The informant, J, is 18 years old born and raised in Coachella, California. His mom is from Delano, California, while his dad is from Indio, California. He is majoring in Print and Digital Journalism with a Media, Economics, and Entrepreneurship minor. He also considers himself Mexican.
J-“In Mexico city there are two volcanoes known as Popocatepetl and Iztaccihuatl. These two volcanoes have been there for as long as everyone can remember but the story behind them is what makes them special. A long time ago during the Aztecs, one of the tribes was at war with another one. At the same time, Popocatepetl, one of the tribe’s warriors, saw and fell in love with Iztaccihuatl, who was the king’s daughter. Popocatepetl asked the king for Iztaccihuatl hand in marriage if he lead the king’s army against the other tribe and defeated them. The king agreed and Popocatepetl left. Iztaccihuatl, meanwhile, was worried the whole time and was thinking about Popocatepetl and how he was doing. At the same time, one of Popocatepetl’s enemy, Tlaxcala, was jealous of his achievements and popularity. Tlaxcala decided to go to the king and tell him that Popocatepetl had lost the battle and had died. Iztaccihuatl heard the news and quickly fell into depression and into a sad death. Later on, Popocatepetl returned victorious from battle and was ready to marry Iztaccihuatl until he found out she had died. With a broken heart, Popocatepetl took her body with a torch to the top of a hill where he would weep over her body. Meanwhile, Tlaxcala, wanting to avoid the fury of the king and Popocatepetl left the tribe and traveled back to his homeland where he would soon die. The next day the tribe woke up to see two new giant volcanoes next to the tribe. One of these resembled a woman laying on the ground asleep while the other a man kneeling down looking down at the woman with smoke coming out of the top. On the other side of the tribe further away, another volcano had appeared as if it was facing the two volcanoes. The tribe realized that the two volcanoes were Iztaccihuatl and Popocatepetl. Iztaccihuatl was the sleeping woman while Popocatepetl is always active with smoke from the torch mourning the death of his loved one. The third volcano was Tlaxcala, who now had to face the two lovers for the rest of time. The volcanoes were named Iztaccihuatl, Popocatepetl, and Pico de Orizaba since its located in Orizaba”
When did you hear this story?
J-“I think it was in 3rd grade in class we learned the history of the volcanoes. Although I did not find out about the part of Tlaxcala until much later on when I was in high school”
Is this a common story in Mexico?
J-“Yes, I think pretty much everyone knows this story by word of mouth or through school”
Do you tell this story?
J-“I sometimes tell it to my friends, but I don’t really talk about. The only time I do is with my family. We like to talk about them a lot especially since we pass by them when we go and visit my family in Mexico”
Analysis- The legend has some truth in it as it incorporates real people and real tribes like the Aztecs. The part of the characters becoming volcanoes could have appeared from the traditions and beliefs of the Aztecs, who worshiped all different aspects of nature. It is clear that the country wants to maintain its traditions and culture as it teaches its students not only history but also legends and myths. It also helps create a fun and creative explanation to the children about a natural effect such as the creation of volcanoes. Even though the informant does not really talk about the legend, the fact that it is still being taught in schools means that it will not disappear.
Primary Language- English
Secondary Language- Spanish
Occupation- UC Merced Student
Residence- Los Angeles, CA
Date of Performance- 4/23/16
In UC Merced, we live a few miles away from Central Valley that has an interesting myth. The myth of the fallen god that came. The fallen god came to the people of Merced saw that their agricultural skills were not great and decided to help them. He told them where to plant raisins and how. He said that if they would listen to him, the agriculture on the land would be magnificent by years end. After the people planted the raisins and waited for them to grow, the Central Valley became a rich land known for its amazing agriculture. No one knows why or how the raisins made the ground fertile for plantation but a lot of them seem to believe it was because of the fallen god that came.
Lucy is from Los Angeles, California but currently resides in UC Merced which is still in California but different from Los Angeles because of the community. She learned this myth while living in a new community and engaging with the traditions, legends, and myths around Merced. Most freshman students have learned the myth by living on campus or through their professors. The myth is special to her because it is a significant part of UC Merced history. She herself thought the myth was silly but it is what makes her a unique bobcat, which is a mascot of UC Merced.
The story is a deep and central part to UC Merced’s history. Many professors and room advisors get the students together, sometimes in a camp fire, and reminisce on the story. It is a great way to pass time and embrace the kids with some native folklore.
