USC Digital Folklore Archives / Festival
Folk speech
Rituals, festivals, holidays

Protest Chats at March Against Trump LA

On a sunny Los Angeles morning, 8,000 people marched in protest of president-elect Donald Trump. The course of the November 1st march was from McArthur Park, through the 3rd street tunnel, ending on the steps of a downtown federal building. The march was led by a collation diverse Los Angeles organizations including Union del Barrio, Black Lives Matter Pasadena, Black Lesbians United, the Freedom Socialist Party, and the Palestine Youth Movement. Along with regular members of the headlining organizations, the protest included many novice protestors who were compelled to march by for the first time.

As one can imagine, this massive group of people did not have one single message or platform. Rather they were a coalition of many interest and values, brought together by their shared disapproval of Donald Trump’s impending term. As a result, the chants heard at the march were varied. We’ll examine these chats in particular, and the behavior of people at protests generally as folklore.

Here are the chats I heard:

Rhythmic chants:

“The people united will never be divided”
(The peo-ple — / u-ni-ted — / will ne-ver be / di-vi-ded)

Hey hey! Ho ho! Donald Trump has got to go!”
(Hey hey — — / Ho ho — — / Don — -ald Trump / has got to go)

“We reject the president elect”
(We — — re /ject — —  the /pres-i-dent e-/lect — — –)

“Love trumps hate!”

Call and response chants:

A:  Not my president
B:  Not my president

A: Black lives matter
B: Black lives matter

A: Sí se puede
B: Sí se puede

A: Say it loud, say it clear
B: Immigrants are welcome here

A: Say it loud, say it clear
B: Refugees are welcome here

A: My body my choice
B: Her body her choice

As a member of the crowd affiliated with no organization, my experience was that almost all of these chants were new to me. I learned them as I walked. The chants came sometimes from the people in front of me and sometimes from the people behind. Sometimes two chats would come at the same time or the same chant would be audible from two directions, out of synch with itself. The people in the middle were in the position to make a choice between the two chants.

The chants were brought to the protest, mainly, by leaders who had used them before, they are folklore because they are performed, learned from other people and they evolve over time. And in the march itself, you can expect the more popular chats to be repeated more often.

Since the march, I attempted to find the origin of some of these chants. Here are some of the most interesting finds.



“The people united will never be divided” is an adaptation of the 1973 Chilean song “¡El pueblo unido, jamás será vencido!” (The people united will never be defeated). Since its creation in 1973 as an anthem for the Popular Unity political alliance, the song has been adapted for dozens of other causes around the world. The chant at the LA protest still had the distinctive rhythm of the line “The people united will never be defeated,” although the chant is spoken, not melodious.


A: My body my choice
B: Her body her choice

The group who began this chant phrased it as it is above. It was designed to be a call and response in which women call out, “My body my choice” and men respond, “Her body her choice.” That chat is an affirmation of a woman’s right to her own method of birth control, including abortion.

However, several people in the crowd switched the response to, “Their body their choice.” The change from the singular “her” to the singular “their” removes gender from the chant, thereby acknowledging that not all people with a uterus identify as female, and that some transgender men and other people who are not “hers” have the same right to choose.

At the protest, most people continued saying “her body her choice” while others said, “their body their choice.” The change is subtle enough that a participant not familiar with the transgender rights movement might not notice or not understand the meaning of the alternative wording. To me, the original chant embodies the point of view of mainstream feminism or “white feminism” which focuses on sexism but pays little attention to the distinct forms of oppression faced by women of color, trans women, and others. While the second chant seeks to champion a more inclusive kind of feminism.

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Rituals, festivals, holidays


Novenas 9 days before Christmas, novenas happen. They are a custom done at home in Columbia in which family gets together and has potluck style meals as well as praying together. The meals usually consist of home grown fruits as well as white meats. The Novenas, are usually more prayer oriented, the potluck tradition just grew as a well-mannered custom. Alex is a Colombian native who immigrated here when he was just a little boy. His family left Columbia in response to all the violence that was emitting from Pablo Escobar’s reign of terror. In order to keep his family traditions alive, his parents constantly told him about the vast events and beauty of his homeland and people. This tradition kind of reminds me of when someone dies, you light a candle for 9 days as well as praying together with family and sharing potluck meals.

