Author Archive
Folk Beliefs
Folk medicine

Folk-medicine “Se Empacho”

Context:

 

This piece of folklore was collected on April 19, 2018 around 6 pm. I went over to my girlfriend’s parents’ house for dinner and I overheard a piece of folk medicine and was intrigued. My girlfriends mother was telling this piece to my girlfriend, so I interviewed her. This is a rough translation of the conversation because she only speaks Spanish and I did not go prepared to record the interview as this was a spontaneous interview.

 

Main Piece:

 

At my girlfriend’s parents’ house, I overheard my girlfriend’s mother say that the baby, a 2-year-old, she babysits “Se empacho”. She said that she already had cured him by “sobandolo” (massaging). I was bit intrigued as to what sickness could be cured with a massage, so I asked if I could interview her on the topic.

 

Me: “Que significa que se empacho”. (What does “empacho” mean)

 

Teresa: She replied that sometimes when a baby eats something “se queda atorado en su estómago” (it will get stuck in their stomach). The baby the shows symptoms such as “no comiendo y estando triste” (not eating and being sad). Teresa : “Solamente… ninos se pueden empachar, o tambien adultos” (Can only kids get this sickness, or can adults get it also” Teresa: “Todo la jente se puede empachar” (Everyone or Anyone can get this illness) Me: “Oooh… ok, y como se dice… como se cura. Ay una manera specifica que se tiene que sobar. Pues como… adonde se tiene que sobar y tienes que usar algo cuando lo sobas” ( Oooh… ok, and how do I say this… how do you cure this. Is there a specific way you need to massage then? Like how… where do you need to massage them and is there anything you need to use when you massage them.) Teresa: She replied that you have to massage their stomach downwards to get the whatever is stuck to go downwards and get dislodged. Then you have to pull their loose skin from their back. Background: My girlfriend’s mother is Mexican, born and raised in a small ranch in the state of Nayarit. She is 47 years old and was a nurse for the ranch. She tended to most small illnesses for the people of the ranch. She moved the United States when she was 33 years old. She said that she learned most of her remedies, including the cure for when someone is “empachado” from her mother who was also lives in the ranch. Analysis: This piece of folk medicine is a prime example of how people transfer share their own remedies to sicknesses. Although I have never heard of this sickness before and could not find any specific studies to what this sickness could be or how massaging one’s stomach could cure it, it is still a significant part of one’s culture. When interviewing my girlfriend’s mother, I saw how serious she was about the sickness and the pride she had for curing it. Although traditional and scientific medical research shows no evidence of how this sickness is possible or how the cure works, it is widely believed and practiced in the small ranch.

general
Myths

Baptism: They way to heaven

Main Piece: 

Bryan : A baptism is like um something your parents are supposed to do before you turn one. You have to um um get baptized when you are young so they can wash away all the sins away and you can start a Christian life. If your parents wait to get you baptized its pretty much like bad because um babies can get a lot of bad vibes and I just know something bad happens. This is why my mom would always tell my brother to not take out my niece to places far away because they can get sick and stuff. And then if you don’t get baptized they say you are no Christian and can’t do any of the communions or even a quincenera. They literally would make you get baptized so you can do everything else. So getting baptized is a must in my family.

 

Before you turn one year old, you need to get baptized. When you are born you need to get washed.

Context:  I arranged an interview with Bryan at a Starbucks. It was loud and their seemed to be a business meeting a few tables away. Bryan was talking loudly so I could hear. Background: Bryan was born in Guatemala but came to the Unites States when he was a baby. He was raised in a predominately Hispanic community. He is currently attending California State Long Beach where he is studying Philosophy  Analysis: Bryan’s version of a common religious practice is informal and vague; however, it still shows a common myth. Although, it is not completely sacred to Bryan, you can tell by the manner in which he spoke about the subject that it is taken with seriousness by his parents and the church. This part of the religious belief influenced the manner in which my mother took care of a child. It also influenced the churches decision in not allowing anyone to practice the catholic religion without being baptized first.