These types of myths are what can bring a community together. True or not, the myth may have served as a placebo effect for the community because when they believed their agriculture was definitely going to grow with flying colors, they worked harder and planted more than usual. This may have been the actual reason their agriculture improved. A promising community could have been laid through folklore. The belief created has been passed down for many years and fermented communities and students even today. Myths, the supposed reason for the start of the universe or planet, whether it is believed or not, there have been many instances such as the fallen god that are responsible for some communities we have today.
So, uh… what was the year? Around 1500s I believe, it’s in Mexico City, there lived this old, humble man. His name was Juan Diego. So he was on his way to church, early in the morning, and he heard a voice call out to him. So he went to the nearby hill, kind of like this mountain top. When he got there, he saw this really beautiful woman. She said to him, “Juan Diego, I am la Virgen de Guadalupe,” …um, “and I am the mother of Jesus Christ.” So Juan Diego, being a devout catholic, was extremely emotional, and went to church for his sunday morning class, and told everyone there that he had just met the mother of Jesus Christ. However, no one believed him. This was the first time the Virgin Mary had been personified in Mexico. So the image he saw is the traditional spanish looking virgin that we know today. Which is why no one believed him, before the image didn’t exist before then.
So, the next time he goes to church, it’s early in the morning again, and he hears her voice again. He goes to her and he sees her again, and he tells her that no one believes him. They think that he’s lying, and they don’t understand why the virgin mary would appear to a commoner and not some high class member of the clergy. So she gives him a pile of white roses and she tells him to wrap them up in his white tunic. He does, and she tells him to hold them there and release them onto the ground when he gets back to the church in Mexico City.
So he does that, he wraps them in his tunic and when he gets to the church, he tells everyone that he saw Virgin Mary again. And again, no one believes him, and he says “I have proof this time!” So, he extends his robe and drops the roses, and in the place of the roses is the image of the virgin mary with her green tunic and dark hair, tan skin, and it is said that that tunic that Juan Diego took to church is the same one that is still up, framed in the oldest church of mexico. I believe its in Mexico City. And that’s how we got the image of the Virgin Mary. At least the Mexican version. So she’s personified as a mexican woman whereas the image of the Virgin Mary in spain has blonde hair, lighter skin, lighter eyes.
Background information (Why does the informant know or like this piece? Where or who did they learn it from? What does it mean to them?):
I know it because my mom told it to me. She told it to me a long time ago, thats why the details are a little messed up. So I grew up in a very catholic, at least through my mom, household. My mom’s side of the family is very catholic, as is most of the mexican population. I had a baptism, first communion, I went to church- not as often, so we’re not that devout. But the fundamental faith is still present in my mom. So while I don’t consider myself a strictly devout Catholic, I do believe there is a bit of faith in me, in some sense. To me, it’s very much about faith and believing. Also, I think I really like that this really mystical being appeared to someone of such humble origins. That’s why Catholicism is so popular among countries, because its a humble religion. You don’t have to be rich to believe. It’s kind of believed that everyone’s equal, and even if you’re poor, if you live by these certain values, you have an equal chance of getting it to happen as a rich person does.
Context (When or where would this be performed? Under what circumstance?):
Usually, it would be around some sort of Catholic ceremony, so whether it was if my sister getting baptized, or my first communion, or some other celebration, such as the virgin mary’s birthday- that’s very celebrated in Mexico- or simply if I just asked. I asked her a lot about Catholicism, and she’s happy to tell me whatever she can.
The informant told this true to the mythological mindset- she held it in sacred truth. She recounted the myth as if it was part of her belief system, even though that story is mentioned nowhere in the bible. Catholicism is different from other Abrahamic religions, like the different sects of Christianity, but it must not be forgotten that the believers of the religion would like their own form of identity. In Mexico, Catholics take pride in this particular story of the Virgin Mary because it links her to their country. It is their own form of romantic nationalism.
Origin: El Salvador
Told by: Cesar Henriquez
“El Cipitío was an 8 year old boy that was cursed by a god. His name comes from the language of the Native Americans in El Salvador. The language is called Nahuatl. His name comes from the Nahuatl work ‘cipit’, or ‘cipote’, both of which mean kid.
