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“Sana que sana” song

The folk song/chant: “Sana que sana, colita de rana. Si no sanas hoy, sanarás mañana.” (Magic healing song repeated at least three time or more if child is hysterical) The literal translation means “Heal, heal with the tail of a toad, if it does not heal today, it will heal tomorrow.” Obviously they are talking about a tadpoles tail or are being funny because a toad/frog does not have a tail, intonating something magical is about to occur. It works as a great distraction when your child gets injured and to stop him from crying because they are being imbued with the belief that the chant will actually make it hurt less especially if they say it in unison. Although my Grandfather tells me that the Chibcha Indians of Colombia, which he is a ¼, use dried out frog/toads all the time for healing and good luck and would even wear them around their neck (whole died out toad) for protection. He tells me that my mom went to Colombia at age 16 and she was given a necklace made out of small stones, which had a small, carved frog in the middle and was told to wear it for good luck and protection.

Analysis: Many frogs in Colombia have a variety of toxins, some medicinal, some deadly so there is more than simple folk belief there might be some factual basis for the song. Growing up my mother would always do the magical healing song “Sana que Sana” that her dad taught her whenever my brother or I got hurt and sprayed the area with Neosporin. She told me that when she was young, her grandmother (my great grandmother) who was a “botanica healer” would always sing the song while rubbing the injured area with some kind of balm. I do find the song soothing and silly at the same time, which is why it was probably so effective as a distraction. In terms of healing, the balm or Neosporin was probably what made it stop hurting and heal faster but rubbing an injury does stimulate endorphins to alleviate pain but the distraction is extremely helpful in stopping the blubbering and crying.

Legends
Narrative

Slenderman

According to my younger brother, he heard about an internet ghost story that was meant to scare people. About 4 years ago while on a YouTube site he saw that a reference was made to a “creepypasta” page about the Slenderman story that was made into a game. Slenderman was a faceless tall skinny figure with tentacle arms. When he first saw the picture of Slenderman, he did not think it was scary, however the game had many jump scares and fast action that did make it frightening or at least surprising to the player. In the “creepypasta” story the pictures of Slenderman always showed children playing unaware while back in the background within the shadows of the woods there would be slender figure appearing to be watching them. The game did not add any additional info about Slenderman but the story in the “creepypasta” site made it seem that the children he was photographed with would disappear without a trace, leaving some to speculate that they were kidnapped maybe even taken into a different dimension. Two “idiots” girls “allegedly” bought into the story of Slenderman believing they had to become proxies of Slenderman in order to protect their families, it ended up with one of their “friend’s” being stabbed 19 times but survived. My brother made air quotes with his fingers when referencing the words “Creepypasta”, “idiots” “allegedly” and “friend’s”. He says he know Slenderman is completely fictional although he kind of understands the fascination with the image because it is usually shrouded in the shadows letting your mind to fill in the blanks. He says that maybe because of the girls attempted murder of their “friend”, parents seemed more disturbed buy Slenderman than actual kids.

Analysis: Slenderman became an internet meme and started to trend on the internet about 5—6 years ago but I paid no attention to it since the demographic was skewed for some reason to younger viewers (preteens). Creepypasta sites in general have no real interest to me because the stories always seemed written by a mentally unstable person. However, the concept of photographic pictures showing mysterious paranormal orbs or other unexplained phenomena has been around since photography was invented and the first double exposure was seen as a ghostly reflection. Slenderman is just a continuation of that tradition that can now use advance technology like Photoshop to get just the right amount of mystery. The over reaction by parents also made Slenderman even more popular because the forbidden, will always be more attractive.

Customs
Holidays
Life cycle
Musical
Rituals, festivals, holidays

Birthday songs for Colombians in the US and in Colombia

When I explained the scope of the of the folklore projects that it could include folksongs, Juliana did think of one that she has heard here in Southern California a lot. In Colombia when a girl turns 15 (American equivalent to sweet 16) there is an elaborate party with musicians typically “mariachis” who will sing “Las Manaitas” song. Usually becomes a father-daughter dance. But this is the only time it is sung because it is a special time in a girl’s life when she become a woman.

“Estas son las mañanitas que cantaba el rey David.

Hoy por ser día de tu santo, te las cantamos a ti.

Despierta mi bien, despierta, mira que ya amaneció

ya los pajaritos cantan la luna ya se metió.

Qué linda está la mañana en que vengo a saludarte

venimos todos con gusto y placer a felicitarte.

El día en que tu naciste nacieron todas las flores

y en la pila del bautismo cantaron los ruiseñores.

Ya viene amaneciendo, ya la luz el día nos dio.

Levántate de mañana mira que ya amaneció.”