Initiations
Rituals, festivals, holidays

Hazing

 Main Piece: So in the wrestling team we also did kinda have like another ritual. I mean it was kinda hazing but everyone had to do it or else they wouldn’t really be considered part of the team. It wasn’t like harassment or anything (he said this with a joking tone and giggling at the same time). Well after… each year after tryouts whoever made the team would have to get the old singlets from like people who had been in the team and wear them for an entire day. It’s like a tradition we have… well more like an initiation. For us it symbolized like following in the footsteps of more senior teammates. I am pretty sure though it is also for fun. Context:  I arranged with Bryan at a Starbucks. It was pretty loud and their seemed to be a business meeting a few tables away. Bryan was talking loudly so I could hear. Background: Bryan was born in Guatemala but came to the Unites States when he was a baby. He was raised in a predominately Hispanic community. He is currently attending California State Long Beach where he is studying Philosophy.  Analysis: In Bryan example of hazing, we can see a type of folk ritual called initiation. Before any person is accepted to the team, the need to be initiated by symbolic tradition. It is very similar to other types of initiations in which a person must pledge themselves by doing some kind of an embarrassing act. For example, this ritual is similar to sororities initiations that allow them to be part of their group.             

Game
general

18 Help Me

Main context: Me: Are there any other games you learned from a friend or just other people in general? Kevin: Let me think… oh ok got it. When I was a kid I learned how to play a game called 18 help me. Me: Oh cool. What is the game about. Kevin: Essentially, it’s a different variation of tag. You would try to get 18 players but usually you could not so I always just played with whatever number of people we had. So first you had to choose someone to be it. We would all put one foot into a circle and choose one foot to start at and up to 18 around the feet and whoever had 18 land on their foot was it… After I remember we would have 18 seconds to run before whoever was it would chase us. To win the game you had to get everyone but each person you got would then help you. Essentially you would have to put your hand on the other person and say 18 help me. If you did not say everything while touching them then you wouldn’t have got them. When you do get them they go and help you get the rest of the people until everyone has been tagged. After that then everyone would huddle again and whoever was tagged first in the last game would now be it. Then again you had 18 seconds to run before getting chased again and the game would be played over and over again until we uh were exhausted… or until fell and got hurt. Me: Sounds fun. What does the game mean to you? Kevin: Now that I really think about it, it is actually pretty important. I remember playing 18 help me every time I would go over to my tia’s (aunt) house. I have a lot a good memories hanging out with all my cousins. It somewhat like brought us together but now that we are all in college… we really don’t see each other that often. Background: Kevin is a 20 year old attending California State University Los Angeles. Both his parents are from El Salvador but he was born and raised in Huntington Park, California. Context: Kevin and I were playing video games and when we took a break to eat I asked him if he could help me with my collection of folklore. He agreed and allowed me to record the conversation with the condition that I would not post the video interview.  My thought: I was surprised at how important this folk game is. Although it is a multi-million dollar game such as a sport, its importance is centralized around the people who play it. This folk game brought together a family and served as a platform for bonding. This game is a variation of the common game called tag.