El Cipitío was cursed to remain in his 8 year old body for eternity. He will never grow old. The curse placed on him also turned his feet to be backwards; the toes point behind him. He wears an excessively oversized pointy hat on his head, and nothing else. He wanders around lightly populated areas and is knows as a mischievous being. He whistles at pretty women, and yet also throws small stones at them. He is always naked, save for his hat, which makes it easy to see his backwards feet, his oversized belly that hangs over his waistline and genitals. He resembles more of a shrunken and fattened old man, despite being an 8 year old boy for life. His elongated and skinny nose on his face resembles a small recorder type flute.”
“These stories were told to me by my dad when I was a kid. The stories themselves are typically used to scare people from going to certain areas, or for parents to scare their kids out of going somewhere that might be otherwise unsafe for them. I remember my family telling me things like this with an air of providing me with knowledge, for the purpose of me knowing what others were talking about when speaking about it in public. ”
Analysis: This is a typical urban legend figure that nonetheless ties deeply into the historical roots of the country. The origin of the name from Nahuatl natives keeps that culture alive despite political power generally being in the hands of those who reject that culture and the natives. He is a trickster figure, and while somewhat malicious does not seem as threatening as other urban legends. His description is rather comical, too, which takes away from his seriousness: knowing exactly what the monster looks like takes away the fear of the unknown element at least visually. As a child, he is definitely more a trickster, but also shows that children might not be trusted (perhaps strange children or pickpockets). He might also be used as an explanation for women hearing whistling, or something like stones falling on them. While he might be a cautionary tale, he also seems to just be an explanation for unfortunate things occurring.
Origin: El Salvador
Informant: Cesar Henriquez
“Her name was originally Sihuehuet, which is Nahuatl (Native Americans of El Salvador) means beautiful woman. She used her charms and got help from a witch to get a Nahuatl prince (Yeisun) to marry her. After they were married whenever the prince went to war Sihuehuet would have affairs with other men. From one of these affairs El Cipitio was born. The father of El Cipitio was a god called Lucero de la Mañana. Their affair was apparently an insult to the god of the sun (He was the god of gods). Anyway, Sihuhuet decided that one day she was going to get another witch’s help and poison her husband Yeisun during a big event, and take the throne for herself, to eventually give to Lucero. The potion took an unexpected effect and turned Yeisun into a huge monster that killed all the attendants at the festival, and destroyed everything and ate all the food from the feast. Eventually the guards’ struggles paid off and they killed the two-headed monster.
“When Yeisun’s father found out about all of this he was piiiiiissed. So he begged help from the Sun god to curse Sihuehuet and her illegitimate son. The Sun God, having been greatly insulted by Lucero, took this to heart and turned El Cipitio into what I explained before. As for Sihuehuet, he condemned and cursed her for life as well. She would from then on be called La Sigüanaba (or Sihuanaba in some versions of the story) which is also Nahuatl and means hideous woman.
“The legend goes that she is always seen only by men traveling along at night, or by kids lost at night as well. She is always at water’s edge, either a lake or stream or fountain in the city when no one else is around. She is always seen from the back, usually naked, combing her long beautiful hair. She takes the shape of a beautiful woman, or the man’s girlfriend, or the kid’s mother. They say she’s always out looking for her son, El Cipitio. As the men or kids approach her they are more and more captivated by her beauty, or by the fact that they see their girlfriend/mother sitting there naked combing her hair. They get closer and closer and eventually when they get close enough, she turns to face them. She has the hideous face of a horse. When people look at her they are most likely to die, but if they don’t then she goes to touch the men/kid. When she does the person she touches goes insane and it’s incureable. She’ll then lead them out further away from people and leave them lost, away from cities or anywhere that they can be found. It’s pretty trippy honestly and thinking about her face creeps me out.”
Analysis: This is an urban legend conflated with mythology. The gods of Nahuatl, the native religion, are part of the mythology, and are responsible for things like sunrise, the sun, animals, etc. La Siguanaba was a mortal woman but interacted with them, which puts her story close to mythological status. She becomes a reviled figure firstly because of infidelity: this is not only against social norms and is meant to warn people away from breaking it, but might also impose male patriarchy against women cheating on men rather than vice versa. Notably, she was only cursed when she got a son from the affair, which would certainly threaten patrilineal systems. Yet when men see her, they only see their mothers or girlfriends: it is unclear whether this points to an existing conception of fidelity for men. Certainly, it seems to warn them against cheaters. Yet also against their own wives and mothers, implying perhaps that even they cannot be trusted.
