Author Archives: Miguel Garcia

Legend of Sihuanaba

I recently spent the day with my aunt. While we had lunch, she recounted a legend from her childhood in El Salvador:

E: “Esta leyenda trata de la historia de una mujer llamada Sihuehet q tuvo un romance con el hijo del Dios Tlaloc, del cual resulto embarazada, pero como era una mujer muy vanidosa, esta descuidaba a su hijo El Cipitio quien tenia q comer cenizas porq ella no lo alimentaba. Fue por ello Tlaloc la maldijo por ser una mala madre y le dijo q ahora se llamaría Sihuanaba (mujer horrible), sería hermosa y atractiva a primera vista condenada a viajar por el campo. Se dice q se veía lavando ropa por las noches buscando a su hijo, al cual el Dios Tlaloc e concedió la juventud eterna como recompensa a su sufrimiento. La sihuanaba se encontraba a la orilla de ríos y quebradas, apareciéndosele a los hombres mujeriegos, trasnochadores, don juanes  y curiosos q se veian atraídos por su belleza lejana, pero cuando se acercaban a ella esta se convertia en un ser horrible con los pechos q le caían hasta el suelo, volviendo locos a los hombres. Cuentan q para no perder su alma, el hombre q la tiene cerca debe morder una cruz o una medallita y encomendarse a Dios, o estirar su mano y halarle el pelo para q ella se asuste y se tire a un barranco, de lo contrario enloquecían.”

Translation:

E: “This legend is about the story of a woman named Sihuehet who had a romance with the son of the god Tlaloc, which resulted in her impregnation, but since she was a very vain woman, she would often neglect her son, El Cipitio, who had to eat ash because she would not feed him. Because of her actions, Tlaloc cursed her for being a bad mother and told her that from now on she will be called Sihuanaba (horrible woman), she’d be beautiful and attractive at first sight, condemned to wander the camps. It is said that she is seen washing clothes at night while looking for her son, who the god Tlaloc granted eternal youth as a reward for his suffering. Sihuanaba can be found beside rivers and rapids, appearing to womanizers, night travelers, and curious farmers who are attracted to her beauty from far away, but when they get close to her she would horribly transform and her breast would sag to the floor, driving the men mad. They say that in order to not lose their soul, the man who has her close must bite down on a cross or medallion and turn themselves over completely to God, or stretch out their hand and pull on Sihuanaba’s hair so she can become afraid and throw herself into the ravine, otherwise the men will go mad.”

Collector Analysis:

The legend of La Sihuanaba is closely associated with rivers and ravines. Growing up with a river behind her house, my aunt remembers hearing this legend from her parents. My aunt vaguely recalls hearing the legend around her school, which also happened to be located near a river. My aunt said that this legend was her parents’ way of teaching her the importance of being selfless. She said she didn’t want to be vain like Sihuehet and she definitely wanted to be a better mother than Sihuehet.

The legend of La Sihuanaba is similar to that of La LLorona. However, I enjoyed hearing about La Sihuanaba more because it was so new to me and because it came from my parents’ home country. I found it fascinating how the legend affects men and women, equally. For men, the legend acts as a warning towards promiscuity. As for women, the legend warns against vanity and the neglecting of children.

El Salvadorean Proverb

I went home for dinner. During a conversation with my mom, she mentioned the following:

Proverb

“Ponte Las Pilas.” translated to “Put You Batteries [On].”

I then asked my mom what that meant, she responded:

“Ponte las pilas means ponte las pilas. It means to put on your batteries but I always say it to remind you guys to work hard, be alert, and be attentive. The whole statement is used as a quick pick me up, or like a mini motivational speech. Ponte las pilas is a way for me to remind you and your sister to be more responsible, to get up, and to go get what you want. That’s how I use it. Some people use it differently. I’ve heard it been used like lets say you have a couple and the boyfriend isn’t giving the girlfriend enough attention then you’d say ‘Ponte las pilas’ like ‘Hey, be more attentive or someone may steal her’.”

Collector Analysis:

At this point, this proverb is ingrained into my mom’s brain. She was raised listening to this proverb. I have heard my grandma say it in the past, and my grandma has definitely said the proverb to me as well. This proverb is very generational, as my grandma told my mom and now, my mom has told my sister and I. To my mom, this proverb is obviously a way of telling my sister and I to work harder. She believes that just saying “work harder” is too blunt and that no one would listen. ‘Ponte las pilas’ is a more generous way of saying “get it together”.