Rituals, festivals, holidays

Ferias De Cali

Cities are important to the location, each city has its own party, they call it ferias, the feria de Cali just happens to be during Christmas time , the carnivals are in Barranquilla Carnival. These carnivals are huge festivals in which the Colombian people showcase different sets of parades and a lot of other different stands just to show off their different type of foods or even toys for the kids to have fun with.These carnivals last for many weeks sometimes in order to celebrate through the time change of the seasons.Alex is a Colombian native who immigrated here when he was just a little boy. His family left Columbia in response to all the violence that was emitting from Pablo Escobar’s reign of terror. In order to keep his family traditions alive, his parents constantly told him about the vast events and beauty of his homeland and people

Folk Dance
Rituals, festivals, holidays

Ferias Monucipilanas

Every city, every town, has a yearly party, feria monucipilanas, and each have their own saint in which they cherish and praise during the festival. The people of the city make a big tower that you light at the bottom of the tower so then the fireworks make really colorful designs upon explosion. Alex is a Colombian native who immigrated here when he was just a little boy. His family left Columbia in response to all the violence that was emitting from Pablo Escobar’s reign of terror. In order to keep his family traditions alive, his parents constantly told him about the vast events and beauty of his homeland and people. These fairs seem like the walks that Catholics due in Los Angeles during Easter to acknowledge a saint.

Rituals, festivals, holidays

Dragon Boat Festival

There was once a poet called Qu Yuan. He witnessed his country falling apart. With full patriotism, he committed suicide by jumping into the Yangzi River. People commemorate him nowadays by celebrating the Dragon Boat Festival. Celebration includes dragon boat racing and dumping rice dumplings into the water.

This is an interesting festival, and I can’t think of any American festivals or holidays that celebrate someone committing suicide.


The Festival of Flowers in Colombia

In Medellin, Colombia, our biggest festival and celebration is the Festival of Flowers, a yearly festival that celebrates our beautiful variety of flowers. We come together as a people and witness the flower growing families parading their latest designs as they carry them on their backs through the streets. It’s a breathtaking sight and something I’ll never quite forget. I’ve asked my grandmother, a native from Medellin who has spent her whole life there about her insights on the celebration.

A note: An Antioqueño or Paisa is a person from our region in the North of Colombia, high up in the Andes Range.

Below is a verbatim transcription first in Spanish, and then fully translated to English:

“El festival de las flores…pues el festival siempre se celebra en Augusto. El siete de Augusto. Ya están organizando el del año próximo. Entonces te voy a decir del festival de las flores. El antioqueño ácido muy negociante siempre, mi amor. El que el vende, lo produce. Ai aquí cerca a Medellín un pueblito muy frío, muy frío que se llama Santa Elena. Aya desde muchos años se cultivan las flores, y las señoras ricas aquí en Medellín le busca tener floreros con flores muy hermosas. Aya se cultivan flores de todos tipos muy hermosas, finas, como las rosas, orcidias, romelias, pero también flores más baratitas, las margaritas, los camelias, las flores menos elegantes, menos caras. Entonces, el señor cultivaba las flores, y las esposas y las niñas se venían a Medellín para venderlas y habían barrios más ricos como tu conoces aquí en Medellín como por ejemplo laureles y el poblado, la gente son muy ricas.

Entonces las que venían con las orcidias, la flor nacional de Colombia, las rosas que son hermosas aquí, las romelias, las flores más elegantes de vendían en el poblado y las señoras las compraban por que ellas no tenían probeñnas de plata. Pero las otras florecitas al fin se hicieron las más populares, porque ya la gente no tenían tanta plata entonces esas flores ya se vendían muchas aquí en el centro, en el verinque, en la media, en barrios menos ricos.

Se volvió una industria grandísima. Entonces el campesino sembraba una quadrita de tierra al año, y ya después podía sembrar dos o tres. Y se volvió tan importante sembrar flores que de volvió un negocio tan importante como vender frutas o pedalear carros. Entonces esta feria de las flores se originó a por ay cuarenta o cincuenta años. Pero las flores han sido desde ase muchos años un patrimonio antioqueño en casi todos los pueblos, pero mucho más en este porque la gente de especializaron. Por ejemplo las margaritas, las naturales, eran solamente blancas y amarillas. Pero el antioqueño se inventó la forma de ser las margaritas moradas, azules, o verdes. Entonces eso les aumentaban mucho el negocio.

Entonces cada vez el campesino sabía más de esas flores, muchas variedades de esas flores se hicieron porque el antioqueño las creo, por eso se volvió una industria fuerte, por eso se ha echo famoso, y en esos últimos cincuenta años se han volvió una exhibición con esos silleteros.


