a mol:

Kometsalef: o!

Lernt, kinder, mit groys kheyshek,

Azoy zog ikh aykh on;

Ver s’vet gikher fun aykh kenen ivre –

Der bakumt a fon.

Lernt, kinder, hot nit moyre,

Yeder onheyb iz shver;

Gliklekh der vos hot gelernt toyre,

Tsi darf der mentsh nokh mer?

Ir vet, kinder, elter vern,

Vet ir aleyn farshteyn,

Vifl in di oysyes lign trern,

Un vi fil geveyn.

Az ir vet, kinder, dem goles shlepn,

Oysgemutshet zayn,

Zolt ir fun di oysyes koyekh shepn,

Kukt in zey arayn!!!

 

English Translation:

On the stove, a fire burns,

And in the house it is warm.

And the rabbi is teaching little children,

The alphabet.

See, children, remember, dear ones,

What you learn here;

Repeat and repeat yet again,

Kometsalef: o!”

Learn, children, with great enthusiasm.

So I instruct you;

He among you who learns Hebrew pronunciation faster –

He will receive a flag.

Learn children, don’t be afraid,

Every beginning is hard;

Lucky is the one has learned Torah,

What more does a person need?

When you grow older, children,

You will understand by yourselves,

How many tears lie in these letters,

And how much lament.

When you, children, will bear the Exile,

And will be exhausted,

May you derive strength from these letters,

Look in at them!

The song Oyfn Pripetshik (translates to above the stove) is a traditional Yiddish/Jewish song that is usually taught by teachers to their juvenile students in their kindergarden class. The song is about a rabbi teaching the alef bet (the hebrew alphabet) to his young students. Because of its simplistic tune and lyrics, the song is often used to teach students Yiddish grammar and vocabulary. Interestingly, the song also contains a lyrical reference to the many struggles that Jews have struggled throughout history in the lyrics “When you grow older, children, You will understand by yourselves, How many tears lie in these letters, And how much lament”.

The informant, Reyna Babani, is a 71-year-old Mexican Jew who lives in Mexico City. Because she grew up in such a close knit community, Reyna considers herself an expert on Jewish culture. She was taught the song as a young girl in a Yiddish elementary school in Mexico City. She has a strong emotional connection to this song, as it was an easy way for her to connect with her immigrant grandparents. They did not speak much Spanish, and she was the only grandchild who spoke Yiddish, so they very much liked it when she sang to them in their native language.

This song is noteworthy because it seems to be an attempt by the elders of the Mexican-Jewish community to encourage children to embrace their Jewish identity. Even though this school was in Mexico, children were taught several Yiddish songs and were even instructed in how to speak the language itself. This goal to have children stay connected to their roots seems to have worked, as Reyna’s learning of the song left her feeling encouraged to spend more time with her grandparents.

 

Zog Nit Keynmol – Yiddish Song

Original Yiddishזאָג ניט קיין מאָל, אַז דו גייסט דעם לעצטן וועג,
כאָטש הימלען בלײַענע פֿאַרשטעלן בלויע טעג.
קומען וועט נאָך אונדזער אויסגעבענקטע שעה –
ס׳וועט אַ פּויק טאָן אונדזער טראָט: מיר זײַנען דאָ!פֿון גרינעם פּאַלמענלאַנד ביז ווײַסן לאַנד פֿון שניי,
מיר קומען אָן מיט אונדזער פּײַן, מיט אונדזער וויי,
און וווּ געפֿאַלן ס׳איז אַ שפּריץ פֿון אונדזער בלוט,
שפּראָצן וועט דאָרט אונדזער גבֿורה, אונדזער מוט!ס׳וועט די מאָרגנזון באַגילדן אונדז דעם הײַנט,
און דער נעכטן וועט פֿאַרשווינדן מיט דעם פֿײַנט,
נאָר אויב פֿאַרזאַמען וועט די זון אין דער קאַיאָר –
ווי אַ פּאַראָל זאָל גיין דאָס ליד פֿון דור צו דור.

דאָס ליד געשריבן איז מיט בלוט, און ניט מיט בלײַ,
ס׳איז ניט קיין לידל פֿון אַ פֿויגל אויף דער פֿרײַ,
דאָס האָט אַ פֿאָלק צווישן פֿאַלנדיקע ווענט
דאָס ליד געזונגען מיט נאַגאַנעס אין די הענט.

טאָ זאָג ניט קיין מאָל, אַז דו גייסט דעם לעצטן וועג,
כאָטש הימלען בלײַענע פֿאַרשטעלן בלויע טעג.
קומען וועט נאָך אונדזער אויסגעבענקטע שעה –
ס׳וועט אַ פּויק טאָן אונדזער טראָט: מיר זײַנען דאָ

Zog nit keyn mol, az du geyst dem letstn veg,
Himlen blayene farshteln bloye teg.
Kumen vet nokh undzer oysgebenkte sho,
S’vet a poyk ton undzer trot: mir zaynen do!

