Author Archive
Legends
Narrative

La Tetona

The following is taken from an interview between me and my friend, Javier, who is from Nicaragua. We were sitting in the lobby of the Caruso Catholic Center. He decided to tell me about a certain piece of Nicaraguan legend.

Javier: “Um, this one that I know is called ‘La Tetona’, which basically means…(laughs)…a lady who has big boobs. Um, this one basically, um… is like– it’s just like a very old tale which just, um… just explains how, like, when the conquerors came to Nicaragua or something there was this… this was this, um, lady who was just, like, living by herself or something, and then, um… she would just, um, want to, like, get money from like the rich conquerors or so, and so she– she would be like very, um… very provocative with the rich, um, like, conquerors and stuff and then she… yeah she– she had like… big…boobs, uh, so, (laughs) she, uh, but that was the way how she would, like, um… like, uh, bring, like, uh– the conquerors attention and then she would…yeah, steal their money.”

Me: “Who first told you about this one?”

Javier: “Uh, yeah, this was not my parents, definitely. This was, uh, a friend from, like, school, like we were in Spanish class or something and then we were just discussing some tales and then he came up with this one.”

I thought it was really interesting how the idea of the femme fatale in this lady living by herself who uses her feminine wiles to her benefit made its way into this legend. It was also hilarious to see the struggle by which a Catholic man tells a story about a woman with large breasts.

Folk speech
Proverbs

“Indio comido, puedo al camino”

The following is taken from an interview between me and my friend, Javier, who is from Nicaragua. We were sitting in the lobby of the Caruso Catholic Center. He decided to tell me about a certain Spanish saying.

Javier: “Yeah, so this other saying is called, ‘Indio comido, puedo al camino,’ which translates to… ‘Eaten (laughs) Indian, walking Indian.'”

Me: (laughs) “Wait, sorry, repeat that?”

Javier: “So, um, ‘Indio comido, puedo al camino,’ which means, ‘Eaten Indian, walking Indian.’

Me: “Indian? Like, Native American?”

Javier: “Uh… (laughs) yes.”

Me: (laughs) “Okay, do you know what that’s supposed to mean?”

Javier: “Yeah, it just means that, um, like, like after, like, uh, a worker, like, on the fields or… a farm worker, as soon as, like, they’re, like, finished, like, their meal, like, let’s say lunch or so, like they’re ready to go back to work. Like, as soon as they finish eating, then they can go to work.”

Me: “Oh, okay, cool, so, like, the ‘Indian’ in the phrase is, like, the worker?”

Javier: “Yeah. Yeah, yeah. So, back home, in Nicaragua, it isn’t like Native American Indians but, like, people who, like, live, like, in the… like, in the fields or like… not in the suburbs… or… like, naan fields and stuff. Like, they are called Indians, too. That’s, like, how we translate that.”

Me: “Gotchya. Um, who first told you that one?”

Javier: “Uh, probably my dad. Or, actually my grandpa probably. He–he, like, he has this, um, huge, like… coffee crops. So, he works with a lot of, like, these people. These are, like, mainly the people who work for, like, farms and so. So, yeah.”

It was very interesting to me that the word “Indian” became the term in Nicaragua to define farm workers. I’m not sure where this translated from, or even if it had any connection to Native Americans or people living in India. It doesn’t seem like anyone considers it to be derogatory in this context, so the origins are a mystery to me.

Folk speech
Proverbs

“Camaron que se duerme se lo lleva la corriente”

The following is taken from an interview between me and my friend, Javier, who is from Nicaragua. We were sitting in the lobby of the Caruso Catholic Center. He decided to tell me about a certain Spanish saying.

Javier: “Okay, so there is this saying or, like, not proverb but, like, saying that goes, ‘Camaron que se duerme se lo lleva la corriente,’ which basically means, ‘the shrimp who falls asleep… uh, at the seashore get to the ocean…? Wait, what’s a seashore? How do you call that, uh…?”

Me: “Like the tide?”

