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Folk Beliefs
Folk medicine

Mexican Cure for Hiccups

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 was passed down through his family.

Anthony: “Um– Growing up… if we got, um, the hiccups… my mom would put a paper bag down my shirt.”

Me: “A paper bag?”

Anthony: “Yes, a paper bag. This was like, some kind of folklore passed down… kind of, like, I mean it’s– it’s like, you know, from her… from my great aunt, you know, they used to do it and they used to… it was something they did– it was, it was a Mexican thing, you know, like, ‘This is gonna fix it’ kind of a thing.'”

Me: “Oh, okay, so it was– it was a Mexican thing?”

Anthony: “Yes! it was, it was like, ‘Oh, hiccups! You gotta put a paper bag down your… down your shirt.’ It’s bizarre, but that’s… that’s what we used to do. It was like a family folk kind of thing.”

I have to agree with Anthony about this one being bizarre. I just found it fascinating how non-intuitive this specific cure was. I would have never thought of paper bags curing hiccups.


The Cuco (Puerto Rican Legend)

The following is an interview that took place between me and my co-worker, Danielle, during our night shift at the School of Cinematic Arts Operations desk:

Danielle: “The Cuco is a Puerto Rican legend that basically, when a child misbehaves, the Cuco lives somewhere in the house or… in the surrounding area, and it’s basically, ‘if you don’t do what I say, the Cuco’s gonna get you.’ And it’s… like,  shapeless, and it’s whatever the child imagines it to be– to maximize the fear, and for them to do whatever it is that you want them to do.”

Me: “So, why do you know or like this piece?”

Danielle: “I know it because–um– a few years ago my friend… said it to her younger cousin–um–she, like, brought her cousin to my house and the little girl wasn’t listening, and my friend was like, ‘You have to listen to me or the Cuco’s gonna get you!’ And I was like, ‘What are you talking about?’ and my grandma from upstairs, like– heard it and, like, perked up and she was like, ‘What are you talking about?’ and my friend was like, ‘The Cuco.” My grandma was like, ‘Don’t say that in my house!” And I said, ‘Well do you know what this is?’ and my grandma was like, ‘Yeah, like, it’s a monster that my–,” –her mother had frightened her with, and so she promised herself she would never tell her kids about it. And so the first time we had heard it was because my friend used it–um– and my grandma was kind of upset. Uh, but that’s also kind of why I like it is because… I found it funny (laughs) that my grandma was personally offended to hear the name under her roof.”

Me: “That’s really cool. And, did you say you were from Puerto Rico?”

Danielle: “I’m from New York, my grandma’s from Puerto Rico. But, my heritage is Puerto Rican.”

I found it really interesting how individually Danielle, her friend, and her grandmother each had different ways of looking at how the Cuco affects people. Danielle’s friend used it as a means to babysit her cousin, while her grandmother sought to abandon the legend in how she raised her children because of whatever negative effects it had on her childhood. On the other hand, Danielle saw the Cuco as amusing, and a fun way to get to know her family’s, and more specifically her grandmother’s, view of their heritage.


The Screaming Bridge (In Texas)

The following is from an interview between me and my friend, Nina, during her lunch break in the upstairs office of the Caruso Catholic Center. She shared with me a legend that she knew from Texas.

Nina: “Okay, so, when I was younger, everyone always told me about the screaming bridge, in Texas. Um, it’s in Decatur, I think, and basically… there was a group of high school students who were traveling for a sporting event– I think it was cheerleaders– um, and they were… I don’t know if they were going to or from the city, but basically they were on this bridge, it was stormy, and I guess they, like, saw something– the bus driver saw something in the middle of the road, and so it swerved off, and they fell off the bridge… and, like, everyone died. And now, if you go back there, some people say that they can, like, hear the cheerleaders, like, on the bridge, like, screaming as they were falling to their death.”

Me: “Oh geez. Have you ever been there?”

Nina: “Um, no I haven’t. But, I’ve heard about it. But, like, I probably wouldn’t go, just ‘cuz I get freaked out by that kind of stuff– but… yeah, it’s a true story.”

Me: “Are you from Texas, or…?”

Nina: “Yes. I’m from Texas. So it’s probably… like, that bridge is probably like an hour and a half from my house. But, like, I never ventured over there. But, see, I don’t think… because that kind of goes into– it’s like a very rural area, so it’s, like, not necessarily like a well-traveled… um… spot.”

Me: “And who did you, like, first hear that from?”

Nina: “I had heard it from my friends in high school. (laughs) Yeah, those were the stories we would tell when we were, like– when we were also in high school and, like, traveling to different things: the story of the screaming girl on the bridge.”

It must’ve felt very odd to consider yourself living in such close proximity to a haunted location growing up. This story reminded me of something my mom told me about a small bridge on which you could supposedly hear singing as you passed over it. Not quite as grim as the screaming bridge but definitely in the same vein.

Folk speech

“En guerra avisada no muere soldado”

The following is an interview between me and my friend, Edgar, while he was practicing piano over at the Caruso Catholic Center. He told me about a proverb he knew from Nicaragua.