The Main Piece
Why is the cat not apart of the Chinese Zodiac calendar? Supposedly, the gods set up a competition, a race, for all the animals to compete and win their place in the calendar. However, while all the other animals knew what day the race would be on, the rat was clever and lied to the cat. The rat told the cat that the race would be on a different day so that when the race actually did happen, the cat was no where to be found. The cat wound up missing the race and was unable to be a part of the Zodiac calendar. This tale also explains why cats hate rats in the real world as well.
My informant is Rachel Tan, a current first year undergraduate student and personal friend of mine at USC. Being that her mother is Chinese and extremely cultured, she had a good understanding of the Zodiac calendar. Her mother would tell her this tale to explain how the animals got their place. She explained that it was a childhood story that she, and many of her other friends, grew up with. As a child, she enjoyed imagining and reenacting the race with her stuffed animals. It was because she could relate it with the Zodiac calendar, something she uses even to this day, that she can so easily remember the story and its relevance. She states that the story represents not just her childhood, but also her culture.
This Chinese tale was told to me previously as Rachel and I ate Panda Express together at the Ronal Tutor Campus Center. We were discussing our life back home, the setting was casual and conversation flowed easily.
I enjoyed hearing about the Zodiac calendar. My mother was never really too cultured so hearing about my own culture was a delight. I found it also intriguing that the tale was also able to incorporate an explanation for the cat’s dislike of rats, thereby offering some sort of validity to the story.
The Main Piece
When one looks up at the moon some say that they can see a rabbit made out of the craters on the moon. My informant, Demie, has told me that her family would often tell her the story of how the rabbit got to the moon. There were three gods and one of them lived on the moon. They all came down to Earth to look for food. There, they met a monkey, a fox, and a rabbit. They asked each to find them some food and while the monkey and the fox were able to get them food, being the cunning and quick animals that they are, the rabbit was unable to get them any food. The rabbit felt so bad that it offered itself up for food for the gods. The moon goddess was so touched by the rabbit’s generous act that she took it up with her to the moon to live with her. The story is told to represent selflessness and generosity.
My informant is Demie Cao a current undergraduate student at USC and friend of my close friend, Elizabeth Kim. She enjoyed hearing this story from a young age because her favorite animal was the rabbit, therefore it was incredible to think that she could simply look up and it would be right there on the moon. Her father and mother would tell her the story from time to time and she would be reminded of the story whenever she would look up at the moon and see a rabbit. It is a symbol of her childhood and part of her culture as well.
I was told this story as she, Elizabeth, and I were discussing folklore in her room. The conversations were casual as we relaxed in my dormitory. We were simply sharing stories, laughing at our own pasts.
Hearing how a culture explains visuals in nature reveals a lot about the way they think in terms of who and what they respect. In this instance it is obvious that religion and moralistic values are an important part of their society. I felt the story did well in being able to instill these values in children from an early age and was a memorable story for all to remember.
Description: “So there’s this one called Ramayana. So the the pretense is like theres this demon in Sri Lanka who’s like gonna fuck up the whole world. I think it’s the whole world but the people who wrote the story didn’t know anything about anything outside of India, presumably. There’s like three main Hindu gods and one of them is like I’ve gotta go down there and destroy this man before he destroys earth, right? So he comes as a prince, or he’s born as a prince and he grows up into a very good prince/king everybody wants him to be the king. His dad who’s the king has many wives, right? And one of his wives who’s not Ram’s, the main character, direct mother, is jealous that her son is not the crowned prince. So like I forgot what the exact stipulation is but she puts some weird condition on the king where she had to send away like he had to send away Ram. And her actual son is Ram’s little brother and best friend who’s also like a great warrior and a great person. So they end up leaving. He takes his wife who’s like a princess from another kingdom in India. They encounter like all kinds of crazy phenomena. And they do all kinds of miracles and what not. He’s like a very good warrior with magic and fighting and stuff. Eventually, and keep in mind this is all precipitated by the god himself he needs all this to happen. He doesn’t speak on it, but he knows he’s the reincarnation of this god and he knows what his duty is truly at a certain point. And, there’s a point when they’re in their exile and he knows the peak of his duty is coming. So he calls on the god of fire and says can you protect my wife until this is all over. And so the god of fire takes his wife to his realm and leaves his wife with a fake version or a replacement that’s like exactly the same. Something like that. Eventually, like I don’t remember how exactly it happened, that demon king kidnaps the wife. They’re like alright we gotta go get her back. He also befriends a kingdom of ape like humans who are really strong like warriors and stuff. He helps them. The man general guy, his name is Hanuman, like people have tattoos of him because he’s known to be really strong and stuff. He becomes one of their squad members and is like a really good fighter. They go down to Sri Lanka. I believe they bring an army and they build a rock- they build like a rock bridge to the Sri Lanka and they get there and they have camps. First the ape dude, Hanuman, he fights the demon and like beats his ass but something stops him from killing him. His tail catches on fire and he sets the whole demon kingdom on fire right? One of the demon king’s brothers who’s like a reasonable man. He’s like biologically a demon in the mythology but he’s not like a demon in the mind. He joins Ram’s faction, the good guys, and tells him all the secrets and trains him and like in ways in new magic and stuff that can like helm him defeat. I don’t know if that part is true or not actually. I don’t remember. Eventually there’s this huge war and it comes down to them shooting arrows at each other and what not. It’s this huge epic battle. Between the demon army versus Ram and his army. Eventually it comes down to them using magical god given arrows at each other. They’re clashing and like he finds out the only way to kill him is to shoot him in the naval. Eventually he gets him there and like he dies. That was the rough version. I haven’t read about it in over ten years.