“So the festival of flowers. Well, the festival is always celebrated in August. The 7th of August. They are already organizing the festival for next year. So I am going to tell you about the festival of flowers. The antioqueño has always been very business savy, my love. What he sells, he made himself. Here, near Medellin, there is a town that is very very cold called Santa Elena. There, for many years, they’ve been cultivating flowers. And the rich women of Medellin look to have big bouquets of flowers with beautiful lush flowers. There they cultivate flowers of all types, beautiful, fine flowers. Roses, Romelias, Orchids, but also cheaper flowers, Daisys, Camellias, less elegant ones that cost less. So there in Santa Elena, the men cultivate the flowers and the women and their children come into Medellin to sell them. There were richer neighborhoods like you know, such as Laurels and the town center, where the people are very rich. That’s where you buy the nice flowers. There they had the orchids, the national flower of Colombia, also the fine roses which are incredible here. The Romelias, too, the most beautiful flowers of all kinds. And the rich women would come and buy them because they had no money problems.

But in the end it was the cheaper flowers that became most popular because Colombia fell on hard times and no one had any money, so those cheaper flowers sold very well in the city center, in all of the neighborhoods with less money. The flower industry became huge. So at first the country fellow would plant one plot of flowers and then year on year it would grow, he would have two or three plots of flowers. It became so important a business that one could make more money selling flowers than selling fruit or driving around a cart.

So this festival of flowers of ours really became well established about forty, fifty years ago. But flowers have been an important facet to us antioqueños in almost ever town for a very long time, but most especially here because the people really specialized in it. For example, daisies, the natural ones, were only white and yellow. Yet the paisa came up with a method of cultivation that allowed for purple, blue, and green daisies. So these new flowers really led to quite a growth in flower production and selling.

So every time the paisa knew more about those flowers, new varieties arose, each special and cultivated by those countrymen. That’s why it became a strong industry. That’s why it’s world famous. And in those last fifty years it’s become that famous exhibition with those displays on the cultivator’s backs.

Analysis: this is a very interesting story that captures a lot of the shifting dynamics in Colombian society as well as economic disparities. This festival truly is the biggest celebration we have in Medellin and it was lovely to hear my grandmother’s thoughts on it. It has quickly become a major cultural symbol for us paisas.


‘Silleteros’ – Flower Carrying in Colombia

In Medellin, Colombia, our biggest festival and celebration is the Festival of Flowers, a yearly festival that celebrates our beautiful variety of flowers. We come together as a people and witness the flower growing families parading their latest designs as they carry them on their backs through the streets. It’s a breathtaking sight and something I’ll never quite forget.

The silleteros have been come a folk symbol for our region of Colombia. Diego Rivera famously painted a silletero during a visit to our region. And even outside of the festival, one often finds flower growers with heavy displays on their back, ready to sell flowers. I asked my grandmother about the history of these flower carriers. Below the verbatim Spanish text, one will find an english translation.

Por qué tienen las flores en su espalda?

“Preciso por que pesan tanto, las flores. las más lindas y lo más grande el silleto, el premio vallé más. Al principio no les daban premios, sólo los aplaudían y los sacaban el el periódico por que antes no había televisión. Decían cuales eran las más lindas y quien había ganado, quien las había cultivado, pero no habían premios en efectivo. Pero ya las producen, las industrian, la gente muy rica patrocinan la feria de las flores. Dan premios muy grandes. Un premio que se puede ganar un silletero es que lo mandan a estudiar las flores al exterior, vez? Entonces les interesa mucho, si? Antes en las ferias eran muy chiquitas las silletas, pero fueron creciendo tanto que ya son kilos y kilos. Para qué la espalda del silletero pueda resistir ay unas medidas para que no se vayan deformando las espaldas de ellos. Entonces por eso la parte que necesita la más fuerza para resistir es la espalda, y por eso las silletas generalmente se ponen en la espalda, son casi como sillas. Es como una silla que ellos asen y la cuelgan en la espalda. Esas silletas las hacen con figuras hermosas. Ya hasta son con historias completas, caracteres grandes. Son de las mismas flores que ellos cultivan. Es algo que se aprende generación en generación. Ósea, los hijos de los silleteros aprended del cultivo, del diseño de la silleta, como cargarla. Ya es una tradición. Ya ay familias con diez, quince premios porque cada año lo hacen mejor.”


Why do the silleteros carry the flowers on their backs?

Precisely because those huge displays of flowers weigh so much. The bigger and more beautiful the display, the bigger a prize the flower grower can get. Before, there were no prizes, they were just applauded and they came out on the newspaper, because before there was no television. They would write about who had had the most beautiful flower displays, who had cultivated the flowers, but there were no real prizes. But now they really cultivate those flowers very scientifically. The very richest in Medellin provide patronage the Festival now and they give incredible prizes. For example, a prize a flower grower might get is to study flowers and cultivation techniques around the world, you see? You see they’re very interested in that. Before the flower displays were very small but year on year they grew and now they’re massive and weight very many kilos. So that the spine of the flower grower doesn’t get deformed during the long festival, they’ve designed a certain device to carry that many flowers without injury. So of course the portion that needs the most reinforcement is the brunt of the back, so the device they use is called a silletera, they are designed almost like a chair that they make themselves and then hang on the back. Those flower holders, they spend so much meticulous time coming up with clever designs for them. They make beautiful art on them with flowers. Now they even have stories, figurative works, symbols for towns. They’re all made with the same flowers that that family cultivates themselves. It’s something that’s learned generation to generation. That is to say, the sons and daughters of the flower growers grow up learning how to cultivate those flowers, how to design the flower displays, how to make the flower holders, how to carry it. It has very much become its own tradition. There are families now that have won the big prizes ten, fifteen times. Every year they are looking for ways to improve, every year they are getting better.

