USC Digital Folklore Archives / Posts Tagged ‘Hispanic’
Folk speech

Hispanic Proverb-Game

Informant: Carlota Rodriguez-Benito. 20 years old. Spanish Heritage, born in Miami, lived in Mexico. USC student.

Informant:“El que se va de su villa pierde su silla”

Translation:“The one who leaves his or her villa looses his or her chair”

Informant: “If someone stood up from their seat, whether that be at school, at home, or anywhere, I would take that seat. When that person returned wanting that same seat, I would say the proverb to let them know that it’s their fault they left it and it’s mine now. I no longer use this proverb because I find it silly. When I was younger, however, I loved to say it because it was a funny game.

Thoughts: Carlota grew up in Miami but still used this proverb as a child. Miami has a very big Hispanic community so it makes sense that Carlota would say it. When I was younger,  just like Carlota, I would say this proverb. It is interesting that we both never say it anymore but still remember the experiences of it.

Folk Beliefs
Tales /märchen

La IIorona

6) La IIorona

La IIorona is a mother that drowned her two children in a river, and she then committed suicide. Legend has it that she goes throughout Mexico looking and calling for her children; she always appears and wanders up and down the river.

Apparently “historically,” La Malinche gave birth to two sons by Cortes; The king and queen of Spain, fearing the Cortes is betraying them and building his own empire here in America, demanded for his return and used a beautiful Spanish lady to seduce him to come back. Cortes finally agreed and told  La Malinche that he is going to take their two sons, go back to Spain and leave her behind. La Malinche, realizing that she has helped the enemies destroy her people, she grew very desperate and prayed to her god to help her. The god told her that if she lets Cortes take her babies away, one of them will return and destroy her people.

Thus, the night before Cortes’ departure, La Malinche grabs her babies and escapes; however, Cortes soon discovers this and orders his soldiers to go hunt them down. They discovered them near a river. La Malinche stabs her babies in the heart and then the two falls into the river and dies. People later discovered La Malinche dead near/in the river.

Since then, rumor has it that she comes back as a woman in white dress, wailing all night long for her children.

(*For more information, see the film The Cry.)

My friend Miriam told me this story after I asked her to tell me some folklores of her culture. She is half hispanic so this is the story she told me. She could not remember a lot of the details really well, so I had to look up some of the informations myself. She knows this story just from growing up, her parents used to tell it to her, so that she’d be too afraid to go out at night alone.

I have heard of the story of La IIorona before and I have learnt about the history of Cortes and La Malinche but I never knew that there is a relationship in between the two, so honestly that was really interesting to learn.


Folk Beliefs

Our lady of Guadlupe

8) Our lady of Guadalupe

Our lady of Guadalupe is the mexican reincarnation of Virgin Mary.

Long time ago in Mexico, the Spaniards/white mexicans were in charge of both property and the Catholic church while the Mestizos and the Native Americans and in general darker skinned mexicans were the peasants and doing all the hard work, and it was basically a feudalism situation.

There was one peasant named Juan Diego, and one day when he was just going about his daily routine, he heard a voice calling for him. Thus he followed the voice, and ended up on a hilltop where the Virgin Mary appeared to him; she was pregnant and and praying and she was standing up on a dragon. Virgin Mary told Juan Diego that she wants him to build a church on this hill.

However Juan Diego was full of doubts; he argued that since he is  peasant, he has no power and money, and that no one will listen to him, and thus he left. Since then, Virgin Mary appeared to him and requested this of him two more times, till Juan Diego finally decided to try to make it work.

Juan Diego went to the local priest that was in charge of the area, and told him that he has had a vision, but the priest laughed at Juan Diego and told him that Juan Diego doesn’t know what he is talking about; he is a peasant. Thus, when the Virgin Mary came to him one more time, he told her that he was sorry and that there is nothing he can do for her. The Virgin Mary then told Juan Diego that she’ll help him.

The Virgin Mary made a rose bush grow even though it was the middle of the winter; she told Juan Diego to pick these roses and carry them in his clothes (a serape) to go see the priest again. When Juan Diego reached the priest, he let the roses and the serape fall to the floor and somehow the image of the Guadalupana appeared. The priest then was shocked and hurried people to go build the church.  