Javier: “You know how, like the waves come and then leave…”

Me: “Yeah, yeah like the tide.”

Javier: “Yeah, that, yeah, ‘…then the tide will take it to the ocean.’ So it basically means that, um, like whoever, like, goes in life and not being like, um…like awake to, like, whatever is happening, like, surrounds them, or who is, like, not on top of, like, their work or so, then if they, like, took a lot of time and they just, like, fall asleep and, like, fall behind and stuff, then… the… the thing– what’s it called?”

Me: “The tide?”

Javier: “Then the tide (laughs) will, uh, yeah…will, like… yeah, will get them and then they won’t be able to, like, get their work done right.”

Me: “Okay, cool, who told you that one?”

Javier: “Uh… yeah I definitely– probably some– oh, probably, like, some, like, teachers back in high– back in middle school.”

Me: “To get you to work harder?”

Javier: “Yeah, yeah. Actually, I remember, like, there was, like, a class full of sayings and so, and then, like, what would you… how would you, like, interpret them or so.”

This saying is definitely a relatable one and a fair warning for anyone overwhelmed by school work. I wish I had heard this saying before I turned this entry in late for an assignment. Oh wait, I did…

Legends
Narrative

La Carreta Nagua

The following is taken from an interview between me and my friend, Javier, who is from Nicaragua. We were sitting in the lobby of the Caruso Catholic Center. He decided to tell me about a certain piece of Nicaraguan legend. By the way he described it, I’m pretty sure this is a legend, though he referred to it as a tale.

Javier: “Um, this tale that I know of, it’s called ‘La Carreta Nagua’, which is, um– which translates to ‘The Carriage of Nagua’. Um, basically it’s like this, um… carriage that is, um… being pulled by two horses, but the two horses are just, like, their bones. So, they’re not, like, actual horses. And then, on top of it, um.. it’s, uh… the figure of Death carrying a… (gesturing chopping motion)… carrying… the axe?”

Me: “Scythe?”

Javier: “The scythe…?”

(We both laugh for a bit)

Javier: “Carrying it… yeah. And, basically, um, it just comes at night, and… it is– it is, like… it’s said that, um, it shows up… whenever someone is close, like, to death, or just to, like… um, bring people to– to death.”

Me: “So, where did you first hear this from?”

Javier: “Um, definitely just, like, tales from my mom and my dad that would just… they would tell me some legends or like, um… or, like, stories that are, like, yeah– that are from… home, Nicaragua. Yeah.”

Me: “And do you know if this was… just confined to Nicaragua, or if it spread out to other regions?”

Javier: “Uh, I’m not really sure. Um, I do think there is, like, very… specific from Nicaraguan, um… definitely, uh… yeah. Definitely something…yeah, I’ve never heard it from, like, other cultures or so. So yeah, just from home.”

I actually ended up hearing this same legend from multiple people after I had already collected it from Javier, so it reminded me of how prevalent the idea of death is in Hispanic cultures, especially with all there is done with the Day of the Dead ceremony.

Humor

Filipino Joke

The following is from an interview between me and my friend, Nicole, at Blaze Pizza. Nicole is a Catholic missionary from the Phillipines. We were joined, as well, by another missionary named Carlos. Nicole shared with me a Filipino joke.

Nicole: “Why did the priest stop eating salt?”

Me: “Why?”

Nicole: “Because it was asin. ‘Asin’ means ‘salt’.”

Me: “In– In what language?”

Nicole: “Tagalog.”

Me: “Is that, like, from the Phillipines?”

Nicole: (nods)

Me: “Okay, that’s awesome. And where did you hear that from?”

Nicole: “From my… dad.”

Me: “Okay, did he tell it often, or…?”

Nicole: “Um… it was said among my friends, too.”

Me: “Oh, really? Like, around what age?”

Nicole: “Um… probably middle school…. (Laughs) that’s it.”

