USC Digital Folklore Archives / Posts Tagged ‘columbia’
Rituals, festivals, holidays

Las Fiestas de Noviembre

The informant, S, is 18 years old and from Miami, Florida, but he grew up in Cartagena, Colombia (Northern, Columbia). His mom is from Barranquilla, Columbia (Northern Columbia), while his dad is from Cartagena, Columbia. He considers himself a Latino Columbian and is majoring in Civil Engineering Building Science.


S-“So where I’m from in Cartagena, Columbia we have the whole month of November called Las fiestas de Noviembre (the November parties) where it consists of having different parades for different days of the week where all the main streets are closed and they are usually used for parades. There is traditional music. Kumbia, and ballenato is played. People go on the streets and they you know celebrate for las fiestas. Another big aspect of it is having this called bolcitas de agua (little water bags). What happens is everyone in the city usually has ammunition of little bags filled with water so wherever you are in the street you just have to be ready to like get hit with bags of water “

Like giant water balloon fight?

S-“Yea it’s this giant thing so like during the fiestas different neighborhoods get together and like fight each other with like the water bags or balloons if you want to call them. I remember like when I was little with my cousins we would get up on my balcony, and we would have tubs filled with little balloons and just like throw them at cars and people walking by. It’s cool because everyone knows and has the general consensus that it’s ok to do so. “

Do you know the history behind it or how it originated it?

S-“I do not”

So there is different parades at different periods?

S-“It’s just during the whole month. So like there is this big parade called el Bando and that day they just close the big streets and they throw maizena (corn starch) and water everywhere. Live music, a lot of fireworks. Do you know what a busca piez is?

Yea I think so

S-“It’s like the thing that you light up and throw it on the floor and it goes all over. Which is a bad thing because a lot of injuries happen. Like during this month there are people missing fingers and missing hands, but it’s a cool month.”

Analysis- The constant and long celebration would appear to many as waste of time and water, but to the people of the area it means much more. The events only happen in Cartagena, Columbia and the regions around it, for the festivals are meant to celebrate the independence of the area. The water throwing was not originally part of the idea of the festival but quickly merged with what people believe was the original plan. Today, however, as more outsiders move in, these things may be changing as they do not agree with everything that happens during the festival. Water throwing, for example, is banned from November 1-17 as well as fireworks from November 1-15.

For more information see: EL UNIVERSAL (2014, Oct. 30). Cartageneros Hablan de las Costumbres Novembrinas mas Irritantes. Retrieved from

Folk speech


The informant, S, is 18 years old and from Miami, Florida, but he grew up in Cartagena, Colombia (Northern, Columbia). His mom is from Barranquilla, Columbia (Northern Columbia), while his dad is from Cartagena, Columbia. He considers himself a Latino Columbian and is majoring in Civil Engineering Building Science.


S-“The folklore that I was raised with was this specific word from the coastal area of Columbia. The word is Bacano. Pretty much this word has no I guess direct translation in English but I guess the closest is like saying awesome, cool or something like that. “

Is it only used in the coastal area?

S-“Um its predominately used in the coast but it’s also used not as much towards the center of the country but yes mainly the coast.”

Do you know how it originated?

S-“I have no idea, I just know that uh it originated in the coast and made its way into the center”

Can you give an example of when it would be used?

S-“For example like if you come up to me and you’re like ‘oh I got this really cool video game’ or if you got, I don’t know. It’s used in very different contexts. So whether you’re coming at me with really good news and I could be oh ok Bacano, or I could be like for example, my plans this weekend were bien Bacano. Like my weekend was bien bacano. It’s also used to like fill you sentences when you have nothing to say, for example like if you come up to me telling me how was your day, ok Bacano. Good. Or it could be like ok Bacano. Awesome. It’s just in very very different context”

Is there a specific group of people that use the word?

S-“No, it’s just everyone”

When did you first learn the word?

S-“Since day one people were saying bacano.”