Edgar: “En guerra avisada no muere soldado,” and this literally means… it literally means ‘If you know about the war, soldiers are not gonna die,’ If you know war is coming, right? If you know someone’s about to attack you, soldiers are not gonna die. that’s pretty much it. And, that’s just from many things, but the one that I heard it the most is from my professor, you know. He would– my professor would go, ‘Okay, so you guys have a quiz on so-and-so day, you have to study this and this and that… ‘En guerra avisada no muere soldado.” which pretty much means… I told you when it’s coming! Be prepared for it. So that would be… that’s probably the most common, like, way to hear about it, I guess.”

Me: “A professor in Nicaragua?”

Edgar: “Yeah. Just saying, like, be ready for the test.”

Edgar’s explanation of how his teacher utilized this proverb came as a surprise to me, as upon first hearing it, I just thought of it as pertaining to actual war. But I guess that’s why it became so widely circulated is due to its capability to relate to multiple situations.


“El Cadejo”

The following is an interview between me and my friend, Edgar, while he was practicing piano over at the Caruso Catholic Center. He told me about a legend he knew from Nicaragua.

Edgar: “So it’s called ‘El Cadejo’, and it’s actually two dogs: a white one and a black one. So the white one represents the person’s companion, and the black one represents death. So if you– if a white dog comes to you, then you’re, like, kind of having good luck, you know, and the cadejo walks with you, like, that’s the legend, like the white cadejo walks with you and stays close to you. But if you see a black one you die (laughs).”

Me: “Oh that’s cool, it’s kinda like the– like seeing a black cat cross your path.”

Edgar: “Kinda, yeah. The black cat is like bad luck right?”

Me: “Mhm.”

Edgar: “Exactly. But, the black cadejo you literally die. Like, you die right there. Yeah, so it’s– it’s just scary, you know, ‘cuz in Nicaragua, it’s very common– we have a lot of stray dogs– street dogs, it’s just like… a lot. Like, we have a lot. So, it’s just– I don’t know, walking in the dark, on a road, ‘cuz you know some of our streets are not like– they’re not–with lights. So it’s just like really scary to see… a dog, and people say a joke, like, ‘Oh! There’s a cadejo,’ especially if it’s black, you know, but… that’s one of the biggest legends and stuff.”

Me: “Did you ever see one cross your path?”

Edgar: “Yeah, but I’m pretty sure it’s not the one ‘cuz I’m still here (laughs). But yeah, that’d be it.”

It was cool to see another example of the good and evil dichotomy in black and white in this legend. Especially being able to see the relation to the idea of a black cat crossing your path, though the consequences of this legend are far more severe than bad luck. It was also cool how the legend fit the local area where it was being told, in that there were plenty of stray dogs to present the possibility of a black one crossing your path.


“La toma tu teta”

The following is an interview between me and my friend, Edgar, while he was practicing piano over at the Caruso Catholic Center. He told me about a legend he knew from Nicaragua.

Edgar: “Okay, so it’s called ‘La toma tu teta’, and that’s literally– people in the country of Nicaragua believe that there is this woman walking around  who lost her child… in the river. a river nearby wherever the rumor started, right. So they believe in this woman whois just walking the streets and she is just yelling, ‘Toma tu teta! Toma tu teta!’ and crying and wailing and all that. And the reason why she is doing that is because if you translate ‘toma tu teta’ to English, it literally means, like, “Here is your breast.” So she is calling to the kid and saying ,like, right? ‘Come, I’m gonna feed you… so here is your breast’…breast, right? Like, here is, like, your boob (laughs). So, uh, I don’t know why people are scared of her. I don’t know if she’s actually like… ‘killed’ anyone, you know quote on quote, but, that’s like one of the myths that is in Nicaragua. There’s this one woman that walks around, like, saying this because she lost her child.”

Me: “Do you happen to remember, like, who or where you first heard this from?”

Edgar: “Um… in school.”

Me: “Like, elementary school?”

Edgar: “Yeah. Yeah, probably. It’s just that we have– we have, like, a whole, like, myths and legends that everyone from Nicaragua knows. And that– this would be one of them. And it’s actually pretty funny because, if you go to Nicaragua, and if you go to, like, the markets there, they sell these, like, mugs that are literally in the shape of a boob.”

Me: “Oh yeah! I’ve seen those.”

Edgar: “You’ve seen those, right? Yeah, so in Nicaragua they do it because of that… and also because we’re a little obscene… sometimes. (laughs) It’s bad, but they also refer to that myth.”

The thing about this I found the most interesting is the same thing Edgar was wondering about, of why exactly people are afraid of this legend. there is something very scary just about the idea of a woman losing her child, and what becomes of her psyche when that happens, but still, as Edgar said, it’s not like she’s known for killing anyone. So, perhaps it is just the disturbing tone of her backstory that scares people.


“If You Step on a Crack, You’ll Break Your Mother’s Back”

The following is from an interview between me and my friend, Rick, at the front office of the Caruso Catholic Center. He told me about playground folklore that I myself used to experience all the time.