(Translated: These are the little mornings that King David used to sing.

Today being the day of your saint, we sing them to you. Wake up my dear, wake up, see that the day has already dawned, the little birds are already singing, the moon has already set. How lovely is this morning, when I come to greet you, we all come with joy and pleasure to greet you. The day on which you were born all the flowers first were born, and in the baptismal font all the nightingales sang. It already comes dawning, the day already gave us light. Rise up with the morning and see that it’s already dawned.)

Recently, in Colombia, the song has gained popularity and is sung at small children birthday parties as well but never to other teenagers or adults especially not to men. Juliana, was at a birthday party recently in Santa Monica for a fellow male student, who was from Mexico City, and they sung La Mañanitas followed by the English version of the Happy Birthday song. She was surprised that everyone seemed to expect it. I asked her what other song is sung when an adult has a birthday in Colombia? She said it is the same chords to the American Happy Birthday song but the words are different:

“Feliz cumpleaños ha ti,

desudamos feliz,

que los saigas cúmplanlo

hasta año 3000 mil!”

(Translation, “Happy birthday to you, we wish you much happiness, we hope you have more birthdays, until the year 3000 AD.)

Analysis: Having been to countless Latino birthday parties, here in Los Angeles, what usually occurs is that both Spanish songs and the English version of Happy Birthday song are sung because that way you get to make more wishes and make a lot more noise, which seems like the goal of most Latino parties in general. It usually starts with Las Mañanitas and will continue to Feliz Cumpleaños followed by the Happy Birthday song. This allows for plenty of time to take pictures and get candle wax all over the cake. The songs seem to cement the occasion and be the final mark of the birthday festivities. People usually understand that once the cake is served after the songs then the party is going to come to an end unless of course there is a band or DJ, which means the party is now really getting started and will continue until very late or early morning. The actually singing by all the participants seems significant because it is not about talent or pitch of the voices but the unified showing of support and love for the birthday person.

Legends
Narrative

AIDS poem in lipstick on mirror

I have a cousin who is an event planner in Colombia, Juliana, who arrived to the US in February of this year to start an intensive English program through UCLA extension. She was told in Colombia by her aunts to be careful because STD’s are rampant in Los Angeles, although none of them have traveled here. After making several American friends, one night at a party, the subject of STD’s came up and people started to tell stories. She said an American guy with dark hair was saying he had a former roommate when he was a freshman in college, who would sleep around without precautions. One night after “bagging a chick” he woke up to find he was alone, secretly he was grateful to avoid any awkwardness of kicking out a stranger. When he went to the bathroom, he saw lipstick on his mirror. Juliana initially did not understand what was written on the mirror and ask the guy to type it down on her phone so she could translate it later. It was a poem that read “Roses are red, Violets are blue, I have AIDS and now so do you” when she finally translated it, she said she was so shocked and it freaked her out a lot. One of her teachers seeing her so upset asked her what was wrong and she relayed the story, she said that her teacher started laughing really hard, this only made Juliana confused and embarrassed until her teacher explain that what she was told was an urban legend by the guy at the party and therefore not true.

Analysis: Juliana asked me three times to reassure her that the story was an in fact, an urban legend. She also asked why would anybody repeat such a horrible lie. I said that I am sure that Colombia had their share of urban legend as well but she denied that claim and said that any stories told were just to scare children into compliance. I think she was more susceptible to the legend because she was primed by her aunts. Her lack of confidence with English also made her likelier to believe someone who was a confident English speaker and storyteller. These kind of legends because of the believability factor seemed to get under people’s skin more and last longer, my cousin Patty said the same story was told to her with slight variation when she was in her 30’s when Aids was more of a death sentence than now and she stills remember the circumstances around the telling of the story.

Customs
Holidays
Rituals, festivals, holidays

From Ash Wednesday to Easter Colombian rituals

Another document collected from my great Aunt Nora about Holiday rituals, is what happens from Ash Wednesday to Saturday before Easter. Every Friday is observed by not eating any meat (beef, pork, chicken) only eggs and seafood can be consumed on also Good Friday and Virgin Saturday (day before Easter) are considered especially sacred. On Easter there is usually a feast with all the meats including those foods that were giving up for Lent. During Lent, a favorite food like chocolate is given up as an act of sacrifice to give remembrance to Jesus’s 40 days fast in the desert before the crucifixion. Any pagan ritual like coloring eggs, going on an easter egg hunts, making Easter baskets for the kids is also followed along side the holiday/religious rituals as long as they do not conflict, like eating a chocolate bunny before Easter would be a bad thing if chocolate is what you gave up on lent but on Easter, perfectly ok.

