USC Digital Folklore Archives / Posts Tagged ‘el salvador’
Legends
Narrative

El Cipitio

Main Piece:

“El Cipitio is the son of La Siguanaba, he was cursed to stay little forever. He likes to stalk young girls who are virgins. He approached these young girls while they lay sleeping. He would whisper things into their ears and would touch them. After visiting these girls, the girls would go crazy. They stayed crazy forever.”

 

Context:

The informant is a middle-aged woman, born in El Salvador. She learned this story from her mother. She believes her mother told her this story in order to cause her fear of not wandering at night or sleeping in the nude.

For another version, see Cordova, Carlos (2005). The Salvadoran American. Westport: Greenwood Press.

Legends
Narrative

La Carreta Chillona/ The Weeping Wagon

Main Piece:

“It is a wagon that goes through the many towns during midnight. The spirits on the wagon would take all those it crossed. It is said that they would take them to hell. At midnight, you could hear the sound of the wooden wheel very loudly marking the wagon’s passage through the town. The wagon was conducted by spirits from hell in order to take humans to hell. My sister and I heard the wagon passing some nights. Maybe it was our imagination or fear, but we really thought we heard it passing. Some even say they saw it.”

Context: The informant is a middle-aged woman, born in El Salvador. Her mother told her this story, and she believes now that like many of the other stories her family told her, they were in order to prevent them from wandering the streets at night.

Thoughts:

I agree with the informant that the function of these stories is to prevent the young from wandering at night in order to avoid the many dangers that could occur at that hour.

Folk Beliefs
Homeopathic
Magic

Pueblo Wizard (El Salvador)

Context/Background: The informant is Salvadoran and Mexican-American who grew up in a household surrounded by folk belief and customs. One in particular regarded magic in her grandmother’s hometown. In this circumstance, the informant’s grandmother has told her the stories of a local wizard and different legends about who he possibly is and is able to become.

Informant:

[Face to Face]

“My Grandma- she talks about a lot of things- but like, she talks about this man from her pueblo- the area she was born, who was kinda like a wizard, you can kinda say. And apparently, he would like, help heal people. Like one time, he told her to put like a cross under um, I think my dad who was like… drunk and gonna die on his back under the hammock and he would get better. This was an experience she had… and it was a story that he- this wizard- was like, she actually knows as a person, um, turns into a dog and scares people.”

KA: And where was she from:

“El Salvador, and it’s um… San Marcos specifically”

Introduced: The informant was introduced to this story through her Grandmother.

Analysis/Interpretation: I think this is an interesting dynamic because this story refers to someone who is real, but there is a legendary element to him which is questioned amongst local people expanding into a greater mystery when examining contrasting alter-ego types. I think it would be interesting to find out more both regarding how the wizard has interacted with others and what exactly his dog form symbolizes and what is done at that state.

Humor

Salvadoran joke, El Salvador

This joke was collected from a friend, who was born and raised in San Salvador, El Salvador and is 21 years old. It goes like this:

 

A German, a Frenchman, an Englishman and a Salvadoran, comment on a picture of Adam and Eve in Paradise. The German says, “look at the perfection of bodies; she, slender and spiky; he, with that athletic body and profiled muscles. They must be German!” The French man immediately responds, “I do not believe it. The eroticism that emerges from both figures is clear. She, so feminine; he, so masculine; they know that temptation will soon come. They must be French!” Shaking his head no, the Englishman comments, “not at all. Notice the serenity of their faces, the gracefulness of the pose, the sobriety of the gesture. They can only be English!” After a few more seconds of contemplation, the Salvadoran exclaims, “I do not agree, Look carefully: they do not have any clothes, they do not have shoes, they do not have a house, they only have a sad apple to eat, they do not protest and they still think they are in Paradise. Those idiots can only be Salvadorans!” My friend told me this was a very popular joke that she heard many times, the first one being from her dad, and she genuinely finds it very funny.

 

I find it really interesting that religion is even incorporated into the humor of El Salvador, but not surprisingly since most of the population is Catholic. I also thought the punchline speaks to how classist Latin America and be, and how politically incorrect our jokes are in comparison to American ones.

Legends

El Cadejo, El Salvador

This legend was collected from a friend, who was born and raised in San Salvador, El Salvador and is 21 years old. It is about el cadejo, a character of the folklore of Central America and some parts of Mexico.

 

She told me the story is about two dogs, one white and one black. Indigenous people believed that dogs help humans to get to heaven after they die. El cadejo is therefore actually a spirit that presents itself in the form of a dog. It is believed that God created a good spirit in order to protect humankind, the white dog, but the devil created a black one that would fight the white one and defeat God. It is said that the black one tends to be seen by people who wonder the streets at night, engage in immoral behaviors, or have an unclean conscience. It chases its victims to scare them and the hypnotizes them with its read eyes and steals their souls. The white one, in contrast, is believed to protect God’s “loyal believers.” She says that her grandfather told her that story, and that he actually believed it, but she never really believed in legends. She also told me that legends were a big part of Salvadoran culture and were taught in school, and on El Salvador’s independence day, there are nation-wide parades and people dress up as the dogs or other characters from legends to commemorate them.