Now Juan Diego is a saint, and the Guadalupana is really really important to the mexicans.

Miriam told me this story after I asked her to tell me some stories of her hispanic culture. Miriam is an artist, and she really likes the portraits of the Guadalupana and thus why she is all the more interested in the Guadalupana. She had always knew this story growing up because her family is religious, and out of the three stories that she told me, she performed this one with the greatest enthusiasm and the outmost details.

I had always known the symbol and the image of the Guadalupana but I never knew the story behind her before. This was pretty eye opening to me, but again it is very similar to many other religious stories that involves people who were sent visions.


Folk Beliefs


2) Chupacabras

  • The chupacabra is a legendary creature that looks like a freaky mangy coyote thing with big eyes and huge fangs. Chupacabra means “goat sucker” in spanish, because when goats and chickens start turning up dead, completely drained of blood, it means there’s a chupacabra around. Parents/friends/teachers used to threaten that chupacabras would eat us if we went out by ourselves late at night. I remember seeing a tiny mangy chihuahua out on a walk at night and thinking it was a chupacabra and running the hell outta there.
  • Annalise told me of this story when I asked her of specific San Antonio related folklores and folk creatures. She heard of this story because her parents and texan family used to tell this to her as a kid so that she won’t go out late at night. She kind of said this as a joke, something along the lines of big foot.
  • I have never heard of Chupacabras before even though i’ve lived in San Antonio for 6 years. I do know about Big foot though. I wonder why Chupacabras are not as “famous” as Big foot; maybe it is because Big foot is present in more cultures.. but why??? Chupacabras kind of sound like a creature that people invented to justify wolfs and predators that killed their lifestock.
Life cycle

Hispanic Folk Food way – Chilaquiles and Chinese Folk Food Way – Eggs

My informant says this about his background:

“My parents are both um…from Mexico… and then they moved to the uh…Sacramento, California in uh ’88 and had my sister and I was born shortly after that in ’91…um…we lived in a mostly Hispanic neighborhood until the time I was in third grade at which point my Dad’s career brought us to a point where we could move into a high income neighborhood elsewhere in Sacramento and I lived there since until I moved to Los Angeles this year for college.”

My informant was raised in a Catholic family. He provided this Hispanic folk food way in the following conversation:

Informant: So this is a folk food way, it’s interesting because I’ve heard of it outside of my family’s context and outside of the town that I grew up in, but uh…only rarely and never in the same way that I’ve seen with them. Uh…this food way is Chilaquiles, which are a uh… breakfast food in Mexico umm is basically a uh…chopped up tortilla, fried and served with, in uh… via you mix it with eggs umm, sometimes peppers… and then it’s served with really hot salsa on top and on a rare occasion, served with soul scream on top…that, at least in my home, this was a very uh, weekend-y thing because it takes time to prepare, we didn’t really have time for it on a weekday, um, at least for my parents growing up, it was very much, very much a luxury, um, because this has meat in it, you might get meat once a week and eggs were also…not quite as much and so, these ingredients, so…is very very simple. This was uh, uh, quite the, it was uh, a rare deviation from the usual diet, a very luxurious one.

Collector: What do you think is the significance of this uh, food way?

Informant: Uh, the significance is that it’s rarely reflective of the way that, at least the way that people who grew up in that town, um, it’s a very modest upbringing um…you don’t get fancy breakfast like you see in America where traditional breakfasts are pancakes, eggs, bacon, sausage, orange juice…very very simple, but it’s not as appreciated by the children who grew up with that because they don’t recognize the luxury of that sort of breakfast.”

This folk food way is very much reflective of the living standards of what my informant describes as a modest upbringing in a Mexican village. The addition of meat, eggs and soul cream, which are considered expensive food items in a small town like the one my informant’s parents grew up in, show the Chilaquiles’s role as a luxury or celebratory food–it’s a special food, something different from what is usually consumed. I find that many folk food ways are created out of this situation, where a specific food, such as eggs or meat, are main ingredients of a special dish (special as in special occasion) because it was considered a luxury food back in the day.

To show an example, my father often recounted to me about luxury food items in the past.