Analysis: This has always been a big question for me before going to the festival and before witnessing it firsthand. This image of the flower carriers is all over our country, in paintings, on murals, in our songs. It’s interesting that this has become such a strong cultural tradition in such a short amount of time, and that it is carried forward by families of flower growers.

Rituals, festivals, holidays

“Zongzi,” a Traditional Chinese food

“During the “Duanwu” Festival, most families get together and eat “zongzi” which is basically sticky rice wrapped in bamboo leaves. Sometimes it’s stuffed with meat or red bean.”

The informant was born and raised in Taipei.

After thoughts: “Zongzi” is a traditional Chinese food eaten during the Dragon Boat Festival, which falls on the fifth day of the fifth month of the lunar calendar. A popular belief of eating “zongzi” involved Qu Yuan, a famous Chinese poet from the kingdom of Chu. He was known for his patriotism, and unsuccessfully tried to warn the king against the expansionism of the Qin. In the end, the Qin general took the king and the Chu Capital. Qu Yuan was so upset that he drowned himself in the river. According to the legend, packets of rice were thrown into the river to prevent the fish from eating the poet’s body.

Life cycle
Rituals, festivals, holidays

Las Mañanitas – Birthday Song

Informant: Valentina Williamson. 11 years old. Born and raised in Mexico City. My little sister.

Informant: “When the cake comes out at birthday parties everyone sings ‘Las Mañanitas.’ When the song is over, the person blows out the candle. After, we all chant ‘MORDIDA, MORDIDA! (BITE, BITE!) and push the person’s head into the cake!”

Collector: “Why do you push the persons head into the cake??”

Informant: “Because it’s funny! The face is covered in cake and we can’t stop laughing!


“Estas son las mañanitas

Que cantaba el rey David

Hoy por ser tu cumpleaños

Te las cantamos a ti!

Despierta, “Nombre”, despierta

Mira que ya amaneció!

Y los pajaritos cantan

Y la luna ya se metio! WOOOOOOO”

(Informant motions as if she pushes a head into the cake)



These are the dawns

That king David sang about

Today for being your birthday

We are singing to you!

Wake up, “NAME”, wake up

See that it already dawned

and the little birds are singing

and the moon has already set! WOOOOO”


Thoughts: It is really interesting that the birthday song in Mexico is much more romantic than the “Happy Birthday” song in the United States. In my opinion, this romanization is a direct reflection of the Mexican cultural values. I know that there are some slight variations from the version my sister gave me. Instead of “Hoy por ser tu cumpleaños (Today for being your birthday) some sing “Hoy por ser día de tu santo (Because today is your saint’s day).” The gesture of pushing someone’s head into the cake is something I did as a child too but no longer do it. Certainly, this only tends to happen at children’s parties.

For a full version of the song: “″

Rituals, festivals, holidays

Tamil Wedding Guests

Informant: My friend’s family is from southern India, and every few years they go back in the summer for family weddings. This past summer she went to three, and recounted some of the traditions for me.
Original Piece: “There’s the engagement, not like a proposal, but the engagement is a ceremony that happens one or two days before the wedding. It’s like the announcement that they’re getting married, but everyone already knows they’re getting married because it’s two days before the wedding. It’s just close friends and family, so it’s the smallest group of people, but still like a hundred people. Then there’s the actual wedding ceremony, because we’re Christian Tamal ours is in a church. Then there’s receptions… usually in the girl’s hometown and the guy’s hometown, so there’s those two. Then there’s…then sometimes there’s another one in another city, like where they went to college. Some people go to all of them, but some people go to just portions of them.
Usually you give an invitation to one person in the family. Like, you send out 300, but 1200 people come. But you plan for 1200 people. And it’s rude to give invitations through the mail if you’re within driving distance. Even if it’s a couple hours away, you need to hand deliver the invitation. Some people have not gone to weddings because they received invitations through the mail.”
Context of Piece: My friend was showing me pictures from this summer, and I asked her to tell me a bit more about their weddings customs.
Thoughts about the Piece: I thought this was interesting, that overall the wedding proceedings could last for days.