Just like my mom, I have been hearing this proverb my entire life. I have heard it for a wide array of reasons. Normally, if I am complaining to my mom about how much school work I have she’ll merely respond, “ponte las pilas”. Another circumstance is if I’ve been in bed all day, my mom might come into the room and say the proverb. This proverb is the type of statement I’ll probably hear or say for the rest of my life.

The Carbunco

At a family dinner, I asked my mom if she could tell me any folklore. She told me the following:

“When my mother was a child, the closest market to their home was half a day’s walk away. My mother’s mother would walk on her own to buy food for my mother and her sisters. One day, as she walked through the forest she felt a great heat. She began to sweat and sweat, until finally she felt it no more. The heat had disappeared. She leaned against a tree trying to cool down. The tree she was leaning on began to dry. The tree began to break apart and out came a ball of fire. My grandmother didn’t know that the ball of fire was the ‘Carbunco’ and anyone who threw a rag over it could capture it and take it home. Once home, if you were to throw needles, spoons, and coins into it the next morning appeared a lot of money. Instead, my grandmother decided to try and warm her porridge on the fire. As my grandmother approached the Carbunco, it lit up even more and flew around in the sky before flying off. My grandmother never saw it again.”

Collectors Analysis:

My mother heard this legend from my grandmother (her mother). My grandmother was raised in a less fortunate household and my great-grandmother probably told this story as a way to help her kids cope with the poverty. However, my great-grandmother did not simply make this legend up. My mother and her siblings all remember this legend, and continue to tell it in family settings because according to my great grandmother, she really experienced the Carbunco.

What I find interesting about the Carbunco is that a large majority of the less fortunate families in El Salvador probably had a similar story to my great-grandmother’s. I expect that the legends probably based on the neighborhood it is being told in and the location within El Salvador. I enjoyed most about this legend was with which the passion my mother delivered it. Whether she believes it or not, I do not know. All I do know was that this legend was one of my grandmother’s favorites.

Chang’e and Hou Yi

My friend and I got to one of our classes early. While we waited I asked her if she knew any folklore. She happily gave me a  story:

“I can tell you why in China people place food beneath the moon during the Mid-Autumn festival.

Before our time, the sky held ten suns. The sun’s power was far too strong and the plants were all burnt away and people began to die.

Hou Yi, a famous archer, shot down nine of the suns. As a reward for his triumph, Hou Yi was gifted a vial of an elixir. The elixir made anyone who drank it immortal, but the vial allowed for only one drink. Hou Yi wanted to become immortal, but he loved his wife more. Hou Yi decided to give the elixir to his wife, Chang’e, for safe keeping. Hou Yi’s fame began to grow. His superb archer skills attracted many, and Hou Yi eventually garnered several students. One of his students, Pang Meng, had an evil heart. He wanted to steal the elixir from his master.

One day, Hou Yi and his students journeyed into the mountains to hunt but Pang Meng remained. He had fooled the other students into believing that he was ill. After ensuring Hou Yi’s departure, Pang Meng entered Hou Yi’s home and demanded the elixir. Chang’e knew she could not defeat Pang Meng in battle, so she drank the elixir. The elixir made her fly high into the sky. Chang’e ascended for several days, she felt no hunger and she felt no thirst. Finally, she reached the moon.

Hou Yi felt a great sorrow for the loss of Chang’e. He came back home, but felt lonely. Hou Yi placed a table beneath the moon and began to prepare food. Hou Yi hoped that offering would help his wife return.

That is why during the Mi-Autumn Festival, people place food beneath the moon.”

Collectors Analysis:

My friend’s mother grew up in China, so the Mid-Autumn festival was a huge part of her culture. My friend’s mother and grandmother soon moved to the United States. Her grandmother did not want to lose touch with China and so she began to retell stories daily and celebrate the festivals more rigorously. My friend first heard this story from her grandmother, but she does recall her mother telling a slightly different version. She remembers hearing the legend often during her childhood because it was told several times to the children of her family to remind them of tradition. To my friend, this legend is a reminder of her heritage. She enjoys being half Chinese and really embraces the culture.