Game
general

H.O.R.S.E

Main Piece:  So horse is a basketball game. Well like not an actual game but like you play it with a basketball and you need a court. Basically the game is like a trick shot game. And whoever doesn’t make the shot five times looses. Me: Can you elaborate on that? Ok so the game is played by however number of people you want. First you have to choose a order that the players are going to be in. So the first person goes and could do whatever trickshot they want. So if they miss then it is the next persons turn. If they make it then the next person would have to do the same trick shot. If they make it then the next person would have to the same shot until it goes back to the person who made that trickshot…But if someone misses a tricksot then the person gets a letter. The first letter is H then O then ughh R then S then E. That’s why the game is called horse. And you loose when you spell out horse. Oh so lets say you made a trickshot and then the next person missed it then they get a letter and then the person after him does not have to do that trickshot anymore. Like they could do their own.  Context: Kevin and I were playing video games and when we took a break to eat I asked him if he could help me with my collection of folklore. He agreed and allowed me to record the conversation with the condition that I would not post the video interview. We were both sitting on the couch.  Background: Kevin is a 20 year old attending California State University Los Angeles. Both his parents are from El Salvador but he was born and raised in Huntington Park, California. Kevin stated that he enjoyed this game very much because it was his way of practicing and having more fun with his friends. He stated that he actually learned this game from his teammates when he would stay after practice and just play with them. Although, he did mention that the version of H.O.R.S.E he plays now is slightly different than when he learned it. The people he plays with now have the rule that if they miss a trickshot that is their own, they will also get a letter. My thoughts: Although folklore has no clear definition, a key component is that you learn it from other people in a non institutional place. This is clearly seen in Kevin’s example. He learns this game from his friends. Also, as stated by Alan Dundes “there must be multiplicity and variation. The game H.O.R.S.E is also fits into the category. There are many different variation to the game but the underlying mechanics of the game are still the same. I have actually played the game and I to learned it from friends. I also know another variation of horse called P.I.G. It is the same game but instead of having five letters you now have three.

Folk Beliefs
general

Lucky Shirt

Main Piece:  Me: Can you tell me about your lucky shirt? When did you get it? How is it lucky and what does it mean to you? Kevin: Alright where do I begin. So… first of all my lucky shirt does not fit me anymore and it isn’t really lucky to me anymore but it was before when I was younger. I got my lucky shirt…uuuh.. when I was around 9 years old. It was actually a gift from my mother. I used to go to church quite a bit and one day the church was uuh having sort of a fair. It was like a Christmas event so the children could play. My mom wanted to me to dress in the same suits I always wore to church but I didn’t want to. Like I knew the event was not that formal and I really wanted something more comfortable and cool. (while saying cool, Kevin made quotation marks with his hand indicating that he no longer thought it was so cool). The night before the event my mother surprised me… I was in my bedroom and she brought like … you know those.. like button down shirts. The ones for kids that come with the undershirt included. Aww man… Memories! I could remember like if it was yesterday! Uuhh. The button shirt was whiiitte with green stripes. The undershirt was almost a light green shirt. Well getting to why it was my lucky shirt. At the fair, one of the games was basketball. Oh o forgot so during the fair my mother let me take off the button down shirt so I only had my green undershirt on. I don’t remember why I took it off… I think maybe because it was hot or like I was running to much playing or something like that. Going back so I was playing and in the basketball game I was doing so good. I forgot to tell you! I was actually in my city basketball league. After that day I began wearing the shirt as an undershirt for my uniform. I am not lying to you!! ( Kevin was making a face expression that resembled he was passionate about he was saying) After that we I played so amazing!! We won every single game after that except one. Guess which one?! Me: I don’t know.  Kevin: The only game we lost was the one where I freakin couldn’t find the shirt.  Me: No way Kevin: Why would I lie to you? I am serious. I literally cannot explain why but that shirt was lucky. Me: What does the shirt mean to you now? Kevin: The shirt has some sentimental value but like it is not lucky to me anymore.  Context: Kevin and I were playing video games and when we took a break to eat I asked him if he could help me with my collection of folklore. He agreed and allowed me to record the conversation with the condition that I would not post the video interview. He also allowed me to post a picture of him in his lucky shirt as long as I did not capture his face. We both sat of the couch and the interview began. Background: Kevin is a 20 year old attending California State University Los Angeles. Both his parents are from El Salvador but he was born and raised in Huntington Park, California.   My thoughts:  Kevin’s lucky shirt is common example of folk belief and how people can place superstition on objects. It is not taught in any institutional place that an object can bring you luck. This belief has been transferred from different people who believe that their object brings them luck. For example, in the instance of Kevin, he was not taught that he could have a lucky object that would allow him to win every basketball game he played. He just learned it from his own experiences. FullSizeR