I really think this joke took full advantage of the Filipino-English pun potential and struck some serious gold.

folk simile
Folk speech

“Está más perdido que el hijo de Lindbergh”

The following is from an interview between me and my friend, Carlos, at Blaze Pizza. Carlos is a Catholic missionary from Colombia. We were joined, as well, by another missionary named Nicole. Carlos shared with me a saying in Spanish.

Carlos: “We have a saying in Spanish that is, ‘Está más perdido que el hijo de Lindbergh,’ which I’ve heard it all the time, which is used to make a reference to, like, when someone’s really lost. Like, ‘Oh my gosh, he’s more lost than the son of Lindbergh.’ And I’ve never known why they said that, but um– So like, the saying is, ‘He is more lost than the son of Lindbergh.’ It’s just saying, like, when someone is really lost they can say, ‘Está más perdido que el hijo de Lindbergh.’ I don’t know why, and I just looked it up, and apparently it’s connected to, like, this child abduction case in New Jersey, where, like, the son of Lindbergh was, like, abducted and was killed… and, like, I don’t know why we say that phrase in Spanish but it’s even in Wikipedia, like in Spanish there’s a saying that has this, I don’t know why.”

Me: “Where did you first hear this?”

Carlos: “My parents! Yeah, like, my family, everyone says that in Colombia. They just say, ‘Está más perdido que el hijo de Lindbergh,’ which is awful!”

Like Carlos, I found the existence of this phrase to be quite odd. Because it’s not as if the saying exerts some kind of a warning, or uses the tale of the New Jersey boy to teach children a lesson, making it a proverb. Instead, it’s just this comparison. This made me wonder if perhaps this saying was actually dark humor, but I’m not entirely sure.

Folk speech
Proverbs

“El mucho abarca poco aprieta”

The following is from an interview between me and my friend, Carlos, at Blaze Pizza. Carlos is a Catholic missionary from Colombia. We were joined, as well, by another missionary named Nicole. Carlos shared with me some Spanish proverbs. This is one of them.

Carlos: “Then we have, ‘El mucho abarca poco aprieta,’ which means ‘Him who, like– him who has, like– is holding lots of things is unable to, like– is less able to hug it tight.’ So, he who is holding so much is able to, like, carry it less. So it means… the more you have, the less you actually, like, do it well, or carry it well.”

I found this proverb very relatable as a college student. The more things you try to do, you just end up spreading yourself too thin, and you can’t devote enough attention to any one thing. Becoming fragmented is a cross-cultural problem for those who wish to work hard.

Folk speech
Proverbs

“Más vale pájaro en mano que cientos volando”

The following is from an interview between me and my friend, Carlos, at Blaze Pizza. Carlos is a Catholic missionary from Colombia. We were joined, as well, by another missionary named Nicole. Carlos shared with me some Spanish proverbs. This is one of them.

Carlos: “In Spanish, it’s, ‘Más vale pájaro en mano que cientos volando’. What that means is that, ‘A bird in your hand is worth more than a hundred birds flying away.’

Me: “Oh, okay, so kind of like ‘A bird in the hand is worth two in the bush’?”

Carlos: “I guess. I’ve never heard of that, but… (Laughs). Yeah, but I think I know… if it means what I think it means then yes.”

Nicole: “What does that mean?”

Carlos: “It means that, like, it’s better to have one solid thing than to have, like, many things kind of up in the air.”

Me: “Yeah that’s like ‘Bird in the hand is worth two in the bush’. Uh, and where did you hear that from?”

Carlos: “Uh, my mom. We just say it all the time. And my parents just say it like, yeah.”

I was immediately struck by the fact that Spanish and English have two proverbs that are so similar to each other. It is interesting that the Spanish one is more embellished with its one-hundred instead of two birds, as well as the fact that the birds are instead flying away, and just out of the person in question’s reach, whereas in the English proverb the birds are concealed from sight by the bush.

Narrative
Rituals, festivals, holidays

Whoppers

The following is from an interview between me and my friend, Brie, while I walked with her to the grocery store. She told me about a tradition in her family of telling stories called “Whoppers”, which were kind of like campfire stories. Her grandfather, or “papa”, was the one to mainly uphold this tradition within the family.