Fun grinem palmenland biz vaysn land fun shney,
Mir kumen on mit undzer payn, mit undzer vey,
Un vu gefaln s’iz a shprits fun undzer blut,
Shprotsn vet dort undzer gvure, undzer mut!

S’vet di morgnzun bagildn undz dem haynt,
Un der nekhtn vet farshvindn mit dem faynt,
Nor oyb farzamen vet di zun in der kayor –
Vi a parol zol geyn dos lid fun dor tsu dor.

Dos lid geshribn iz mit blut, un nit mit blay,
S’iz nit keyn lidl fun a faygl oyf der fray,
Dos hot a folk tsvishn falndike vent
Dos lid gezungen mit naganes in di hent.

To zog nit keyn mol, az du geyst dem letstn veg,
Himlen blayene farshteln bloye teg.
Kumen vet nokh undzer oysgebenkte sho –
S’vet a poyk ton undzer trot: mir zaynen do!

 

English Translation

Never say this is the final road for you,
Though leaden skies may cover over days of blue.
As the hour that we longed for is so near,
Our step beats out the message: we are here!

From lands so green with palms to lands all white with snow.
We shall be coming with our anguish and our woe,
And where a spurt of our blood fell on the earth,
There our courage and our spirit have rebirth!

The early morning sun will brighten our day,
And yesterday with our foe will fade away,
But if the sun delays and in the east remains –
This song as motto generations must remain.

This song was written with our blood and not with lead,
It’s not a little tune that birds sing overhead,
This song a people sang amid collapsing walls,
With pistols in hand they heeded to the call.

Therefore never say the road now ends for you,
Though leaden skies may cover over days of blue.
As the hour that we longed for is so near,
Our step beats out the message: we are here!

Zog Nit Keynmol (translates to Never Say, also known as Hymn of the Partisans), is a traditional Yiddish/Jewish song that is considered to be one of the main anthems of the Jews that managed to survive the Holocaust. It was written during WWII by a Jewish prisoner of the Vilna Ghetto, after which it quickly became a symbol of resistance agaisnt the Nazi occupation. Sang to the tune of a traditional military march, the over time came to symbolize the memories of those lost during the war. It is often sung at annual Holocaust memorial ceremonies.

The informant, Reyna Babani, is a 71-year-old Mexican Jew who lives in Mexico City. Because she grew up in such a close-knit community, Reyna considers herself an expert on Jewish culture. She was taught the song as a young girl in a Yiddish elementary school in Mexico City. Beginning at the age of 13, all students were made to participate in a yearly Holocaust memorial ceremony. Because of this, at that age Reyna quickly became familiar with the song and the heartache that was associated it. Although the song was considered quite sad, she insists that it also had a hopeful tone, as the lyrics called for courage and strength during difficult times.

Songs like this are great indicators of what life was like for Jews after the war. Clearly, they were very distraught over what had occurred. But somehow, they managed to stay positive and move on through the inspiring songs sung by the youth. It appears that children like Reyna were instrumental in keeping Jewish communities alive and strong.

“It is better to have tuchus than sechel” – Yiddish Phrase

“Es mejor tener tuchus que sechel”

Phonetics: “Ez meˈxoɾ teˈneɾ ˈtuʧus ke seˈʧel”

Translation: It is better to have a bottom (understood as persistence) than a brain.

This phrase combines two Yiddish words with the Spanish language. Because it was understood that having a bottom implied being persistence and that having a brain implied being intelligent, this proverb implies that it is better to be persistent than to be smart. It is often said by a wise adult after witnessing another struggling to complete his or her work.

The informant, Reyna Babani, is a 71-year-old Mexican Jew who lives in Mexico City. Because she grew up in such a close-knit community, Reyna considers herself an expert on Jewish culture. She was taught the proverb by her father after he observed her struggling to finish various tasks, such as finishing her homework. To her, the proverb represents the idea that it is better to keep working hard than to simply be smart.

This phrase is a clear example of something that resulted from the Mexican and Yiddish cultures mixing together. Reyna’s father was born in Europe but had been raised in Mexico, so it makes sense why he would mix both languages into the same sentences. It is interesting to see how her father maintained his Yiddish identity, but still assimilated into his new country.

Keyn eyn-hore and Wearing Blue

According to the informant, it is traditional for young newborns to wear clothing and accessories that have the color blue on them for about the first two years of their lives. The idea is that by wearing blue, the weak and helpless infants would be protected from the evil eye, which in Yiddish is known as keyn eyn-hore. This blue protection can come in many forms, including blue clothing and blue jewelry.

