Author Archives: emiliano

The story of the Popocatepetl

Main piece: 

The following is transcribed from a conversation between informant and interviewer. 

Infromant: The story of the Popocatepetl is of a umm…. I think of an Aztec warrior. He pretty much falls in love with her but is called into battle. So before he goes he tells her dad that upon returning, he will marry his daughter with his permission. The dad allows it and he goes but the news breakouts that he dies in battle. 

Interviewer: So he dies? What happens then with her? 

Informant: No he doesn’t die but the news got to her and the dad and she ends up dying from depression and loneliness. A week later he comes back from war, with riches and honor, but finds out she’s dead. So he asks the dad if he can take her body to give her a proper ceremony. He allows it and Popocatepetl takes her to the top of a pyramid. He holds a torch and watches her body. He plans to stay the night and he does but umm there’s a snow fall and he gets buried in it. Over time, annual rain and snowfall buries them even more and the mountaintop becomes the volcano that you can see from the house in Mexico. 

Interviewer: Oh it’s that volcano? I remember that name but I wasn’t sure it was the same name. 

Informant: Yeah that’s his body… his spirit. And whenever the volcano erupts or has activity… It means that Popocatepetl is remembering his love for the Aztec princess. 

Background: My informant here was my grandma who’s staying with us during COVID-19. She was born in Guadalajara, Mexico but lives in the U.S. with us for the most part. She says that she heard about this story from school textbooks and that she always remembers the story whenever there’s news about Popocatepec’s volcanic activity. For her it represents a true love story and a tragedy. She says that there is no longer love like that one in today’s world. 

Context: I asked my grandma during dinner if she can tell me the story of Popocatepetl because my mom heard it from my grandma but I wanted to get someone else’s view on it so I asked her. She complied and gave me this version while I recorded. Setting was at our house during dinner so it provided nice entertainment and I personally loved the story. 

Thoughts: I really enjoyed the story. When my grandma finished, my sister and I looked at each other and said “wow that’s true love” at the same time. I had known about the volcano for many years but I had never heard about the story behind it. I want to say I don’t believe in it fully but I do admire the love they had for each other. That love is scarce in today’s world so it was nice hearing that story. 

La Llorona legend

Main piece:

The following is transcribed from a conversation between the informant and interviewer.

Informant: The llorona was a woman, a very beautiful woman but very poor. And well… she was very pretty so a lot of men went after her but she fell in love with a wealthy man. 

Interviewer: Did she marry him? 

Informant: Yes, they marry but… um the husband’s father didn’t like her because she was poor. I don’t know if it was in the revolution, yes or actually I’m not sure. The point is that in the revolution, the husband gets killed. And the father-in-law took her kids to educate them himself and left her on the street. She pretty much loses everything, and he makes sure to leave her nothing. 

Interviewer: And did she kill herself or what? 

Informant: No, she saw death and hunger and war but she was always looking for her children. She sees a lot of things that haunt her. She cried for her children and would call others to help her find her children but no one believed her because of her poor appearance. And finally, she dies searching for her children… but she dies sick, unprotected, poor, and crazy for everything she lived and saw with the wars in that time. She dies young, she doesn’t die old. But she always expressed the love and her necessity in finding her children. And from that point on, in the pueblos… umm it’s said that since she dies without finding her children, her soul never rests and she goes about yelling through the walls and streets searching and calling for her children.

Interviewer: This version is very different from the story I hear all the time. 

Informant: This story was the one that my grandmother would tell me and my sister and she would say that La Llorona was very beautiful… but very beautiful. And in the ranch, when the sun was setting, my aunt would call us in because in Queretaro… write down that it was in Queretaro… 

Interviewer: Yeah I got it. 

Informant: Ok so in Queretaro when a boy or girl went missing, my aunt would say it was La Llorona, or that the Llorona would take them. And she wouldn’t let us play after sunset. Anything that happened to young kids: a disease or a death or a disappearance… anything really…  for almost anything, it was said it was La Llorona. 

Background: My informant was my mom who was born in Mexico City. She heard this story of La Llorona since she was a kid and she’s seen a lot of variations but carries with this one the most. She heard this story from her grandmother, my great grandmother, who is 104 years old. So since my great grandmother lived during the Mexican Revolution, my mom thinks her story is plausible. 

