Childhood
Contagious
Folk Beliefs

“El Ojo”

LP, the informant, is 19 years old and grew up in Mexico. She now lives with her mother and sister here in LA while her father still lives in Mexico City. She learned the following superstition from her mother who said that when LP was a baby, she suffered from this curse and had to be cured by her grandmother. LP doesn’t quite believe it, but her mother and grandmother truly do.

“Mexicans have this thing where when you’re a baby and for example you’re on a train and other adults look at your baby from far away thinking about how cute they are, if you don’t let that person touch your baby, it translates to the stink eye, or as we know it “el ojo”. So it’s known as they gave me the eye. The baby comes close to dying, becomes really sick, they get a cold and chills, and the only way to get rid of it is to let that person hold your baby. And we also wear a red and black beaded bracelet to protect your kid from the stink eye. I actually still have my bracelet back at home.”

This curse only applies to babies and can happen whenever someone looks at the baby, admiring them but doesn’t ever touch them. It’s as if looking at them and admiring them can invite the Devil to snatch them, because they will become vain and narcissistic, LP tells me. If the person staring doesn’t come into contact with the baby, then it’s believed that the curse of “El Ojo” is upon them.

I think this superstition is common in many cultures but also in various forms. I feel like I’ve heard something similar to this, but not necessarily applying just to babies. I also never really knew why the evil eye was bad, but now I understand it’s religious connotations concerning the Devil and sin. It’s also interesting that her culture has a specific bracelet that an infant wears to defend them from this curse. It’s similar to the evil eye amulet that people wear to protect them from a similar type of curse.

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