Tag Archives: labor

El que madruga, Dios le ayuda.

El que madruga, Dios le ayuda.

The one that rises early, God aids.

(Similar Proverb: Early to bed, early to rise, makes a man healthy, wealthy, and wise.)

My informant, who is bilingual, remembers hearing this proverb from her grandmother, born in 1915, and who moved to the United States from Cuba in 1976. (My informant’s mother came to the United States at the same time in 1976).

My informant said that her grandmother would say this to her while she was growing up in reference to her sleeping habits most of all and how they differed from her grandmother’s sleeping habits. (My informant said that she usually goes to bed at 2 AM and sleeps in until 12 noon).

The use of “Dios,” or God in the proverb might imply the influence of the religion and belief of my informant, although of all the proverbs my informant provided me, numbering at around 14 or so, this is only one that references God. And when my informant translated, she referenced the similar proverb noted above, not a direct translation. The influence of her American upbringing explains why she would not use a direct translation and the proverb variant in America seems to be the product of capitalism by mentioning wealth, whereas the Spanish proverb does not mention wealth as a reward for rising early.

The Legend of Joe Magarac

My father remembers learning about the legend of Joe Magarac in school. Although he doesn’t remember the exact grade he learned about Magarac, he remembers it was in elementary school, and he does remember learning it from one of his teachers as part of a lesson that included other tall tales like that of Paul Bunyan.

The story of Joe Magarac that my father remembers is that he was a hero to steelworkers in Pittsburgh, and a local legend. Legend has it that Magarac often performed near impossible tasks protecting other steel workers. My father remembers the particular story about Magarac’s death, which as I have learned is one version of the legend, there is another version where Magarac lives. The version that my father told describes how Magarac sacrificed himself by jumping into a Bessemer furnace in order to melt with the steel and make the steel, which was being used to make a new mill, stronger.

My father grew up when the steel mills were still a prominent force in Pittsburgh, and even worked in the mills himself in the 1970s. The area where my father grew up, Munhall, PA, is just outside the city and close to many steel mills, some historical landmarks in the neighboring town, Homestead, PA.


Annotation: Mention of Joe Magarac and his Pittsburgh Origins were mentioned in an article by Jennifer Gilley and Stephen Burnett in The Journal of American Folklore Vol. 111, No. 442. (Autumn, 1998), pp. 392-408.

“Once begun is half done.”

My mom told me this wise saying when I was young, and had trouble getting my chores done.  They always seemed like they took so long that I would just not do them until I had to be forcibly told. My mother explained to me that all chores are boring and tedious and the hardest part is getting started. In other words, once you’ve started a job you’ve nearly finished because the hardest part is getting over.