The informant, Reyna Babani, is a 71-year-old Mexican Jew who lives in Mexico City. Because she grew up in such a close-knit community, Reyna considers herself an expert on Jewish culture. Although she does not remember who taught this idea to her or when it was learned, she claims that it is a staple of Yiddish culture because everyone she know participated in it. She enjoys this tradition because it helps her feel that the newborn children are safe, especially since they are at such a vulnerable stage in their lives. She also acknowledges that other colors, like red, have been known to work in the past.

What is strange about this tradition is that the color blue has been chosen out of all of the colors that humans can see. Why was blue chosen to protect these children? Why is red not used universally? What other colors are used around the world for a similar purpose? These are questions that would be quite interesting to research.

For more research on the evil eye and Judaism, look here: Brav, Aaron. “The evil eye among the Hebrews.” The Evil Eye: A Casebook 2 (1981): 44-54.

La Tulivieja – A Panamanian Demon/Monster

“The story is, there was this girl who was very beautiful. And she had a secret relationship with a guy in her town from which a she got pregnant and a little boy was born. Then she drowned the boy in the river to make up for her premarital relationship sin. After that, God punished her by making her the ugliest monster possible. Like, making her face like a colador (pasta strainer) where hair came out of the holes. And like her hands turned into claws, and her feet turned backwards. And she’s supposed to spend the rest of her life looking for her son in her river. The legend is that she still hounds the river looking for her son and she will take her beautiful form while sitting by it. Any noise will bring out the ugly monster, though.”

            According to the informant, this legend is so well known that is ofen reffered to in a common phrase that is used. Typically, when someone who is going out with/dating a woman suddendly discovers that she is not as charming as she once appeared, it is common to say “salio la tulivieja”, which translates to “the tulivieja emerged”. Because phrase and the meaning behind it are so popular, many young men are warned to make sure that the women they are interested in are not secretly tuliviejas.

The informant, Jonathan Castro, is a 21-year-old student from Panama. Because until recently, he had spent his entrie life in Panama, he believes that he is well informed in Panamanian folklore. Jonathan claims that because the phrase that was derived from this story is so popular, most Panamanians are familiar with the story behind it, since knowledge of the tale is necessary for the phrase to be understood and used properly. Thus, if someone does not understand the phrase, they usually end up asking someone else to explain it to them, eventually causing the story to be told. This is how Jonathan himself learned the tale. Although it can really only be used by members of the male gender, Jonathan still finds the phrase entertaining and fun to use because it is such a silly way to tell a friend that he should stay away from the girl that he is interested in seeing.

Clearly, the tale itself is prominent within it is prominent within Panamanian culture. What makes it remarkable, however, is that it has changed into something more than just a story. It has now become an expression that is often to convey a generally understood idea. The fact that this was able to occur says something interesting about folklore in general. It reveals that folkloric pieces can still maintain their original essences, even when conveyed in a different form. Thus, because the original tale is still eventually being told, there should be no fear that the story is being lost.

A Classic Maasai Dish

“The Maasai tribe have a traditional dish where they carefully take blood that they cut from the jugular vein of a cow and mix it with milk. They slowly do this so that they don’t kill the cow. They then boil the mixture and eat and drink the coagulated mixture. Nowadays, it is only done as a delicacy, but before, they only ate this when they didn’t have a choice of what to eat except by cutting their livestock”.

Within the Maasai tribe, eating a coagulated mixture of cow milk and blood is considered a tasty meal. Although the tradition originated out of a need to get edible food from their cows without killing them, the dish is still eaten today by some Maasai tribe members.

The informant, Alastair Odhiambo, is a 19-year-old international student who was born and raised in Nairobi, Kenya. Alistair and his family have deep roots in the country, so he is confident that he knows a great deal about Kenyan folklore. He was taught this tradition by his mother, who comes from the Maasai tribe herself. Alastair also grew up near the Maasai homeland territory, so he has seen many people eat this dish. To Alastair, this dish represents a method of survival that was necessary in Kenya before modernity made food much easier to procure. Neither he nor his mother would ever eat the dish because they find it unappetizing, but he does respect it due to his reverence for his heritage.

Life before Kenya was modernized was clearly very different from how it is today. This dish was the perfect way to efficiently get the sustenance one needed, as it produced food while still allowing the livestock to stay alive for their future farming needs. Although many modern Kenyans like Alastair and his mother would never eat the dish themselves, the fact that it is still eaten occasionally as a delicacy shows that because the practice was so important, it became an essential part of the Maasai way of life.