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Adulthood
Childhood
Customs
Festival
Musical
Rituals, festivals, holidays

Dale, Dale, Dale – Piñata Song

Informant: Maria Burguete. 20 years old. Born and raised in Mexico City

Informant: “Mexican parties are very fun. If there is a piñata involved we all sing a specific song while the person hits it with a stick. Once the  song is over, the person stops hitting the piñata”

Original:

“Dale, dale, dale! no pierdas el tino,

Porque si lo pierdes… pierdes el camino;

Ya le diste una!

ya le diste dos!

ya le diste tres!…y tu tiempo se acabo!!”

 

Translation:

“Hit it, hit it, hit it! Don’t loose the aim,

Because if you loose it, you loose the way;

You already hit it once!

You already hit it twice!

You already hit it three! and your time is up!

 

Collector: “Do you recall when you first heard this song?”

Informant: “No, this song has literally been in my life forever. When I was a baby and I could not hit the piñata, my dad would carry me and everyone would sing it. Over time, this song has stayed with me and everyone I know. It is really part of our culture.”

Thoughts: This song is really important in Mexican culture. Whenever there is a piñata at a party, everyone immediately sings. It really has been engraved in the culture forever. Piñatas are an important part of a celebration in Mexico and although it usually involves kids, adults also partake in the activity.

Legends
Narrative

La Mujer Dormida – “The Sleeping Woman”

Informant: Maria Burguete. 20 years old. Born and raised in Mexico City.  Maria learned this legend from her parents and in sixth grade Mexican History class. Mexican history class introduced Maria to several myths, legends, and stories of the land.

Informant:

Original: “En la Ciudad de México hay dos volcanes: Popocatéptl y la Mujer Dormida. Su historia es fascinante. En Tlaxcala había una hermosa princesa llamada Iztaccíhuatl. El poderoso guerrero Popocatéptl se enamoró de ella y los dos se profesaron su amor. Desafortunadamente, el ejército Tlaxcalteca necesitaba a Popocatéptl para pelear contra los Aztecas. Popocatéptl le pidió al padre de ella por su mano, y el aceptó su propuesta pero con la única condición de que regresara victoriosamente. Popocatéptl aceptó y se fue a la guerra. Iztaccíhuatl esperó a Popocateptl por mucho tiempo pero la guerra continuaba. En Tlaxcala había otro hombre enamorado de Iztaccíhuatl. Por sus celos, inventó que Popocatéptl había sido derrotado y asesinado. Iztaccíhuatl estaba derrotada. No podía parar de llorar y murió de tristeza. Popocatéptl regresó de la guerra victoriosamente y con muchas ganas de ver a su prometida. Al ver que ella había muerto, Popocatéptl la cargo en sus brazos y la llevo hasta la cima de una montaña. Popocatéptl la acostó en el suelo y la beso. Al ver el poderoso amor, los dioses los cubrieron en nieve y los convirtieron en volcanes para que siempre estuvieran juntos y su amor estuviara conectado por el resto de los tiempos. Por eso, los volcanes se ven así ahora. Iztaccíhuatl está acostada en forma de mujer dormida y Popocatéptl es un volcán activo que tira humo y fuego por la perdida de su amada.

Translation:

In Mexico City there are two volcanoes: Popocatéptl and “The Sleeping Woman” and their story is fascinating. A long time ago there was a war between Los Aztecas and Los Tlaxcaltecas. In Tlaxcala, there was a beautiful princess named Iztaccíhuatl. The powerful warrior Popocatéptl fell in love with her and they both professed their love. Unfortunately, the Tlaxcaltec army needed Popocatéptl to fight against the Aztecs. Popocatéptl asked her father for her hand, and he accepted the proposal on the only condition that he return victoriously from the battle. Popocatépt accepted and went to war. lIztaccíhuatl waited for Popocatéptl for a long time but the war continued. In Tlaxcala, there was another man in love with Iztaccíhuatl. Due to his jealousy, he invented that Popocatéptl had been defeated and assassinated. Iztaccíhuatl was heartbroken. She could not stop crying and died of sadness. Popocatéptl returned from the war victoriously and very eager to see his fiancée. After seeing that she had died, Popocatéptl took her in his arms and carried her to the summit of a mountain. Popocatéptl laid her down on the floor and kissed her. Seeing their powerful love, the gods covered them in snow and turned them into volcanoes so that they would always be together and their love would be connected for the rest of the times. That’s why the volcanoes look like that now. Iztaccíhuatl is lying in the form of a sleeping woman and Popocatéptl is an active volcano that erupts smoke and fire for the loss of her beloved.

