Author Archive
Legends

La Llorona, Mexico

This story was collected from a friend, who was born and raised in Monterrey, Mexico and is 20 years old. She told me her version about La Llorona, a widespread legend in the American Southwest, South America, and Central America. A lot of versions of the story exist in different regions, and this is the one her nanny used to tell her when she was growing up. Most versions have themes of maternal love, marriage, and death and suicide.

 

According to my friend’s version, La Llorona is about a woman whose husband left her, which made her lose her mind and kill her three children. When she came into her senses and realized what she had done, she couldn’t live with it so she committed suicide. She couldn’t go to heaven for having killed herself, so she stayed on Earth. She is supposed to go around looking for her children and taking all of the children she can find thinking they are hers.

 

My friend says it didn’t have much of an impact on her since she didn’t really believe in ghosts or anything of the sort, but it did make her scared to leave her house at night when she first heard it since she was so young. She also believes that was its intended purpose; something a parent would say to their child to scare them into behaving more safely, since Mexico has some dangerous areas.

 

I think it’s very interesting that her version has some religious undertones in its incorporation of heaven, since the one that I heard growing up didn’t, which speaks to how religious Mexico is as a country. Also, some other versions portray the woman as “bad,” condemning her behavior saying she intentionally killed her children as a form of revenge yet this version seems to portray her as more of a victim of a terrible situation. This is surprising to me, for Mexico is a sexist country in a lot of ways.

 

For more versions of this legend, see https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/La_Llorona

Rituals, festivals, holidays

El Entierro de la Sardina, Panama

This tradition was collected from a friend, who was born and raised in Panama City, Panama and is 20 years old. It is about el entierro de la sardina, which translates to English as “the burial of the sardine,” a ceremony that marks the end of the carnival festivities in Spain and some Latin American countries.

 

She told me that this ceremony consists of a carnival-like parade that mimics a funeral procession with the burning of a symbolic figure, usually a sardine. It is celebrated the Saturday after Semana Santa, or Holy Week, and it represents a metaphorical burial of the past that allows people to be reborn. My friend has attended many of these throughout the years and says it is a very fun experience, as well as a nice metaphor for starting over and she likes that it incorporates her religion as well.

 

I am from Panama as well, but since I am Jewish, I had never seen or even heard of this ceremony, but it sounds really fun. I’ll make sure to attend one of these when I go back home to visit, since the carnival festivities have always been a very important aspect of Panamanian culture and everyone seems to enjoy them.

Narrative

Tree story, India

This story was collected from a friend, who was born and raised in New Delhi, India and is 20 years old. She told me a story that her grandfather used to tell her whole family when they sat in the front porch of their house.

 

She told me that there is a really big tree which was always barren in front of her house, and her grandfather said that the only time this tree was in full bloom was when it had a nest in which a mama bird had 4 babies. One day, a snake climbed up the tree and ate the babies, and the mama cried and cried until all the leaves fell off and the tree has never bloomed since. She says this story brought a flavor of fantasy to her locality which in turn gave her a sense of wonder ever since she was a child.

 

This story reminded me of the stories I used to hear from my own grandparents, and I think it is a really nice way to increase that sense of wonder and turn something seemingly ordinary into something that brings the family together.

Customs
Rituals, festivals, holidays

Holi, India

This story was collected from a friend, who was born and raised in New Delhi, India and is 20 years old. She told me about a family tradition surrounding Holi, the festival of colors celebrated in India.

 

The festival is usually celebrated it in the beginning of march. The night before the big day of Holi, there is a smaller festival called Holika Dahan. There was a kind in Hindu mythology character, Hiranyakashyap, who was so arrogant and self-centered that he wanted to be the only one worshiped by his kingdom, but his son, Prahlad, continued to worship lord Vishnu (one of the 3 gods in Hindu triumvirate) who is believed to be responsible for the upkeep of the universe. To teach the son a lesson, the king’s sister, Holika, tricks him into sitting on a pyre with her. Holika wore a fire resistant dress and hoped that Prahlad would die while she survived but as fate had it, the opposite happened. So for this festival, all the neighbors go to the common temple and they have and get a piece of the bonfire to put in their temples at home to commemorate the victory of evil over good no matter what the odds are.

 

She always looked forward to this because her mother, grandmother, grandfather, little brother and her would always go to the temple together to bring this piece of burning wood and she would get to pick it out of the fire. As a kid, that was really a rush, and it became one of her favorite family traditions.

 

I had heard about Holi before, and even been to Holi-themed events, but I had never heard about the story behind it or the temple ritual my friend described. I think it is a very nice way to bring families together and remind them of their religious backgrounds.

Legends
Narrative

Witch house, India

This story was collected from a friend, who was born and raised in New Delhi, India and is 20 years old. She told me a rumor that was started when she was younger about a house in her neighborhood.