Context: I didn’t tell her I was doing this for a project at first so I asked her “is La Llorona evil?” and she responded with “no” and I continued by asking “wait. What story do you know?” and then the main piece was transcribed from our conversation and her story telling. The setting was my house. 

Thoughts: I found this version of La Llorona very interesting because it was the first time I heard it like this. From this story, I actually felt bad she was taken away from her children. I no longer see her as the murderer of her children. I enjoyed this story and will be telling this version from now on. 

Citation: For more information and variations of La Llorona, check out the following sources.

  1. Carbonell, Ana Maria “From Llorona to Gritona: Coatlicue in Feminist Tales by Viramontes and Cisneros” in MELUS, Vol.24, Religion, Myth, and Ritual. (Summer, 1999), pp. 53-74. 
  1. Chavez, Michael “The Curse of La Llorona” film, (Spring, 2019).

Mexican myth

Main piece: 

The following is transcribed from a conversation between the informant and interviewer.

Informant: A ritual that you have to do, no matter if you are Mexican, German, Chinese, American… it doesn’t matter what nationality you are. Everyone does this when they go up the first time. 

Interviewer: Wait what? Where?

Informant: Oh umm at the pyramids of Teotihuacan, the ones we’ve gone to in Mexico. 

Interviewer: Oh ok. I know what you’re talking about. 

Informant: When you go up the sun pyramid, you count the steps, all 365 of them and once you’re at the summit. At the top of the pyramid there is a circle etched in the center and a hole where your finger fits. When you’re there, you have to raise your hands towards the sky so that Quetzalcoatl, the sun god, fills you with energy, purifies you, gives you wisdom and fortifies you that year. 

Interviewer: And everyone does it? 

Informant: Ahhh! Don’t you remember when we went, we have pictures of us raising our hands. And the people around us were raising their hands towards the sky. All the people, doesn’t matter what nationality, sex, or religion… Everyone does this when going up the sun pyramid for the first time. 

Background: My informant was my dad. He was born in Mexico City as well. He knows pretty much every touristic area in Mexico because he traveled a lot in his 20s and 30s when he was a marathon runner. He’s taken me to the pyramids before, and after collecting the performance, he helped my mom find pictures of us raising our hands when we reached the summit of the sun pyramid. 

Context: I just asked my dad if there were any cool stories or myths he knew about for a project I’m working on. He asked “what do you mean” and I responded with “anything, a story or a myth” and he proceeded with the myth about the sun pyramid. The setting was in our backyard as we were taking a break from yard work. 

Thoughts: I was a kid when we went to the pyramids of teotihuacan and I remember going up a bunch of steps. The pictures helped me fill in some gaps but I never knew the hand-raising to receive energy was a thing. I thought we did it just as a pose or something, but after hearing the myth, I was impressed with it. It’s something that traces back to the Aztecs and something that tourists from all over the world do, so I found that pretty enticing.

Mexican proverb

Main piece: 

“El que mal obra, mal le va” 

Transliteration: 

He that wrong does, wrong you goes

Full translation: 

He who does wrong, wrong he does 

Background: My informant was my dad. He was born in Mexico City but moved to LA at the age of 15. He brought this proverb up during a conversation we were having about a family friend’s mild car accident. When I asked him when he learned this proverb, he said he’s known it since he was 7 and that his dad told it to him when they were both working at a donut house in Mexico. 

Context: My dad was telling me about a close family friend who got into a car accident, a very small and almost insignificant hit. However, the victim here was requesting $25,000 in medical expenses 15 months after the accident. He was telling me that based on the description of the accident, such as speed and car damages, his friend couldn’t have seriously hurt the other person. My dad called him a fake and dishonest person and said this proverb to encourage me to always be honest and have word. 

Thoughts: This is a very wise proverb. I even consider it as advice because there are so many dishonest people nowadays who take advantage of circumstances and individuals. Sometimes it’s tempting to do wrong for one reason or another but I believe there is always a solution to problems and that a person’s word and credibility is most important. So this proverb teaches me that I should maintain good and life will eventually reward me and those who do wrong will do poorly in life.