I had several questions about the legend, many of which my friend was unable to answer. She did say that in one version Chang’e is actually the goddess of the moon. I wondered how Hou Yi shot down the nine suns and I wondered what happened to Chang’e on the moon. Still, I found the legend rather peaceful. It is a common told story with a hero and a tragic ending. I did enjoy learning about Chinese tradition. Many of the other legends I have collected help relay a hidden lesson but this legend actually introduces a tradition.

 

The Hindu Creation Story

My friend and I were working on homework in Trojan Hall. I asked him if he knew of any Indian folklore. The first legend he gave me was “The Birth of Ganesha”, the second was “Vishnu and Nardar”, here is the third:

S: “This is perhaps the most well-known Hindu belief for the creation of the world…

There was no heaven, earth, or space in-between. The world was a large, dark vast ocean that licked the edges of Night. In the ocean, a giant cobra floats asleep in the water. In the endless coils of the cobra is Lord Vishnu. Vishnu watches over the serpent. Everything is peaceful, silent, and Lord Vishnu is undisturbed. From the depths of the sea, Vishnu begins to hear the noise ‘om’ which awakens him. As the dawn begins to break, a lotus opens releasing Vishnu and the serpent, Brahma.

Vishnu commands the snake, ‘its time to start, create the world.’

In that instant, the wind picks up the water and Vishnu vanishes. However, the serpent remained in the lotus floating and tossing in the sea. He lifts up his arms and calms the wind and sea, then Brahma splits the lotus into three pieces. One was the heavens, the second was the earth, and the third was the skies. The earth was bare, Vishnu created all vegetation. To every flower and tree he gave a way for them to feel. Then he created animals. Brahma gives every living thing the power to have sensations and feelings, and from then on that is the world.”

Collector Analysis:

The creation story is a part of the Rigveda, which explains why he knows it so well. His grandfather was the first to ever tell him the creation myth. My friend said that his grandfather keeps his family grounded in Hindu traditions so it is only appropriate that his grandfather is charged with telling the creation story.

I really enjoyed hearing the creation story from my friend because his voice was full of passion and genuine interest the entire time. The Hindu way of explaining the world’s creation is so peaceful and tranquil when compared to other cultures. I find it interesting that the Christian creation myth places the snake into a negative connotation while the Hindu creation myth elevates the snake and places it on an equal level with the gods.

Bufeo Colorado

I sat in Leavey Library with my friend. I randomly asked her if she had any folklore she could share with me. At first, she said no. Then suddenly she said:

(My friend will be denoted C, I will be M)

C: “Actually I do! So, I was in the Amazon last summer for two weeks and our tour guide was super into the Amazonian culture and would tell us these crazy stories every day at lunch or dinner.”

M: “Do you remember any?”

C: “I remember one pretty well, but just because I thought it was so creepy. The other ones were pretty wild too but I don’t remember. But anyways, yeah so, in the Amazon they have pink dolphins. One of the pink dolphins the locals call ‘Bufeo Colorado’, what that means I could not tell you. So the story goes that Bufeo Colorado can shape-shift into a super attractive fisherman. Every night, his chirps can be heard at all hours of the night. When girls approach though all they see is the fisherman who tries to seduce the girls. If the girls agree to have sex, they immediately fall pregnant and will give birth to more pink dolphins. The only way to outsmart Bufeo Colorado is to play into his own game. The girl must accept the seduction but before Bufeo Colorado enters her home she must push him out the door. Once he falls, he turns back into a pink dolphin and will run away.”

Collector Analysis:

My friend learned this legend from her tour guide when she visited the Amazon rain forest. Apparently, her tour guide had spent years studying to people and culture of the Amazon.

I have never been introduced to the culture of the Amazon, so I am not very aware of what the culture consist of. However, from this legend alone it is clear to see that the Amazonian people have a distinct connection to nature, which is quite obvious when considering where they reside. Of course many Amazonian legends will have to do with the odd creatures only found in the Amazon rain forest. Additionally, I know that dolphins are intelligent animals and often interact with human, so its fascinating to see how legends form around these interactions. I want to know what occurred for the Amazonian people to put pink dolphins into a negative light. Overall, the Bufeo Colorado sounds similar to many other Salvadorean legends, except instead of being a spirit or demon (which is common in Salvadorean folklore) who is trying to seduce someone it is a magical animal.