Thoughts: Living in Mexico City, the volcanoes are prominent objects in the landscape. In my opinion, this is one of Mexico’s most beloved legends due to its symbolism of love and its accurate description of the shapes. Ever since I was little, I have only called the Iztaccíhuatl volcano “La Mujer Dormida” or “The Sleeping Woman.” I would often ask my parents why the volcano was called as such and they used to give me a similar version of the story. In our sixth grade Mexican History class, a version of this legend was told. Of course, some of the details are not exact and the story has not kept the same narrative. For example, I remember that Popocatéptl ate a torch on fire to kill himself and then the gods transformed them into volcanoes. Although at times the narrative is different, the legend keeps the same symbolism and story. The legend has truth to it because it incorporates real tribes and real people. The magical part of the legend is something the Aztecs really believed in. They believed that the gods had a powerful effect on their lives; as a consequence, it makes sense that this legend was created. By teaching it and reinforcing it in schools, I believe that the legend will not be lost.

Legends
Narrative

La Leyenda de la Luna – The Legend of the Moon

Informant: Maria Burguete. 20 years old. Born and raised in Mexico City.

Original:

Informant: “Un día, el dios Quetzalcóatl se transformó en forma humana para explorar la tierra. Después de un largo día se anocheció y el dios se sentó para descansar. Un conejo lo vio preocupado y se acerco a él sin saber que era dios. El conejo le preguntó que si se sentía bien. Quetzalcóatl le dijo que se sentía cansado por caminar tanto y tenía hambre. El conejo le ofreció su comida pero el dios le dijo que él no comía plantas. Al escuchar esto, el conejo le dijo que no tenía nada más para ofrecer, pero se ofreció a si mismo como comida. El conejo dijo que aunque no sea muy grande bastaría para llenarlo. Al escuchar esto, el dios estaba muy agradecido. Envés de comérselo, el dios regresó a su forma original, recogió al conejo y lo alzó tan alto que su reflejo quedo enmarcado en la luna. Al bajar, el dios le dijo al conejo que aunque su forma física fuera pequeña su retrato quedaría enmarcado en la luz por el resto de los tiempos.

Translation:

One day, the god Quetzalcóatl transformed into human form to explore the earth. After a long day of walking, the sun went down and the God sat down to rest. A bunny saw him worried and came close to him without knowing he was a god. The bunny asked him if he was feeling ok. Quetzalcóatl told him he was tired from walking and was hungry. The bunny offered his food to him, but the god said he did not eat plants. After hearing this, the bunny said he didn’t have anything else to offer, but he offered himself as food. The bunny said that although he wasn’t very big it would be enough to fill him. After hearing this, the god was very appreciative. Instead of eating the bunny, the god transformed into his original form, picked up the bunny, and carried it so high that the bunny’s reflection was engraved on the moon. After coming down, the god told the bunny that although his physical form was small, his portrait would be engraved on the light for the rest of times.

Collector: “When did you first hear this legend and what does it mean to you?”

Informant: “I learned this legend in sixth grade Mexican History class. I vividly remember the story because that same day I made the effort to look at the moon and could see the bunny’s trace on it. I was literally mind blown! I enjoy this legend because it is a creative approach to explaining why the moon has its spots. When I first heard the legend, I was really moved by the story: a little cute bunny offers himself to a god and the god is moved by the bunny’s kindness. To me, it was really a story about kindness.”

Thoughts:

Maria was my best friend growing up. We both went to the same school in Mexico and were introduced to this legend at the same time (6th grade Mexican History class with Ms. Fernandez). To be honest, I did not remember the legend as well as she did. I only remembered that the bunny was kind, the god threw him into the moon, and his reflection was engraved on it. Truly, the message of the legend is to teach children about kindness. Ever since hearing this legend, each time I look at the moon I see a bunny engraved on it.