Analysis: I was shocked how many of my USC fellow classmates actually gave up their favorite food for Lent.  I find it amusing that no matter how religious my family member claim to be, they have no problem observing pagan ritual because they interpret it as American Holiday rituals not pagan. Although, everyone seemed confused why rabbits lays eggs in America? I tried to explain, but gave up quickly because food came out.

Customs
Holidays
Rituals, festivals, holidays

Christmas “Novena”

My Great Aunt Nora clarified that at Christmas, the main holiday ritual in Colombia to celebrate the “novena” or 9 days of Christmas, not the twelve days celebrated here in the US. Between December16-24th, 9 families will coordinate parties at each of their homes. Everyone is invited to all the parties especially those who are hosting at some point.  If you are invited but not one of the families hosting, it is customary to bring a lavish hostess gift.  The party starts with a prayer, then food, songs and candies. People are expected to dress as lavish and festive as possible. It is traditional that each home will have a “Natividad” a nativity scene with baby Jesus in the manger and the three kings. Ironically, even though Jesus was born in a simple manger, people like to spend lots of money to buy very elaborate and beautiful manger that can take up a large coffee table to show off, which is a cultural traditional aspect of most Colombians, to always want to show off as much as possible even when it is not called for.

Analysis: I find it especially hilarious when they incorporate English Christmas villages with fake snow as ground covering and glowing windows in the cottages. As if the warm arid climate of Bethlehem would have look like that. Baby Jesus is always depicted as white having blue eyes and dirty blonde curls. There is strong cultural bias that having white skin, light colored eyes and light colored hair is highly desirable in Colombia. I once traded out baby Jesus at my grandmother’s house with a African American baby Jesus just see her reaction, priceless. The practice of holiday rituals even for those who do not attend church or practice their religion except during the holidays make these rituals even more important since they have to make up for their lapse from the rest of the year.

Customs
Holidays
Rituals, festivals, holidays

Colombian New Year’s Rituals

Collected from mother and daughter Marlly Hernandez and Patty Moso during a Virgin Saturday brunch with an easter egg hunt for the kids.

There is a whole subset of rituals that are supposed to occur on New Years in Colombia if you want some particular outcomes. I gathered these from my Aunt Marlly and my cousin Patty:

  • At the stroke of midnight 12 green grapes that have been dropped in a flute of Champaign and are eaten at each stroke/dong to bring a on a lucky new year. The person who is most successful without choking on the grapes or have Champaign snort out of the nose will have the better lucky year. This ritual is the most common and followed in Colombia and the US. I always found it fun to watch because my grandfather and my mom were never successful but my grandmother always seem to be able to do it unless she starts talking, then grapes will go flying.
  • For those who want the coming year to be full of travel will place luggage outside of the front door. My mom was in Colombia for New Years and she said that it was not a matter of just leaving your bags outside the door but that you had take a walk around the block after midnight. Both my abuelos and my Aunt Nora also confirmed this although Patty and Marlly said it was not necessary. My mom said that taking the walk around the block was fun to see all the different colors and variety of luggage people were carrying around and a very social event as people talked about where they wished they could travel to in the coming year. This sounds like a ritual I wouldn’t mind trying, since I love to travel.
  • Crack open a raw egg in glass/bowl of water, place it under you bed New years eve and leave over night. This is done to absorb any bad things/luck that may happen in the coming year. In the morning you throw away the egg and water, which has now supposedly absorbed all potential negative energy ensuring a better year. I found this ritual kind of creepy for some reason I cannot personally identify.
  • Women are supposed to put on puts on yellow (good luck color) underwear inside out new years eve and at midnight they are supposed to turn their underwater they correct way for good luck. This is challenging because Champaign soaked grapes are supposed to be swallowed with each ring of midnight and a women would need to find a private place to change their underwear without flashing a group of party goers while allegedly chugging grapes. I found this the most bizarre of the rituals.
  • In Colombia paper maché handmade life size dolls dressed with old clothes and shoes and is burned to show the end of the old year to insure nothing especially negative events remains from the previous year. When cars go buy they will throw coins at the dolls to bring wealth. Smoke makes me asthmatic so I would not be very interested in participating in this ritual.
  • At New Years Parties after chugging grapes go around kissing everyone on both cheeks at the party and to verbally wish them a Happy New Year, this action is supposed to bring good blessings to everyone involved. Having being part of Colombian New Years parties here in the states, I can attest that this is not a voluntary ritual, you will be kissed and covered with gross amounts of lipstick all over you face by people you do not even know, not my favorite ritual.