2. My friend read stories like these when he was a child but it’s also transmitted by word of mouth as well.
3. I went into his dorm and asked if he could tell me some Hindi folklore. He said sure and started off with this one.
4. This is definitely a tale on an epic scale. I see a few similarities with Jesus of Nazareth. Jesus is God born into a human body so that he may redeem the world. In this case He is 100% God and 100% a man. Ramayana is a god (small g) and is born into human form. From what my friend told me it doesn’t seem like the story is very clear on his deity versus his humanity. That’s just about the extent of the similarities though. As far as I could observe, Hindu people don’t exactly think that Ram was real. At least today they don’t.
Description: “This one is called Mahabhrata. It’s really complicated. It starts off-idk if I can even describe this one, it’s so complicated. Basically it’s two royal families that descend from one and they like beef over the throne and the crowned prince of one family is like super arrogant and stuff and at the same time gods are intervening and things going on. And one of the main Hindu gods like comes down to help and like the whole thing culminates into an epic battle. In the big epic battle Krishna, the god, he’s like the prince from the moralistic family side. He’s this chariot guy. And the prince, the leader, pussies out in the end and he’s like how can I find my own family and he gives him a very long moralistic talk and it’s like very highly revered amongst like people who study it like theologians and stuff. It’s honestly super complicated. It’s really important in Hindi theology. Also, one of the older characters in the book is like a grand uncle who’s given immortality and he can die whenever he wants. At the end of the epic battle he’s like a great warrior but he’s old. He gets pierced with like a thousand arrows and gets like a bed of arrows to lay on that go through his body but he lays through it in pain just so he can see the end of the battle. And also, on the moralistic side of the family they go into exile for some reason. I forgot why. One of the brothers falls in love with this demon chick that can change forms and she’s really beautiful. And they have a son but they don’t live together or anything after they get married. They live in the forest. But the son comes to help them in the big battle and he’s just like this giant demon on the good guys side wrecking the other team. A demon is just a subspecies of human that has magical powers and like they’re generally evil. It’s comparable to a demon from western culture, but it’s not the same. They look like humans. In the movies they’re dark skinned. They have magical powers. They have some sort of weird practice, or what normal people would regard as weird practices. The only thing I can think of is the south indian people are darker skinned. I think there’s racism against them but I don’t know. I don’t think it ties to any of this. The motivational speech is the pivitol point in the story. It’s called the Bhagavad Gita. It has 700 verses. It’s pretty interesting. He gives it to him after the grappa guy dies. And it happens right before the final battle. At this point, the chariot guy is like I’m gonna show you my true form. The prince is a normal human being but the god granted him the power to see him in like god form. It was like a positive holy crap. He basically just talked about his role in Hindu spirituality and devotion and stuff. Theological devotion. It’s honestly like super complex. I think it’s something you should read if you want. It’s super important in Hindu theology.”
2. He knows this story from family and children’s books.
3. I walked into his dorm and asked him to tell me some Hindu folklore. This was one of them.
4. Obviously he may not be the right one to ask about this story. He hasn’t done too many in depth studies but it appears to be one of the most prolific Epics in all of Indian History. From this one tale you can pull out an entire world of Hindu belief systems. It’s almost like a story bible for a script. It has all the characters and creatures right there.
Dharma, Krishna. Mahabharata: The Greatest Spiritual Epic of All Time. Los Angeles, CA: Torchlight Pub., 1999. Print.