 

For another version of this legend please see: “http://www.mexicolore.co.uk/aztecs/stories/creation-of-the-moon”  or “https://chilangaexported.wordpress.com/2014/03/02/ancient-aztecs-the-rabbit-in-the-moon/”

 

Customs

Biz- Fraternity Folklore

Informant: Jimmy Lonergan. 21 years old. From Chicago. Student at USC and member of a fraternity.

Informant:  “When I pledged a fraternity, we were told by the older members in the house we weren’t allowed to say the number ‘5.’  Instead of saying the number ‘5’ we had to say ‘Biz.’ For example: “It’s Biz o’clock, I have Biz siblings, etc. The origins of Biz is actually a very funny story. There is a popular drinking game called beer die. The game involves four people standing on opposite sides of the table. There are two beer cups at each corner and a player throws up a die in the air, attempting to hit the opponents side of the table. The die is supposed to bounce off and the opponent has to catch it. If the die does not leave the table, the die lands on a number. If it lands on 5 then the team who threw the die has to drink because in the game, the number 5 is forbidden so.

Collector: “So why BIZ?”

Informant: “So this alumnus from the fraternity whom I never met decided that because the number 5 is forbidden in the game, he would say ‘BIZ’ instead. I don’t remember why he chose BIZ specifically. Since then, it has become a part of my fraternity culture. In the fraternity, BIZ has become part of the everyday vocabulary. When someone forgets the rule, for example, people humorously scream BIZ at them!

Thoughts: This fraternity lore is very interesting. It is fairly recent and it is crazy that one individual literally created the custom of saying BIZ instead of 5. Since pledges follow most orders, it comes as no surprise that Biz would quickly replace 5 in their vocabulary.

Customs
Musical

Deerfield Evensong

Informant: Mamy Mbaye. 20 years old. From Senegal, attended Deerfield Academy (a boarding school in MA) with me. Student at Pomona College.

Collector: “What was your favorite part about Deerfield?”

Informant: “One of my favorite experiences at Deerfield was singing the Deerfield Evensong.

Collector: “Could you explain the experience as if I didn’t attend the school with you?”

 

Informant: “Of course! Okay, so at Deerfield, all the students and faculty gather for a sit down formal dinner every Sunday. We have assigned tables and the table is made up of ten students from every grade as well as one faculty member. Once dinner is over, the dean announces on the microphone to “please rise for the evensong.” A faculty member plays the piano and we all stand-up and sing in unison. The second to last verse is reserved for seniors and all the other students join in for the last verse. Once the song is over we all clap and leave the dinning hall. This song is very meaningful to me because it was part of my life for three formative years. When I was a senior during my last Sunday dinner, I cried while singing the senior verse. This song is so much more than a shared experience. It truly emphasizes my love for Deerfield. I really have such fond memories from there and I will forever cherish that bond.”

Song:

Words by Richard Warren Hatch
Music by Ralph Herrick Oatley

“Far beyond each western mountain
Gleam the fires of dying day;
Softly from each hidden fountain
Flows the river on its way.

All the valley lies in splendor
Hushed before the coming night;
From a hundred ancient windows
Flashes back the sunset’s light.

Now the meadow-wind’s soft whisper
Stirs the old elm’s silhouette,
Bends each leafy tower above us,
Caught in evening’s dusky net.

Now the day is done with striving;
Let the heart hold memory bright;
Soon these halls and fields we’re leaving—
Raise we song before the night.

Senior Verse:

Let the circling night be softened
By the ember’s last faint glow;
In the firelight we will gather
Bound by song before we go.

Deerfield Days are days of glory,
Memory lives in every one;
Let no other name be spoken
Till the even-hour is done.”

Thoughts: Mamy and I graduated from Deerfield at the same time. As she mentions, this song is very meaningful in our lives. I didn’t cry while singing the senior verse, but it was a very emotional experience to sing it one last time. The song is beautifully written and encompasses the shared spirit of pride.

Adulthood
Customs
Initiations
Rituals, festivals, holidays

Cigars on Graduation Day

Informant: Sebastian Williamson. 21 years old. Born in Mexico. My brother and USC student.