Here’s a little background on my father:

My father was born as a farmer’s son into a veteran’s family in Taipei, Taiwan. His father and mother ran away from China to Taipei during the Chinese Civil War. Many of his cultural practices and beliefs are taken from mainland Chinese culture. Because of his background, he is considered a “mainlander” in Taiwan (Chinese in Taiwan are divided into Mainland Chinese, Taiwanese or indigenous). My father graduated from Iowa University with an MBA. His B.A was obtained in Taiwan.

While my father often tells me how precious sweet foodstuffs, such as jawbreakers, watermelon and rock candy, were to him in his childhood, he never forgets to reinforce how precious eggs are. He said that in his childhood, eggs were extremely expensive so much so that families couldn’t afford to eat eggs. The only chance he would have to eat an egg was on his birthday. He came from a family of five and on their birthdays, his mother would make ??? (Yang Chun Mien, which directed translated would be “not complicated noodle” or “simple noodle”), which is basically water, noodles and scallions, and put an egg, one egg, in the soup, as a sort of luxury food. Thus, nowadays, when eggs are a lot cheaper, my father never forgets to add egg into the noodles.

From these recollections, we can see how historically rare food items have shaped folk food ways.

For more information on Chilaquiles, go here:

For pictures of Yang Chun Mien, go here: pictures.


Hispanic Mating/Dating Practice “Ir a Caminar”

My informant says this about his background:

“My parents are both um…from Mexico… and then they moved to the uh…Sacramento, California in uh ’88 and had my sister and I was born shortly after that in ’91…um…we lived in a mostly Hispanic neighborhood until the time I was in third grade at which point my Dad’s career brought us to a point where we could move into a high income neighborhood elsewhere in Sacramento and I lived there since until I moved to Los Angeles this year for college.”

He was also raised in a Catholic family.

He provided the following exchange about this Hispanic dating practice “Ir a Cominar”, which means, “to go walking”. It’s a specific way of socializing with teenagers of the other sex in a specific environment:

Informant: I guess the only way to put this is that it’s a sort of mating practice, in the sense, that uh, in the vil–small town where my parents grew up, La Pidad, there was a very specific way you would, uh, teenagers would, go around meeting each other–with the other sex. Um… in the plaza, they would always call it ‘Ir a Caminar’, to go walking, and basically, people would just go walking around in the park and the plaza and um…all the girls would walk around in the middle, talking to each other and would wait for the guys, who would sit on the outside and approach them and ask them to go walking. Um, I thought this was weird, because when my parents first talked to me about it, they, uh, they, treated it like a totally normal thing um, but this was [snicker] a specific environment where boy girl interactions would happen, in fact, that’s where my parents met.

Collector: Is this like going out?

Informant: No, no, it’s not going out, but just walking. It’s a very, a, this was a very odd way they,um, you know, every relationship starts like that! No matter where it goes, every relationship starts like that where they grew up. I haven’t heard about it elsewhere, outside of their town.

Collector: Why do you think they do this?

Informant: Um, to me, uhh..obviously you have no control what teenagers might do later in their relationship, but considering they grew up in a very very Catholic community, this seems like a very innocent, um, way of meeting people. But, there’s a certain level of tradition about it, with me, it always seemed old fashioned, um, it seemed like uh, because it’s so public–it’s out in the park–you want to display that modesty before the relationship is starting, um, and then uh, people experience a sort of private life from there.”

While there are many interesting dating practices existent in the folklore of other cultures, this one is specially interesting in how regulated the practice is and there’s a certain protective quality about this sort of regulation. The women are protected by each other in the inner circle and the guys have their guy friends, or what some might call “wing men”, around them. Each sex is supported by their friends as they mingle with the opposite sex and the practice becomes quite protective and innocent in nature.

The fact that my informant feels this practice is old fashioned might call into question the norm of dating in the United States as of now. While I may be over-generalizing, modern teen culture and dating practices seem to place an emphasis on sexual relations, or hookups/one night stands, instead of devoting effort to developing a nurturing relationship, losing or skipping the sort of modesty and innocence that my informant describes in the folk practice he observed. So, ultimately, perhaps this difference between dating practices suggests that teenagers these days are exposed to sexual relations way too early from the media and even propagated by their own folk circles–like a sort of leftover or lasting effect from the Free Love Revolutions of the 1980s.