Analysis: Rituals are common in Colombia because of its rich history of catholic, Afro-Caribbean and indigenous roots. With cultural appropriation and annexation sometimes rituals are the only things you can keep with you. Most of these rituals seem nonsensical and why there were done or where they originated seem to be a mystery, they are just rituals that are followed because they are mainly benign and you have nothing to lose but your dignity and hopefully a wonderful year ahead to gain, if you followed the rituals.

Humor
Stereotypes/Blason Populaire

Pastuso Jokes

The following are jokes about people from a region of Colombia that is far removed from the capital of Bogota. They are known as Pastuso Jokes. They are usually very long like most Colombian jokes which usually follow long storytelling format so I picked 3 of the shortest to give a fair representation. These were repeated by my grand uncle at an Easter dinner and different ones are told at every gathering.

The Pastuso having just arrived in Bogota wanted to go to the market and was told that he could wait for the bus or walk there, he was given directions that said “go to the other side of the street and make a left at the corner and then walk two kilometers and the market will be on the right side of the street.” He waited for a while and no bus arrived but he saw a man on his front lawn, he went over to the man spoke to him and crossed the street again. Then still uncertain, he asked someone who was now waiting at the bus stop and asked “where is the other side of the street?” The man said “it right over there (pointing to the man on the lawn)” and the Pastuso said “but I was just over there and they told me the same thing.” (Insert laugh here)

A Pastuso went to the Capitol (Bogota), he was told by a someone who was from the capitol to remember that money calls to money – meaning those who have money seem to attract others with money so that a peasant from Pasto would largely be ignored- so not expect too much. But the Pastuso, never having been to the capitol was super excited because he thought of a plan. He went to the bank and exchanged all of his small bills (100 pesos) for the largest bill he could get (20,000 pesos) and then he went outside of the bank to wait for the bank to close. After the bank was closed for the day he shoved the 20,000 peso bill under the door of the bank holding it by the corner, hoping the bill would call out to the other bills in the bank. But a gust of wind came and he lost grip of the bill and it was sucked into the bank. The Pastuso stood up scratching his head and said “I guess all those bill in the bank called out to my bill more loudly.” (Insert laugh here)

A Pastuso went to the store to buy a poncho, and asked the storeowner how do I put on the poncho” The store owner looked at the Pastuso and said “just open up the poncho and put your head through the hole, easy.” So the Pastuso went home and spread out the poncho on the floor and jumped head first into the hole. (Insert laugh here)

Analysis: The last one is my favorite because it is actually the most translatable and therefore the funniest. My grand uncle Arturo loves telling “Pastuso” Jokes They are the American equivalent to dumb blonde jokes or Polish Jokes. Pasto is a city in the southern most regions of Colombia near the boarder of Ecuador nestle in the Andean Mountain range, making the city very isolated. The people who live there are mostly peasants and uneducated blue color workers. Probably because of its isolation more than the average IQ score, they have been the targets of jokes that exemplify extreme acts of stupidity. The distance from the Capitol does make Pastusos appear to be more provincial especially when they come to the big city. These jokes seem funnier in Spanish, especially when drinking vast amounts of alcohol. A lot is lost in translation.

Folk Beliefs
Folk medicine
Homeopathic

Curing “deadly” Colombian hiccups

Juliana remembered that if you get hiccups,  you should place a small piece of wet paper between your eyebrows in the middle of your forehead to stop the hiccups. She has no idea why but it will usually do the trick. However, if that does not work, then you are supposed to place the wet piece of paper inside on the roof of your mouth. If that fails, then get some “panela” (harden brown sugar) shave it into a thimble of hot brandy, lie on the bed with your head hanging off the bed, drinking it upside down. If all of that fails, then you run the risk of dying because she knows someone who had the hiccups for one week and died in their sleep. Spooky. I asked the other Colombians there at Easter dinner about the hiccups and they had a few other variations but all claimed to know someone different who had died of the hiccups. Colombians take hiccups seriously and will be on you to take measure to stop the hiccups as fast as possible because you can die.  They say that chewing your food slowly and eating slow is the key to not getting hiccups. Colombians already take their time eating on average twice to three times longer than most Americans. They seem to think that this was common knowledge and warned me against my ignorance because they did not want me to  die.

Analysis: Did not know hiccups were so dangerous. It is something most people will experience and an annoying nuisance and maybe because it is so common out of coincidence someone may die while having hiccups. But I have never heard of anyone in the US dying of hiccups and American mow their food at high velocity. Colombian eat much slower and yet it seems like everyone had heard of someone who has died of it in Colombia. I did Google it and someone on Grey’s Anatomy (TV show) died who had prolonged hiccups but her death was the result of infection from surgery to correct the acid reflux that was aggravating the hiccups. Also, we are talking about a fictional character.

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