Informant:“Sophomore year of high school I went to a boarding school in Concord, New Hampshire. One of the traditions at St. Paul’s is that when the seniors graduate they smoke cigars on the lawn after receiving their diplomas. I had never seen this ritual before. I remember seeing the seniors smoking cigars with their fellow graduates, taking pictures with their parents, and showing off their diplomas. A friend explained to me that the father buys the cigar—usually an expensive one—to signify a rite of passage into adulthood. Some of the teachers are not too happy with this tradition as smoking is prohibited on campus, yet this tradition is an exception. It has been such an old tradition in boarding schools that the administration accepts it. It is really a symbol of maturity and the next chapter in one’s life. I left boarding school after that year and finished high school in Mexico. When I graduated, I actually decided to smoke a cigar. Even though I was only at St. Paul’s school for one year, I wanted to bring a part of that experience to my graduation in Mexico. HA! What’s funny is that the school’s principal told me I couldn’t smoke so I just took several pictures.”

Thoughts: The cigar ritual at boarding schools is very traditional and old. Just like my brother, I went to boarding school but actually graduated from there. After receiving my diploma, I went to the lawn and smoked a cigar with my friends. This tradition of smoking cigars after graduation is a good example of a ritual done in order to enter into adulthood. Interestingly, my father didn’t buy me the cigar as I never told him about the tradition so I had to find an extra one from a friend. My brothers experience is really unique. His decision to smoke the cigar in Mexico was more about wanting to keep in touch with his boarding school tradition and I thought it was a great idea. In Mexico, since this tradition does not exist it makes sense that the administration got mad.

Customs
Holidays
Protection
Rituals, festivals, holidays
Signs

Dia de los Muertos-Day of the Dead

 

Informant: “Growing up in the United States for most of my life, October to me was Halloween. When I moved to Mexico, I learned about ‘El Día de los Muertos’ (The Day of the Dead).  Living in Miami I remember hearing about the celebration in school but had never truly experienced it. My family and I actually decided to participate in the tradition to fully immerse ourselves into the culture. In our apartment’s foyer, we made an ofrenda (altar) to honor those we had lost. We decorated the table with papel chino (a colorful paper engraved with holes depicting skulls), calacas (sugar coated skulls),  and  Cempasuchitl (a bright orange flower). We also adorned the table with pictures of our dead relatives, a cross, candles, and Pan de Muerto (a breaded sugary dessert). Although we are not Mexican, we thought it was a great idea to honor our lost loved ones. It is a beautiful tradition. There is this specific street in the area Polanco where the middle sidewalk is filled with the Cempasuchitl’s flowers. It is really a beautiful sight!”

Collector: “I know that you live in Miami now again. Do you still celebrate it?

Informant: “No! Now that we moved back to Miami we no longer make an ofrenda. Not to be misunderstood, I love the tradition, I just don’t think it is appropriate for me to celebrate it in the U.S.”

Thoughts: At home in Mexico my family makes an ofrenda every year. What intrigues me about Carlota’s experience with the holiday is that she thinks it is inappropriate to continue celebrating it. Although Carlota was never Mexican she made the choice to participate in the tradition. I wonder if Carlota had lived longer in Mexico she maybe would have kept the tradition.

Legends
Myths
Narrative

La Leyenda de la Llorona

Informant: Carlota Rodriguez-Benito. 20 years old. Spanish Heritage, born in Miami, lived in Mexico. USC student.

Informant: “There is this very famous legend in Mexico called ‘La Leyenda de la Llorona.’ From what I can recall it goes like this. There was once this very beautiful woman. The most handsome guy fell in love with her and they had three beautiful children. Their life was perfect until one day he stopped coming home. He would only return at times to visit the children and paid no attention to her. One day, while the children were sleeping, she went to town to look for him. There, she saw him with another woman. She followed them for a long time and then… they kissed. She ran back home, woke up the children, and took them out on a picnic near a river. She got in the water and told the children to follow. She carried the children in her arms and told them everything would be alright. She held them strongly and sang them a lullaby. With tears in her eyes, she suddenly sank them in the water. The children screamed..…MAMÁ AYUDA (MOM HELP!)…..but she wouldn’t let go. The children stopped moving and she carried them out. It was that moment when she realized what she had done. She started crying and screamed…AYYY MIIISSS HIJOOOOSSS(OH MY CHILDREN)…. and tried to bring them back to life. She couldn’t live with what she had done and killed herself. Since then, she roams around at night crying for her children. If a child is awake and hears her cry, she steals him or her thinking it is her own. After taking the child and realizing it is not hers, she drowns him or her with grief!”