 

She told me that she had never the house’s owner up until a few years ago. She had only seen 30-40 cats that went in and out of the house. She is not sure about how it started, but all the kids in her locality were scared of looking at the house for more than a minute at a time because somebody started a rumor that the evil witch inside would throw kids into a well inside the house or eat them for dinner. She says it became a fun little test among her friends for seeing who was the bravest by making people stare at the house. Looking back at it now, she thinks it was probably a parent who started this rumor so that the kids would come home right after it got dark.

 

It looks like this is one of those stories parents use to scare children into behaving and not leaving their house at night, like Mexico’s La Llorona or Panama’s La Tulivieja. I like that children turned it into a fun game instead of being scared of it. All of the Indian people that I’ve met are very playful and not easily scared, so that reaction makes sense to me.

Proverbs

“Ghar ka bedhi, lanka dhaaye,” India

This proverb was collected from a friend, who was born and raised in New Delhi, India and is 20 years old. “Ghar ka bedhi, lanka dhaaye” translates into English literally as “the person who is a traitor to his/her own home can bring the entire house down,” and it is based on Hindu mythology.

 

The context is about the evilest king in Ramayan, who was brought down because his brother exposed the king’s only weakness to the king’s rival. If he hadn’t received that information, he would have never won.

 

I found Indian proverbs to be very metaphorical and symbolic in comparison to the American or Latin American proverbs that I’ve heard. My friend told me about some others that she had heard and I didn’t understand them at first, but when she gave me some context for them, I thought their messages were very deep and beautiful. They clearly come from experience and make interesting religious connections.

Legends

El Cadejo, El Salvador

This legend was collected from a friend, who was born and raised in San Salvador, El Salvador and is 21 years old. It is about el cadejo, a character of the folklore of Central America and some parts of Mexico.

 

She told me the story is about two dogs, one white and one black. Indigenous people believed that dogs help humans to get to heaven after they die. El cadejo is therefore actually a spirit that presents itself in the form of a dog. It is believed that God created a good spirit in order to protect humankind, the white dog, but the devil created a black one that would fight the white one and defeat God. It is said that the black one tends to be seen by people who wonder the streets at night, engage in immoral behaviors, or have an unclean conscience. It chases its victims to scare them and the hypnotizes them with its read eyes and steals their souls. The white one, in contrast, is believed to protect God’s “loyal believers.” She says that her grandfather told her that story, and that he actually believed it, but she never really believed in legends. She also told me that legends were a big part of Salvadoran culture and were taught in school, and on El Salvador’s independence day, there are nation-wide parades and people dress up as the dogs or other characters from legends to commemorate them.

 

I find it interesting that this legend has positive and negative aspects, in contrast to other Latin American legends that tend to be mostly negative. It also incorporates themes of religion and morality, symbolizing El Salvador’s strong religiosity.

Customs

Sunday family dinners, El Salvador

This custom was collected from a friend, who was born and raised in San Salvador, El Salvador and is 21 years old.

 

She told me that every Sunday night, it is a tradition for all families across the country regardless of their social status to sit together and eat pupusas, a thick stuffed corn tortilla from El Salvador. She told me that her own family doesn’t really follow this tradition often, since her parents did not grow up in El Salvador, but that every time it does happen it is great quality time and she enjoys it very much.

 

I think this is a very beautiful tradition that speaks to Latin Americans’ importance on family time. It reminds me of the weekly lunches that my parents made me and my siblings go to every Sunday as an excuse to spend more time together.

Customs
Rituals, festivals, holidays

August vacation, El Salvador

This custom was collected from a friend, who was born and raised in San Salvador, El Salvador and is 21 years old.

 

She told me that during the first week of August, all companies, schools, and pretty much every single business is closed to commemorate Jesus Christ’s transfiguration. She says that about 90% of the country is Catholic, and everyone does it even if they are not religious. She says a lot of people go to the lake during does days, including her, and she gets to spend time with family and friends.

 

I think this is really interesting; we don’t have anything like that where I grew up, probably because there is a lot more of a variety in terms of religion.

Customs

La Mongonada, Panama

This custom was collected from a friend, who was born and raised in Panama City, Panama and is 20 years old. It is about a party that construction promotors throw for their employees after a project is completed.

 

It was her uncle who told her about it, since he works in the construction business. When a project is over, promotors throw a party called la monongada, where the promotors provide food and entertainment to thank their employees for all their hard work. It is named after the mondongo, a Panamanian stew served with rice and beans (while in other countries it is commonly eaten as soup). He told my friend that it was the only time the promotors and construction workers really interacted outside work, and that it was always a beautiful experience. My friend was so interested in seeing what that looked like that she asked her uncle to take her to one a couple of years back. There were popular Panamanian singers, delicious food, and hundreds of people. She said it was one of the best parties she had ever been to, and everyone was having a great time.

 

I think this is a very beautiful tradition. My mom is also in the construction business, and she throws these parties as well. I’ve never been to one, but she’s showed me a lot of pictures and it is clear that everyone really enjoys themselves. I think this speaks to Panamanians’ classism to an extent, but it is still a nice way for these promotors to acknowledge the hard work put in by their employees.

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