 

I find it interesting that this legend has positive and negative aspects, in contrast to other Latin American legends that tend to be mostly negative. It also incorporates themes of religion and morality, symbolizing El Salvador’s strong religiosity.

Customs

Sunday family dinners, El Salvador

This custom was collected from a friend, who was born and raised in San Salvador, El Salvador and is 21 years old.

 

She told me that every Sunday night, it is a tradition for all families across the country regardless of their social status to sit together and eat pupusas, a thick stuffed corn tortilla from El Salvador. She told me that her own family doesn’t really follow this tradition often, since her parents did not grow up in El Salvador, but that every time it does happen it is great quality time and she enjoys it very much.

 

I think this is a very beautiful tradition that speaks to Latin Americans’ importance on family time. It reminds me of the weekly lunches that my parents made me and my siblings go to every Sunday as an excuse to spend more time together.

Customs
Rituals, festivals, holidays

August vacation, El Salvador

This custom was collected from a friend, who was born and raised in San Salvador, El Salvador and is 21 years old.

 

She told me that during the first week of August, all companies, schools, and pretty much every single business is closed to commemorate Jesus Christ’s transfiguration. She says that about 90% of the country is Catholic, and everyone does it even if they are not religious. She says a lot of people go to the lake during does days, including her, and she gets to spend time with family and friends.

 

I think this is really interesting; we don’t have anything like that where I grew up, probably because there is a lot more of a variety in terms of religion.

Legends

La Siguanaba

She was a woman that went out every night to wash by the river. Everyone would hear her washing. But no one would go outside. They would see a woman that had long hair that would drag on the floor. She seduced the men. The story is often told to children to scare them into not misbehaving.

My tia Estella did not listen to my grandmother and went out at night. She was using the bathroom outside and she saw a tall women standing there. The woman had long black hair. And she was washing. My tia thought it was one of the neighbors washing. She approached the lady and when the lady turned to her she was a skeleton. My tia became mute and ran away from the women.

My informant is a service coordinator. She likes to help people. She also migrated from El Salvador to the United States. Most of her stories are from her mother or personal experiences.

I talked to my informant over coffee in our house.

The interesting part of this piece is the similarities between this and the Llorona of Mexico. It is also interesting because my own aunt experienced it. This story is a classic tale Salvadoran parents use to keep them from misbehaving.

 

Legends

El Cipitillo

My informant is a service coordinator. She likes to help people. She also migrated from El Salvador to the United States. Most of her stories are from her mother or personal experiences.

I talked to my informant over coffee in our house.

El Cipitillo is a boy that wears a large charra or sombrero. He has a little belly. He eats the ashes from leftover fires. The people that make tortilla over the fire would find footprints all over the ashes. He also likes children. If he touched you then you are left retarded.

The story of el cipitillo is often told to scare children from misbehaving. He is said to visit misbehaving children.

It is interesting to see at what lengths Salvadoran moms would go to keep their children safe. I grew up with these stories believing the to be true

Folk speech
Proverbs

“Siempre ay un ‘yo lo vi’”

EM is a 45 year old statistician from San Salvador. He immigrated to the US in the early 90s to attend Kansas University, but he grew up in El Salvador where he and his two brothers were raised by a single mother. Here is a proverb he recalls from his childhood:

“This is a proverb, or a saying- something people tell you. This one is more like a warning, but it also tells you a lot about the community.

It goes something like this, “there is always someone that saw you.”

“Siempre ay un ‘yo lo vi’

So, literally it says “there will always be someone who will say “I saw him do it”!”

If you are doing something, you are not supposed to do, someone will catch you and know you were doing something bad. It’s a warning not to misbehave. My mother used to repeat that often, and early on it is proved to be true. Suddenly you are doing something you are not supposed to and the neighbor from the corner tells your mom! So you learn early that, “oh my god, this is true! If I do the wrong thing there will always be someone who will tell on you!”

I think it comes with the idea that in El Salvador, in particular, that we believe in the English saying- “it takes a village to raise a child”. Even other adults are always aware of where every kid is, and they can correct you if they find you out on the street doing something, because you are part of that community and they care a lot about you and your parents. So proverbs like this one encourage you to behave in a way that the adults in the community find acceptable.”

 

My thoughts: Proverbs that are passed down from adults to children often serve the purpose of socializing them to follow the cultural norms of their community. This particular proverb is meant to keep kids from doing things their parents don’t want them to. It also reflects the nature of these communities were, as the informant noted, the raising of a child is a collective endeavor- Salvadorans consider their relationships with their neighbors to be amongst the most important because you never know when you may need their help. Neighborhoods in El Salvador tend to be closely interconnected, and an important part of coming of age is figuring out how you fit into that community.

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