Analysis- It is interesting that a word that is used by many people and is known by everyone is mainly used in the coastal area of the country. One can clearly see that the word has become part of the national dialect even though people are not completely sure where it originated from or what is fully means. It is used both as a word and as an expression, which is something that modern society has been doing more often even in the United States. Some possible origins include Italian word Baccan or the English word back of the hand


Bandeja Paisa

The informant, S, is 18 years old and from Miami, Florida, but he grew up in Cartagena, Colombia (Northern, Columbia). His mom is from Barranquilla, Columbia (Northern Columbia), while his dad is from Cartagena, Columbia. He considers himself a Latino Columbian and is majoring in Civil Engineering Building Science.

S- “Ok so my Colombian culture has a lot of folklore, um primarily food. One of the main dishes is called Bandeja Paisa. It’s uh in my opinion a very good dish.”

What does it consist of?

S-“It consists of usually white rice and egg on top the rice. You have your steak and then you have an arepa, which is like a flour and corn thing. And usually we have chicharron (pork rinds) on the side and the dish usually also has patacones, which are also known as tostones (fried plantain slices)”

When do usually eat it?

S-“Anytime usually when you go out to a Columbian restaurant this is your go to dish”

Does your family make it?

S-“Yea my mom makes it all the time, but we go out to eat it from like the different Columbian restaurants from Miami, where I’m from”

Would you say each family has its own different recipe or it’s the same everywhere you go?

S-“Just like any recipe it can be tweaked here and there. Like for example the steak can be either carne asada (steak) or carne molida (ground beef), so it’s two different kinds of steak. And some people don’t like having the arepa on the side. It depends on the time when you have it. For example if you’re having it for brunch then you’d have the arepa and if you’re eating it more towards dinner then you wouldn’t have the arepa present on the dish”

Are there any other sides that go with it?

S-“Um yea I actually forgot to mention they usually have frijoles (beans) or lentejas (lentil) on the side so you can put it with your rice”

Analysis- The dish consists of many of the local and plentiful types of food that are present in the area and in the country. It is also evidence of the impact different cultures have left there over time, mainly from the conquistadors from Spain, France, and Britain. The name also is part of the country as it consists of the area it originated from (Paisa) and its appearance of a bandeja (large pot or bowl). While there may not be one official authentic bandeja paisa, due to the fact that it can be tweaked and no one can for sure know which is the original recipe, the people don’t seem to mind this, for they even go out their ways to try it at different places.bandeja Paisa

Folk Beliefs

“El Mano Peluda”

Information about the Informant

My informant is an undergraduate student majoring in Philosophy at the University of Southern California. He is half-Columbian and was raised in the Jehovah’s Witnesses Christian denomination.


“It’s called, um, ‘El Mano Peluda [sic?],’ and that’s supposed to mean ‘The Hairy Hand.’ And, um, I think that was so I wouldn’t get up at night, or, like, move around or make too much noise. But basically, um, when you’re sleeping, this hairy hand would come in through the windows or through the vents or something.”

Collector: “Just a hand?”

“It’s just a hairy hand. That’s it. Um, and I actually Googled it. Apparently, it’s some guy had his hand cut off during the Inquisition and he revenged–he said he would get revenge on the people who were the culture that killed him. So, um, the hand would come out of its grave and it would grab children or it would grab their legs from either under the bed or it would crawl up their blanket. It was just really scary. Um, and yeah, occasionally my mom would  use it as kind of like a, um, you know when you rile up little kids, you say something like ‘The hand’s coming, the hand’s coming,’ and she’d grab my leg and I’d go like, ‘Oh my god!'”


This, unlike the other stories this informant told me, does not seem to be a case where the parent scares the child in order to get them to behave, but is more of a ghost story with purpose of entertaining/scaring rather than coercing. This story does give the figure in it a backstory, according to my informant’s research, which also supports its position as more of a ghost story than a story to get children to behave with. The strange part of this is the commonality of the concept of a “hairy hand,” with disembodied hand stories all over the world constantly needing the hand to also be hairy. This is possibly a remnant of the historical theory that criminals were closer to our purported ape ancestors and thus displayed features that are more akin to those of primates, including excessive body hair.

For another “hairy hand” story, see:

Gilbert, Jane . “Letterboxing on Dartmoor: An Addictive Pastime… for the Brave!”. Time Travel-Britain. Web. 01 May. 2014. <>.