Rick: “Uh, like, ‘If you step on a crack, you’ll break your mother’s back,’ is just something that kids used to say, and so you would have to, like, jump around the cracks on the sidewalk and on the playground so that… you… didn’t hurt your mom? (laughs)”

Me: “Do you know, like, who first told you that, by any chance?”

Rick: “Um, I remember it being on an episode of ‘The Fairly OddParents’, um, and there would be, like, a evil fairy that would come up with a jackhammer to his mom’s back every time he stepped on a crack, I think.”

I remember playing this game as a kid as well. The weird thing for me, though, was that it sort of became routine and burned into my mind to always avoid cracks for a really long time. The anxiety was never rooted in my mom’s back breaking, since I always knew that was just a funny rhyme, but I still always made sure I would never step on cracks on the sidewalk, or really on any surface.

Folk Beliefs
Folk medicine

Cure for Illness Supposedly Caused by Evil Spirits

The following is from an interview between me and my friend, Elizabeth, at the front desk of the Caruso Catholic Center. She told me about an odd cure for illnesses which are supposedly caused by evil spirits.

Elizabeth: “Okay, so when I was 3 years old, I got very, very sick to the point where everybody in my family thought that I was gonna die, like I was having night sweats and, like, tremors, and I, like actually had the physical signs of sickness. And so, we went to– my parents took me to the the best doctors and they just couldn’t tell what was wrong with me. So, they really couldn’t do anything for me and we went back to see one of my aunts in–(laughs) in Mexico. I was also very, very sick, so, um, my parents did this just because it was, like, their last hope. And, what my aunt did was some kind of, like ritual where she took an egg, um,  a raw egg, and she, like, just shook it all over my body, and, like, rubbed it all over me. And then by doing that, when they cracked the egg they could see, like, what the spirit was that was, like, possessing me, or so they thought. So when they cracked the egg it was, like, the image of an evil eye, so they thought that somebody, like, casted an evil eye on me and that’s why I got sick. And then after she did that I was, like, (snaps) miraculously better the next day.”

Me: “Whoa. That’s amazing.”

Elizabeth: “I know, isn’t that crazy?”

Me: “Does that, like, belongs to, like, any specific culture?”

Elizabeth: “I don’t know if it’s, like, a cultural thing. I have no idea why my parents would have even thought to go, like, take me to Mexico when I was very ill. Maybe they thought that there was something there that could help me. So, I don’t know if that’s a hispanic tradition. I don’t know if that’s anything to do with, like, witchcraft, or anything like that. But, um… my aunt is not a witch. She is (laughs) definitely not like a, you know, a spiritual healer or anything, but she knew to do that. So, I don’t know what to make of that. But, here I am today (laughs).”

I always love it when crazy folk medicine miraculously cures people of their ailments when nothing else can. Because of this, Elizabeth treated her explanation of the cure with a lot of reverence. Even though she knew it was crazy, she still talked about it with a kind of awe since it was the thing that cured her.



The following is from an interview between me and my friend, Grant, after mass at the Caruso Catholic Center. He said he had a joke he could tell me.

Grant: “Why was the plumber crying?”

Me: “Why?”

Grant: “‘Cuz his… his brother got hit by a bus and died.”

(We laughed)

Me: “Is that– is that kind of like an anti-joke?”

Grant: “Yeah… I remember those were all the rage in, like, freshman year.”

Me: “Oh yeah, definitely, me too. What makes an anti-joke so funny to you do you think?”

Grant: “Um, they’re, like, ironic in the sense that the punchline has nothing to do with the set-up, and they’re just dark, and a little dreary… and for some reason that’s funny.”

I remember having anti-joke competitions with friends in high school. You would get more laughs the more intensely dark, messed up, or just plain nonsensical your joke became, so it almost became like an addiction with diminishing returns.


“The Carreterro”

The following is from an interview between me and the Deacon, Paul Pesqueira, over at the Caruso Catholic Center. He was on his lunch break along with a few others. He told me about a legend which his dad used to tell him during his scandalous days.

Paul: “My dad used to tell us, when we started drinking at 17, 18, 19 years old– I know you’re not supposed to drink ’til you’re 21, but, you know, we’d drink earlier– that you had to be careful… because if you got drunk, that– and you passed out, that “The Careterro” would come and get you. And he would put you in the wheelbarrow and he’d take you away. So, you better be able to hold your liquor and not get drunk and pass out, because if you did, The Carreterro would come and put you in his wheelbarrow, and you didn’t know what would happen to you.”

Me: “Did you ever get– get caught?… By The– by The Carreterro?”

Paul: “I got drunk and I passed out but The Carreterro never got me.”

Me: “Oh, you got lucky!”

(We laughed)

Paul: “So that’s my story.”

It was interesting to think about whether such a tale actually had any impact on the kids whom it was told to, seeing as they were already in doubtful years at that point. Also, as a little bonus piece of folklore, Deacon Paul was pronouncing “wheelbarrow” like “wheelbarrel”. I know I used to do that all the time.