Mexican saying

Main piece:

“Calladita te ves más bonita” 

Transliteration: 

Quiet you look more pretty

Full translation: 

You look prettier quiet 

Background: My informant was my mom and this proverb was something I collected while she was scolding my sister. I asked her later about the proverb (what it meant exactly even though I knew). She gave me valuable insight and mentioned that my grandma would tell my mom and aunt that as kids whenever they sounded silly attempting to defend themselves from wrongdoing. 

Context: My sister was being scolded by my mom for having a mess in her room. My mom started going off tangent and bringing more and more stuff into the argument. My sister would retaliate and call out my mom on certain things. But there was a line that my sister said that did not help her case a lot and that’s when my mom said the recorded proverb above. 

Thoughts: Sometimes I feel like my mom overuses this proverb in order to keep my sister from talking but other times it hits right. In this example it fits right because whatever my sister has said, all I know is that it didn’t help her case, was nonsense and my mom pretty much said to stop talking because she’s not helping herself. In other words, my sister would be doing herself a favor by not talking and metaphorically flopping all over the place with words.

Mexican proverb

Main piece: 

“Más vale que la lleves y no la ocupes a que no la lleves y la necesites” 

Transliteration:

More better that the takes and no the uses to that no the takes and the needs

Full translation:

It’s better to have it and not use it than having to use it and not having it 

Background: My informant here was my grandma who’s staying with us during COVID-19. She was born in Guadalajara, Mexico but lives in the U.S. with us for the most part. This recorded proverb wasn’t really an interview. I heard her say it to my mom during mid sentence and I was able to catch on to it. After I asked my grandma to repeat it for me so I can jot it down. She added that she learned it “a long time ago” and that because of it she’s always prepared for everything. 

Context: My mom was going shopping and paying bills. It was mid to late afternoon and the sun was still. She was saying bye to us when my grandma asked “do you have a sweater” to which my mom replied “no, it’s still kind of warm” and my grandma countered with the transcribed proverb and my mom ended up taking it (although I think she did just to please my grandma). 

Thoughts: I’ve heard the proverb many times, usually because my mom tells it to me when I go out. And after analyzing it a little more, I guess it’s true. It’s better to be prepared, even over prepared,  than to need something and not have it (unprepared). For example, in the case of taking a sweater when you go out. Sometimes you don’t use the sweater and you just carry it along with you. But other times, maybe it gets cold or it rains and you happen to take the sweater, so you put it on. It is in these scenarios where you benefit a lot.

Mexican lullaby

Main piece: 

“Sana, sana, colita de rana, si no sana hoy, sanara manana” 

Transliteration: 

Heal, heal, tail of frog, yes no heal today, healthy tomorrow

Full translation: 

Heal, heal, tail of frog, if today it doesn’t heal, it will tomorrow

Background: The one who provided this lullaby was my sister a while back when hurting my younger cousin on accident. My sister was born in LA and she goes to school in Downey. Her spanish isn’t good, or even decent, but somehow she knows this song well. According to her, it stuck because “it’s catchy” and because apparently I would sing this same lullaby to her when I hurt her. 

Context: We were playing basketball in the driveway. It was my sister and my two cousins. And somehow my sister bodied into my younger cousin who’s underweight and knocked her to the ground. She’s currently 12 but she scraped her elbow pretty bad and wanted to cry. That would not have been good news for either my sister or me so my sister sang the lullaby and massaged her arm and my cousin laughed a little and then stopped any potential crying. 

Thoughts: This a fun one because I honestly don’t know what a frog’s tail has to do with healing a wound or bruise. I asked my sister who was my informant in this case, but she didn’t know either. 

Maybe a frog’s tail has luck and it’ll help heal a bruise quicker? But what I did notice from this experience, and even from my own experience, was that it’s funny to the victim. It makes them laugh, or chuckle at least, and eases the pain and tension. So it’s a helpful tool if someone gets hurt and wants to cry. 

Las Mananitas

Main piece: 

“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 tú naciste, nacieron todas las flores

Ya viene amaneciendo ya la luz del dia nos dió.

Levantate de mañana, mira que ya amaneció.” 