Two Hispanic Jokes – Pablito

My informant says this about his background:

“My parents are both um…from Mexico… and then they moved to the uh…Sacramento, California in uh ’88 and had my sister and I was born shortly after that in ’91…um…we lived in a mostly Hispanic neighborhood until the time I was in third grade at which point my Dad’s career brought us to a point where we could move into a high income neighborhood elsewhere in Sacramento and I lived there since until I moved to Los Angeles this year for college.”

I would just like to add that he’s raised Catholic.

He told me the following when I interviewed him:

“So the last time I was in Mexican…’cause my family got around…now that a couple of us are grown up, we were at the table and couple of uncles were sharing Pablito jokes…uh, Pablito is like a national figure in some crass, crude Mexican jokes that are usually shared amoung young Mexican involves swearing or some kind of sexual innuendo. One joke is, about Pablito, uh…going to sell vegetables at the market…so his mom sends him off and she says…I’ll say this partly in English and partly in Spanish so the puns make sense and she sends him out and says, mijo, I want you to go out and sell jalapenos, so he goes to the market walking around going ‘jalas, jalas, jalas…jalas, jalas, jalas… (song-like quality)…shortening jalapenos to jalas and she says, ‘no, no, no, miho,  they’re jalapenos, you have to say that and don’t shorten them next time! Tomorrow I need you to go sell melons’ and so he goes to the market and he goes ‘melos, melos, melos…. melos, melos, melos and he comes back home, he hasn’t sold anything and his mom says you have to say the whole thing…melones, you can’t shorten it again! Tomorrow, you’re going to go to the market again and you’re going to sell eggs, but you’re not going to shorten anything!’ So finally, Pablito goes to the market on the third day and remembering not to shorten anything, he said the entire phrase ‘jalasmelosjuevos, jalasmelosjuevos, jalasmelosjuevos’, which is basically, ‘pull out my testicles, pull out my testicles, pull out testicles’ so yeah, haha, it’s, yeah…a crude, dirty joke. And if anything, I remember hearing a variant of this in the…uh…elementary school back when I lived in uh…and in that context, just the whole…crude humor thing again, but I don’t quite remember this.’

Then I asked, “Why is the kid called Pablito?” To which, my informant responded:

“Pablito is just like a…a…it can be like…a…in the s-same way that uh…Americans usually use Bob as a default name, it’s like a little default name…uh for some reason, I’m not sure. And of course, ‘blito’ implies that he’s some small kid who’s involved in these crude situations…um another Pablito joke is, um…I’m trying to remember…Pablito has a problem with swearing, he swears a lot…he’s the stock joke boy. He swears a lot, he has a very dirty mouth for a young boy. So uh, he goes to a church, he’s also crippled…he’s arm is bent so that…permanently bent so that uh…he can’t extend it, so this obviously is not good and he sits down at a pew and he prays and prays and prays, ‘God, if you uh, cure my arm, I’ll never swear again, I promise, I promise’. And then, so he prays and nothing happens and then he walk out the church and the second he steps out, his arm extends and he says ‘Ay cabron! and his arm, uh, bends again.’

*Ay cabron is a swear word in Spanish, which is something like fucker*

I inquired further and said, “What’s the significance of this joke?” to which he answered:

“Um, it’s hard to say, but the Pablito, Pablito is very indicative of the every man, not the every man, but the every boy. My parents always told that in the context of the little town they grew up in, so he’s clearly not high income or anything like that…uh…he spends a lot of time on the streets, hence the crude humor, which is usually shared by boys at a young age. Um..usually, not older adolescents but younger people, boys at around ten or eleven, maybe younger….I think it’s just mostly reflective of everyday life of my people.”

While I think my informant hit on many of the important aspects of the joke, I just wanted to point out the emphasis on family and a more agricultural life in the first joke and the focus on Christianity in the second joke. Moreover, the second joke implicitly teaches the moral lesson that “God can take back what he gives, and because of this, we should keep our promises to him”. Lastly, I just wanted to reinforce how Pablito jokes are reflective of a much more impoverished and low class lifestyle (in the neutral sense).

For more Pablito jokes, visit this site (which is in Spanish):