Main piece: Schuhplattler is a traditional style of Bavarian folk dance that includes lots of leg movement, stomping, clapping and slapping. The male performers wear Lederhosen and the female performers wear Dirndls. Modern performances of Schuhplattler can be seen at Oktoberfest in Germany, where many in attendance of the wear Dirndls and Lederhosen – a very good look. Schuhplattler dancers may also play the accordion in their performances, which is a nice addition.
Context: The informant (BB) grew up in Schlesien (Silesia), Germany and immigrated to the United States when she was 24 in August 1960. BB and her husband, who was from East Prussia (now considered a territory in Poland), started a family of 3 children in Orlando, Florida and ran a greenhouse business until their retirement. BB is a devout Christian with Lutheran roots. She is fluent in both German and English. Our conversation took place by the fireplace in my home in Atlanta. Interestingly, the informant never practiced, performed or watched Schuhplattler in her youth, since the Bavarian dance was more popular in the Southern part of Germany, and she grew up in the Northwest. However, when she immigrated to the U.S. and began attending the American-German society, many young German people were practicing Schuhplattler and putting on shows among their friends. So, she sent her three kids to Schuhplattler practice every weekend and accordion practice for 5 years (and they hated it). BB admires the dance because it was a tradition she wouldn’t have really been exposed to if she had stayed in Northwestern Germany.
Personal thoughts: There is definitely some irony in the fact that immigrating to a new country taught her more about her own country than living there, in some small ways. It goes to show the ways in which folk adapt traditions to new cultures, locations and time periods. Additionally, the Schuhplattler dance is a perfect reflection of the German people and their mindset – disciplined and refined, yet still lively and fun within those constraints. For external reference, see “Kolb, Alexandra. “The Migration and Globalization of Schuhplattler Dance: A Sociological Analysis.” Cultural Sociology, vol. 7, no. 1, 12 July 2012, pp. 39-55. ProQuest 5000. Accessed 20 Apr. 2019.)
A man in Sacramento, California recounts the traditional dance known as the Highland Fling and a legend passed down by his Scottish ancestors. The practice of the Highland Fling originated in the early 19th century grew in popularity throughout the next hundred years. According to my source, when his ancestors immigrated to America, his great great grandma was so excited to see Elis Island, she broke into this traditional dance and captivated onlookers both on and off the boat.
ME: Could you tell me about an instance where you’ve witnessed the Highland Fling?
R: I can’t tell you a time when I saw it live but I can tell you about a story of it happening.
ME: Yeah that works too.
R: Well my great great grandmother, her two brothers, and their parents all sailed from Scotland to New York at Elis Island. I’ve been told that my great great grandma was so excited she began to do the Highland Fling. Now she was only 5 at this time. I guess the people around thought this was very cute. Soon enough she’d drawn a crowd.
The legend that’s been passed down compliments this traditional Scottish dance. I set out to get more information on the origins of the dance itself but was pleasantly surprised to find out that it actually had some heavy significance in my source’s family.
During the 19th century, the house was inhabited by a migrant Chinese (sometimes Japanese) family. The father worked very hard and came back late at night every day. One day, he came back earlier and was surprised to hear strange noises coming from his and his wife’s bedroom. He went there and fount his wife in bed with a lover, irate, he grabbed a knife and hacked them both up into pieces. When his kids got home, he decided to kill them as well since he saw no feasible explanation of his deeds and he didn’t want them to hate him. After that, he committed suicide.
While property records show that a Chinese family did indeed live in the house during the early 19th century, there is no proof that the above events transpired. This story’s popularity however could be attributed to lingering xenophobia, staring from the mid 19th century to the early 20th century, there was a very large wave of Chinese migrants to Lima. These immigrants were brought to Lima under false pretenses of wealth and opportunity when in reality, they were brought to collect guano since there was a dearth of cheap labor in Lima (the remaining Africans who were brought over as slaves were too few and the indigenous population had fled to the Andes to avoid being enslaved). These Chinese immigrants suffered horrendously and died by the thousands; however, there was a good number who survived the Guano age and established themselves in the city. In spite of their work which had brought an immense level of prosperity for Lima, these migrants were viewed with distrust by the Peruvians of European descent and were actively discriminated against. This version of the story is a vestige of that sentiment.
La Migra begins by the choosing of two teams. One team becomes the immigrants and the other team becomes the immigration official (la migra). Two team captains, who are either self assigned or nominated by the other players, pick their team members and which role they will play. Then a barrier is usually chosen, this can be a fence or anything which separates to sides. A jail and a safety point are also chosen. The jail is on the immigrants territory and the safety point is on la migras territory. Once all of this is decided the officials count to ten giving the immigrants a chance to cross the border which was pre-assigned. The immigrants must run across the border and through la migra, which is allowed to hit the immigrants, without getting caught and sent to jail. In jail the player is out once tagged by another player who has already reached the safety point. These players risk being jailed, since the after all are still immigrants. The way to win the game if you are on la migras side is by jailing all the immigrants. The immigrants win by getting all their players to the safety point.
I asked Ricardo why he played the game and he told me that he has heard his parents many times talk about how people have to cross the U.S. border and go through this everyday. He feels it is a way of experiencing that which his parents and others have done. He believes it is a Mexican tradition. He also plays it because he thinks it is funny. I think this has to do with the hitting involved. Kids often find violence funny.
La Migra is a fairly recent game. An exact author is unknown, although a few kids claim that they invented it. This is fascinating because I use to play a game similar to this one except instead of immigrants and the immigration, one team was the cops and the others were robbers. This game seems to be a spin off of the game I use to play as a kid. This is a great example of how much a child is effected by what he hears his parents say.