Full translation (transliteration not included since it’s a relatively long song) :

These are the morning lyrics that King David sang

And today for your birthday we sing them to you.

 Wake up my loved one

The sun has risen

The birds are chirping

And the moon has set.

What a beautiful morning it is, to come and visit you

We are all happy to be here and congratulate you.

 The day you were born all flowers bloomed

The sun is rising giving us its light.

Wake up it’s morning, morning has come.

Background: I’m going to give credit to my dad on this one because he knows it very well and I sang along a little but don’t know the full lyrics very well. My dad was born in Mexico and moved to LA when he was 15 years old. He is bilingual and we (led by my dad) sang “Las mananitas” to my mom on her birthday very recently this month. He sings this song instead of the “Happy Birthday” song. 

Context: It was my mom’s 50th birthday a couple days ago. We got her flowers, baked a cake, and made lasagna and salad. We went to her room and started recording and singing the above song. I only know the first four lines and from there on I sang sporadically. My dad knows them really well and my sister was on the same boat as me. This took place inside my parents bedroom around early morning. 

Thoughts: I’ve heard of “Las mananitas” very often because I have a big extended family and whenever we go to Mexico over the summer, we attend various birthday parties. And in Mexico, no one sings Happy Birthday, we all sing the song transcribed above. So I kind of know it but not fully. Anyway, it is a song that upon reading more into it, is really special and nice. The lyrics provide a perfect environment and are very loving. The birthday person feels special and knows what’s happening with the first line.

English riddle

Main piece: 

The following is transcribed from a riddle the informant gave the interviewer. 

Informant: A pine tree grows 10 pineapples. 

Interviewer: Ok. 

Informant: Two of the pineapples out of the 10 fall. How many pineapples are left on the tree?

Interviewer: On the tree? Or are there? 

Informant: Are there on the tree. 

Interviewer: I would say ten minus two so 8 left. But it’s probably wrong. 

Informant: Correct! You’re wrong. There are 0 pineapples on the pine tree.

Interviewer: How come? What do you mean? 

Informant: Because pine trees do not grow pineapples. 

Background: My sister was born in LA and she goes to school in Downey. She first heard this riddle about a year ago. She usually says when there’s “usually nothing to talk about”. She remembers it because “it was pretty good and easy to follow”. 

Context: After giving me a myth, I asked if she knew of any jokes or riddles. She responded with “yes I know this one” and continued with the above riddle. This was taken from my room. Casual. 

Thoughts: I fooled myself. I consider myself a numbers person so when I heard 10 and 2 I just did basic subtraction but I didn’t pay attention to the pine tree and pineapple detail. In a way, I guess it shows I’m not a good listener. All in all, it was a short and concise riddle that served its purpose. It made me say “oooh yeah” after getting the joke. I tried to fool my dad later on but he said 0 so he actually listens. This can be a listening test now that I think about it. A good listener would say 0 and a poor listener would say 8 just like I did. 

English riddle

Main piece: 

The following is transcribed from a riddle between the informant and interviewer.

Informant: A red guy lives in a red house 

Interviewer: A red guy lives in a red house. Ok. 

Informant: A blue guy lives in a blue house.

Interviewer: Blue guy in blue house.

Informant: yes, uhhh a green guy lives in a green house. 

Interviewer: Ok. 

Informant: Who lives in the White House. 

Interviewer: I know it’s not a white guy right? 

Informant: Oh my god. I thought you would get this one. 

Interviewer: What is it?

Informant: The president. The president lives in the white house. 

Background:  My sister was born in LA and she goes to school in Downey. She first heard this riddle about 5 years ago and says it whenever she’s saying any jokes. She tells this joke specifically to see if people fall for it and say “white guy”. 

Context: The setting was in my room during the day. I asked her if she knew of any other joke or riddle and threw this one at me. After failing to find the joke in the first one (the pinecone and pineapple one), she was disappointed I failed at this one too. 

Thoughts: I think I’m not a riddle or joke person. The answer can be right in front of me and I won’t be able to detect it. I can also deduce I’m not a very good listener. It seems like I take things literally and think logically. I followed the pattern of a color person living in the same color house but that’s not it. One has to think outside the box and look at the bigger picture.