Collector: “When did you first hear this legend?”

Informant: “So I moved to Mexico in 10th grade. I don’t know exactly how I learned about the legend but if I can recall, it was around Halloween time. I was talking to a classmate and she asked me what I was gonna be. I told her I wanted to dress up as ‘La Katrina.’ She then told me she planned on being ‘La Llorona.’ “Excuse Me?” I asked her.  “What is La Llorona??” It was then that I learned the story and was immediately captivated. As I stayed in Mexico longer, I eventually learned that La Llorona is a legend that everyone knows. It is really part of the Mexican culture.

Thoughts: La Leyenda de la Llorona is really famous in Mexico. Interestingly, there are so many variations of the story. One version is that the woman killed the children because the husband paid more attention to them than to her. She hated the children and hoped that after killing them she would have him all to herself. Something that really surprised me is the intermix between La Llorona and La Malinche. Somehow, I had only heard about la Llorona and did not know about its correlation to la Malinche until I took this class. This story would spook me as a child and it would keep me from walking by myself at night. I think this is maybe because her story is everywhere in Mexico. The media also portrays la Llorona and there was even a ride that told her story at six flags called “La Mansion de la Llorona” – “The Weeping Woman’s Mansion.”

Interesting history of the legend: “http://www.lallorona.com/1legend.html”

For another version please see:  http://www.literacynet.org/lp/hperspectives/llorona.html

Childhood
Folk medicine
Game
Humor
Proverbs

Hispanic Proverb

Informant: Carlota Rodriguez-Benito. 20 years old. Spanish Heritage, born in Miami, lived in Mexico. USC student.

Original: “Sana que sana, colita de rana…si no sanara hoy! sanará mañanaaaa!”

Translation: Heals that heals frog’s little tail, if it does not heal today it will heal tomorrow!

Informant: “Ohh! I love this one. Whenever I used to hurt myself or feel sick, my mom would hold me in her arms. She would stroke the area in pain and say: “Sana que sana, colita de rana…si no sanara hoy! sanará mañanaaaa!” While saying the “mañana” (tomorrow) part she would kiss the affected area and tickle me. I love this proverb because it brings joy to a painful time. Although it would not heal my pain, it would alleviate my attitude. Thanks to my mother’s love, I was mentally ready for the pain to go away. No longer does this happen.. of course as this was only when I was a little kid! (Pause), oh!!! Excuse me, I just can’t stop thinking of this moment.

Thoughts: Surprisingly, I have not heard this proverb before. It is amazing that a proverb hold such a special place in Carlota’s heart and it makes sense. Certainly, she correlates the proverb to her childhood and her mother’s love. Not only does Carlota’s mother say the proverb but also employ specific gestures to accompany her words. It becomes almost an own tradition in her family until she is too old for the game.

Customs
Initiations
Musical
Rituals, festivals, holidays

Fraternity Song

Informant: Jimmy Lonergan. 21 years old. From Chicago. Student at USC and member of a fraternity.

“When I joined a fraternity this song really spoke to the values I hope to live and abide by. When I came to USC, I really wanted to join a fraternity due to the powerful experience of brotherhood. I come from a big family—five siblings—and I really wanted to have brothers throughout my college career. We sing this song after Monday Dinner and during chapter, all the brothers stand in a circle, lock their arms together, and sing in unison while moving from side to side:

Our strong band can ne’er be broken

Formed in ole Phi Psi

Far surpassing wealth unspoken

Sealed by friendship’s tie

Chorus:

Amici, usque ad aras

(“Friendship, ongoing until death”)

Deep graven on each heart

Shall be found unwav’ring true

When we from life shall part

 

College life at best is passing

Gliding swiftly by

Let us pledge in word and action

Love for old Phi Psi”

 

Thoughts: The lyrics really emphasize the importance of friendship, pledging, brotherhood, and a sacred bond. Truly, a fraternity tries to emulate these values and as Jimmy said it is the brotherhood that drew him to the fraternity. This fraternity song reminds me of the Declaration of Independence. In the Declaration of Independence, it says: “we mutually pledge to each other our Lives, our Fortunes, and our sacred Honor.” Fraternities are very old American organizations whose founders were inspired by the same values this country was founded upon. Truly, the song encapsulates a similar sentiment that is portrayed in the Declaration of Independence.

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