Folk Beliefs
Folk medicine

Una Limpia

Main Piece: 

Raul: When something or just everything goes wrong for a long time, you need a limpia (cleaning). Limpias help take away all the bad vibes you have around you in order for things to go good. A typical limpia is done by someone who is experienced and knows their way with bad spirits or vibes which is a curandera (healer). When you go to a curandera, they have cosas que usan (things that they use) to scare the bad vibes. They like pray and rub an egg around you. Then they move on to hit you with some leaves from a tree called el paraiso. After the curandera is done with this, all the bad vibes should have been scared away and your goodluck should come back. This means that things will not go bad for a couple of months until you need another limpia.

 

Me: How did you first learn about it?

 

Raul: Well… my mom would always talk about it with my aunts. They would always say that they needed a limpia because they were not able to get the job they wanted or they just felt that there was some evil spirit around them that they couldn’t do anything right.

 

Me: Did you ever see how a limpia is performed?

 

Raul: I actually did. At first it was really weird with the curandera pretty much smacking someone with some leaves. But in the end it was pretty cool.

 Context: The participant walked into the kitchen when I was interviewing his mother on a piece of folk medicine. After I concluded with her interview, he asked what we were doing, and I let him know I was collecting folklore Background:  Raul is a 27 year old who was born in Mexico but what brought to the United States when he was 17. He is fluent in Spanish and learned roughly learned English in the few years he attended high school. Analysis:  Una Limpia is an example of folk medicine. It is based on curing a “folk sickness” of having bad luck. It is interesting to see how people believing that performing these acts, they can be cured from an abstract thought created by humans such as luck. I am curious as to how someone diagnoses themselves and determines whether they need a limpia or not.

Folk Beliefs
Folk medicine
Protection

Evil Eye

Main Piece: Raul:  Whenever you see a cute baby you should always touch their hand or something so you don’tgive them the evil eye. Some people just have some kinda power that makes babies sick. This iswhy all Mexican babies have that red and black bracelet because it protects them from the evileye. But when babies don’t wear them and get the evil eye you have to pass an egg that youhave to warm up with your hands so it won’t be so cold around the body in a cross way whilepraying. The coolest part about this is when they are done with the prayers and rubbing theegg, they crack it open on a glass of water and if they had the evil eye then the yolk of the eggwould like um make somewhat of an eye. Then you just have to put the glass of water with theegg under the crib and let the baby sleep. I remember my mom would always cure my cousinsof the evil eye and would let me crack the egg. Everyone I knew at some point had experiencethe evil eye and had the whole egg thing done to them.  Context: The participant walked into the kitchen when I was interviewing his mother on a piece of folk medicine. After I concluded with her interview, he asked what we were doing, and I let him know I was collecting folklore. After explaining what folklore is he said he had a legend that originated where he was from. After he told the legend he told me about the evil eye. Raul noticed I was writing everything he said down so he told me about the evil eye in English only. Background:  Raul is a 27 year old who was born in Mexico but what brought to the United States when he was 17. He is fluent in Spanish and learned roughly learned English in the few years he attended high school. Analysis:This piece of folklore incorporates two categories of folk belief which are folk medicine and folk protection. The babies are supposed to where this magic bracelet that protects them from the evil eye. If the baby somehow does catch the evil eye then there is a remedy for it. This piece displays the power folklore has and the influence it has on peoples actions. This belief is strong enough to make parents put bracelets on their babies and even do these remedies to safeguard there children.  This piece is also shocking because my parent also believed in the evil eye. I surprised because there is no report a child ever dying from the evil eye. It is not scientifically proven yet so many people believe in it.