Ear Ache Remedy

My aunt was helping me learn to drive. During one of our lessons, I asked her for any natural remedies she may know:

M: “Your grandma also has a remedy for ear aches. When we were growing up, your Tio (Uncle) Armando always had ear aches. According to your grandma, when your ears ached if you put a cotton ball with either, breast milk or perfume, the pain would go away. Shes never done it to me, but your Tio (Uncle) Armando never complained.”

Collector Analysis:

My aunt witnessed my grandma performing the folk remedy many times. As she said, the remedy seemed to work on my uncle extremely well. My question is where my grandma got the breast milk or if there is a specific perfume to use? I wonder which perfume my grandma prefers to use when she does do this? I vaguely remember when I was about nine years old I got a very bad ear ache. My grandma laid me on my side and put a cotton ball with perfume, it worked like a charm. My ear ache disappeared.


					

Cut Remedy

My aunt was helping me learn to drive. During one of our lessons, I asked her for any natural remedies she may know:

M: “I know of a few, mainly because of your grandma. When we [my aunt and her siblings] were young, sometimes we would get small cuts behind our ears, inbetween our ears and our scalps. Your grandma would wake up and before she brushed her teeth, she would rub her saliva behind our ears which would help the cuts heal. We called this ‘Saliva Agria’ which roughly translates to ‘Sour Saliva’.”

Collector Analysis:

Again, to my aunt this is a genuine remedy for curing cuts. She experienced that cuts and the healing that came with the saliva. I do not know if this practice can be applied to any cuts as she did not specify. However, I feel like she would have mentioned if my grandma did this on other cuts as well. I am going to assume this was just for cuts that formed behind the ear. I do not know if saliva has any healing qualities so I cannot determine the validity of this particular folk belief. Also, my mom did not do this to my sister or me when we were growing up.

The Rain Song

At a family dinner, I asked my mom if she could tell me any folklore. She told me the following:

M: “Que llueva, que llueva

La virgen de la cueva,

los pajaritos cantan,

la luna se levanta,

Que si, que no,

Que caiga un chaparrón.”

which translates to:

“Let it rain, let it rain,

The virgin of the cave,

The little birds sing,

The moon rises,

What if, what not,

Let a shower go down.”

Collector Analysis:

The rain song was a song my mom used to sing when she was a little girl. She sang it with a hint of nostalgia in her voice. I’ve heard her sing this song before. Growing up in Los Angeles, I didn’t experience much rain but whenever it rained a lot my mom was always by the window singing this song. It was her way of calling for more rain. As a little girl, she sang this song with her friends from her neighborhood and school. They would hold hands and spin in a circle, very similar to how young kids sing ‘ring around the rosie’. However now, my mom sings this song in an attempt to call down more rain because it reminds her of El Salvador.

I cannot even imagine my mom singing this as a little girl, but at the same time she is very fond of this song. She has taught it to several of the younger kids in our family. I found it interesting how the song incorporates nature, because El Salvador is very rural, as well as including christian images, like the virgin Mary. Even the songs my mom sang as a child were influenced by Christianity in one way or another.

Japanese Paper Doll

My friend and I got to one of our classes early. While we waited I asked her if she knew any folklore. She happily gave me a legend about the Mid-Autumn Festival. She also gave me two proverbs. The last piece of folklore she gave me was a tradition she would do with her grandmother:

E: “I remember when I was younger my family and I took frequent trips to Japan. My grandma, who lived in Japan, would take me to a river about 20 minutes from where she lived. We would walk the entire way and talk, it was really nice. She would tell me about how in ancient japan, young girls would fold paper dolls called ‘ohinasama’.  The doll would collect all their bad luck as it would flow into the doll. The girls would then place the dolls in the river and let them float away. With the dolls, the bad luck would flow away too, letting the girls grow healthy and strong. Every time I visited my grandma in Japan, she would take me to do this. She stopped when I was about thirteen.”

Collector Analysis:

My friend expressed that this folk belief was essential for her grandmother’s state of mind. She explained to me how her grandmother had been raised in this tradition, so it was essential that my friend also participate in it. If my friend hadn’t, she said that her grandma would have constantly been worrying over whether or not my friend would grow to be strong and healthy. This tradition was a way of her grandma ensuring that my friend remained strong, healthy, and happy. As superstitious as the tradition may be, I enjoy the meaning behind it. This is a way for mothers or grandmothers to have some peace of mind because to them this is a way of making sure their kids will prosper.