Brie: “In my family we always told ‘Whoppers’, so we’d always tell, like, stories around the campfire.”

Me: “‘Whoppers’, it was called?”

Brie: “Whoppers. And basically they’re just not true stories. And… he was really good at that, my papa…”

Me: “Can you give me an example of a Whopper?”

Brie: “The Green Monster…”

Me: “The what?”

Brie: “He would always say, like, The Green— or, what was it…? The Shadow… my papa would do this voice, like (raspy), ‘The Shadow,’ and it was like… I’m trying to remember. It was just terrifying. But… hold on, let me think real quick…”

Me: “How do you spell ‘Whopper’?”

Brie: “‘Whopper’? Um– I think, like a– you know, like a ‘Double Whopper’.”

Me: “Oh ok, like Burger King?”

Brie: (Laughs very hard) “Yep. No, it was just a thing in my family, telling Whoppers. I never was good at it, but my cousins would come up with really good Whoppers.”

Me: “Do you know where–uh– where your grandfather got, like, the term ‘Whopper’ from? Did he just make that up or what was it?”

Brie: “So he grew up in, like, South Boston… one of eight kids, and… you know, Scotch family, Catholic, um… he… I don’t– I think it was his dad that began the Whoppers.”

Me: “What made a good Whopper?”

Brie: “A good Whopper was, like, got you on the edge of your seat, like… you know, it was kinda scary, kinda suspenseful, but also, like, funny and far-fetched. So a little of, like, all of that, kinda.”

It was really cool to see that, basically, just by assigning a name to the more general idea of campfire stories, Brie’s family created a kind of tradition that was all their own.

Legends

Virgin Mary Miracle on the Moon

The following is an interview between me and of friend of mine, Anthony, over at the Caruso Catholic Center. He was getting ready to help host an event, but said he had a few minutes to talk about some folklore that he remembered from his childhood.

Anthony: “I remember… there was a–um– I don’t know if this qualifies, but, I remember in the… I think it was the 80’s or early 90’s… there was this–um– what people were saying The Virgin Mary was doing a miracle on the moon– with the moon, and that it was kind of like glowing or something like that– when I was a kid, yeah this was a thing, it was on the news and stuff like that. You might be able to find something about that.”

Me: “Do you know, like, what the significance of that was? Um– who did you hear it from?”

Anthony: “Well, like, I remember, um– people were going outside, uh, I don’t know if it was… if we were at church or whatever, but, um, people were like.. I think that we were at church, and they… in the evening…”

Me: “It was a Catholic Church?”

Anthony: “Yeah. And people were going outside to try to see if they could see it. ‘Cuz there were reports that… The Virgin Mary was… doing a miracle (laughs).”

Me: “Did anybody you know ever claim to have seen her?”

Anthony: “Um… it’s– I feel like like some people in the group, you know, I felt like, if I squinted I was like, ‘I think I see it!’ but I don’t know if as a kid I was trying to see it I was like, ‘I think I see it,’ you know, I didn’t really know.”

Me: “Did it give you any kind of, like, good luck or anything… to see it?”

Anthony: “You know, sometimes when I see the moon I’ll do the same thing, like… (squints and points) what, was that just it again?! Or is it just, you know, or is it more my eyes doin’ somethin’ weird. Um– But, I don’t know, that was an instance when I remember something kinda out of the ordinary.”

I thought it was interesting to see this report going around Anthony’s neighborhood as one of those things that sort of creates competition amongst children’s friend groups; where, if you saw this certain thing, it almost means that you’re special, or somehow attuned to the supernatural. Regardless of whether or not some kind of miracle was happening on the moon, the real folk activity happening is this competition of who can actually see her. Additionally, since the moon is so far away, it provides enough ambiguity for these children to say whatever they want, and no one can really prove them otherwise, especially since the rumor was shared and made socially credible by every individual who had seen the news report.

 

 

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