Legends
Narrative

The money under the rock

Main piece: Me: So what is this legend you were talking about Raul: In “el rancho ay un dicho” (the ranch there is an old saying” that about 30 years ago there was this man named Jose Garcia. “Era un Narco” (he was a drug trafficker)… everyone new Garcia cuz he used to drive up the road of the ranch “en chinga” (in a hurry and really fast) in his brand new truck. The story goes that he got super rich from selling drugs. “estaba bein loco” (he was really crazy!). “Hacia un pinche desmadre en el rancho” ( he used to make a mess in the ranch). He was always fighting with other Narcos (drug traffickers). You would hear gunshots of Garcia fighting other people all the time. Until… one day… no one know “que paso” (what happen). Some people say he went crazy from killing lots of people. “Otros dicen” (others say) that he took to0 many drugs. “Un dia cuando toda la jente estaba en el rancho celebrando la fiesta de elote” ( one day when everyone from the ranch was celebrating a corn festival) he  and screamed “Escondie to mi dinero abajo de una piedra”. He got then got his gun and shot himself in the head.  Me: Has anyone every found the money? Raul: No! Cuando tienia “When I had like” 14 years old me and my brother looked for it. For like a month “saliendo de la escuela” (coming straight out of school) me and Lupe would go home… got our shovels… and look. Nothing!!! Me: Do you think the money exist? Raul: Por supuesto!!! (of course). I know for sure. If I live in Mexico still… I would be looking for it right now.  Context: The participant walked into the kitchen when I was interviewing his mother on a piece of folk medicine. After I concluded with her interview, he asked what we were doing, and I let him know I was collecting folklore. After explaining what folklore is he said he had a legend that originated where he was from. Background:  Raul is a 27 year old who was born in Mexico but what brought to the United States when he was 17. He is fluent in Spanish and learned roughly learned English in the few years he attended high school. He learned this legend from a classmate when he was 14 who claimed that his uncle had told him the story. He said that his uncle had been at the festival. Raul had asked his mom about it and she also had told him a similar variation of the story. My thoughts: This legend is a classic example of some hidden treasure that has been lost for years. The money the “Narco” hid is a prevalent motif that represents amassing a large amount of money and then dying in a tragic manner that causes the money to be lost. However, this piece is more refined, contemporary, and specific to a little ranch. While in many other similar legends, usually the treasure is a large amount of gold rather than money. In addition, instead of being lost at sea, the treasure is lost in a ranch. It meets all requirements I learned in my Forms of Folklore class. It takes place in the real world and it could be true.

Tales /märchen

Cinderella

Context: This piece is was an interview that I directly copied every word said. The participants name is Jonathan. I had asked the participate in advance over phone if he had any folklore and he asked what I meant by that. After giving a few example he said he actually did have something to share. So we met in his apartment a few hour later. We entered the kitchen and sat down at the table. Background: Jonathan is a 19-year-old college student whose ethnicity is half Cuban and Half Mexican. He is a sophomore attending UCLA.  Main Piece: 

So Cinderella is a girl that has to live with her step mom and her step sisters because her dad died. She is treated really bad and is pretty much the maid of the house. She has like little animal friends that um help her clean and talk to her. It is announced that there is going to be a ball and Cinderella really wants to go to meet Prince Charming and get out of the house. Her evil step sisters and her step mom don’t want her to go so they rip her dress and lock her up. But then a fairy godmother comes and transforms a pumpkin into a like really nice carriage and gives her a new dress. But then she gives her some conditions which is that everything would go back to normal at midnight. So Cinderella goes to the ball and Prince Charming and her fall in love. But then she runs out because it’s almost midnight but when she does she leaves a slipper behind. Prince Charming is going crazy looking for her and goes around with the slipper for girls to try them on. The step mom locks Cinderella up when the prince is coming but with help of her animal friends she gets out and tries the slipper and since it was her it fits so they live happily ever after.

 Analysis: This Cinderella tale is one of the most widespread and famous tales. Alan Dundes said there must be multiplicity and variation. This story embodies multiplicity and variation. The Cinderella tale has a centralized theme that anyone could be a “princes”. It serves the purpose of demonstrating that you can become anything you want to.  I am actually shocked by how many variations there are for this tale. If you would like to read popular variations of the tale you can rea Cinderella: The Ultimate Collection by Charles Perrault. 

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