USC Digital Folklore Archives / Posts Tagged ‘lost’
Customs
Folk Beliefs
Magic

How Cubans Find Lost Objects

Original Text: “Si pierdes algo, amarra un trapo negro a la pata de una silla para que San Dima te ayude a encontrarlo.”

Transliteration: “If you lose something, tie a cloth black to the foot of a chair so that San Dima can help you to find it.”

Translation: “If you lose something, tie a black cloth to the leg of a chair so that San Dima can help you find it.”

 

The source says that Cubans have many different superstitions for finding lost items, but this is the one she’s heard of the most.  She said San Dima is the patron saint of finding lost things. When I tried searching more about Saint Dima, though, I was unable to find anyone by that name. I also asked what the significance of the black cloth and the chair were. Apparently, it’s a black cloth because the item is lost somewhere it can’t be found, somewhere “dark” to the finder. She didn’t know exactly why it’s tied to the leg of a chair, but she speculated it had something to do with being close to the floor and how lost things are usually on the floor.

This belief sounds like it stems from Santeria, a Latin American religion that combines witchcraft with Christian beliefs.  The original practitioners of Santeria were African slaves that had been taken to islands like Cuba and whatnot by the Spanish. In order to protect themselves from being punished for practicing their native rituals, the slaves exchanged the names of African deities for Christian saints. As such, many of the deities’ abilities were carried over to the saints. It’s possible that San Dima received their power for finding things from whatever African deity their name was used to replace. While Santeros aren’t the only ones who practice this belief, it seems very likely that that’s where it stemmed from.

general
Musical

The Chocolate Ice Cream Cone Song

My (hold note) mommy said if I’d be good she’d send me to the store,

she said she’d bake a chocolate cake if I would sweep the floor,

she said if I would make the bed and help her mind the phone,

she would send me out to get a chocolate ice cream cone.

 

And so I did

the things she said,

I even helped her make the bed.

Then I went out,

just me alone,

to get a chocolate ice cream cone.

 

Now (hold note) on my way a-comin’ home I stumbled on a stone,

and need I tell you that I dropped

my chocolate ice cream cone.

A little doggie came along and took a great big lick (slurping sound),

and then I hit that mean ole doggie with a little stick.

And he bit me

where I sat down

and he chased me all over town.

And now I’m lost,

can’t find my home,

it’s all because of a chocolate, chocolate, chocolate ice cream cone.

 

The informant was my father, a 49-year-old engineer who currently lives in the San Francisco Bay Area, but who grew up in the area surrounding Austin, Texas. The song is one that his mother used to sing to him and his siblings when they were little. The song was primarily sung right before bed, as well as occasionally on long road trips. The informant says his mother would sing it to the children almost every night, sometimes “perfunctorily,” sometimes smiling and adding “extra ‘chocolate, chocolate, chocolate’s’ on the end.” The informant sees it as a mix of a “bizarre lost kid fairy tale” and a “moral lesson for young kids growing up,” the lesson being, “don’t go out on your own or, you know, you might get lost and never find your way home again.”

 

This song was collected while I was home for Spring Break and performed in my living room. It was interesting to me because my father also used to sing it to me and my sister when we were children because, “when you’re a parent, you’re looking for, you know, the things to pass down and it was one of my favorite songs as a child.” The tune of the song makes it seem fun and harmless, but there is a dark undertone about the lyrics that I recognized, even when I was growing up. Looking at it now, I think it is less of a moral lesson, and more of a lesson to children about the random, horrible things that can happen to you when you are not expecting them. None of the events that take place are really the narrator’s fault (other than being chased by a dog after he hits it with a stick), and yet the narrator still ends up lost and alone. It is a dark reflection on everyday life hiding within a song for children, as is often the case with old songs and stories created for children.

Folk speech
Humor

THEY’RE NOT FROM AROUND HERE

EXAMPLE:

“They’re not from around here.”

BACKGROUND

“This is a line that sometimes still gets used in our house.

We went out to visit Jimmy (his wife’s brother) in San Diego. Him and his girlfriend at the time. We were going to some fair in the town just north of San Diego. I forget the town, maybe it was Carlsbad. I’m not exactly sure of where.

I was driving the rental car. It was like a big one too because we had to fit us five in the family plus Jim and his girlfriend, Amy. So we get to the fair and there are people there to direct you where to park. You know it’s this big lot and they wave us in, you know, go, go, go. And they are giving us directions, like turn left, go straight, turn right, turn left.

The next thing you know we’re about to exit. They directed me through the lot to the exit. And if I go out the exit, I’m stuck because it empties onto a one-lane highway. So I stop and do a U-Turn to turn around.

Next thing you know the guys are yelling at me saying that I can’t do that. And I’m just like, “I want to park the car.” And then I hear from the back Amy yelling, “They’re not from around here.”

“They’re not from around here!” Even though that had no relationship as to why I didn’t park the car. Me not being from San Diego did not account from those people not navigating me correctly through the lot.

So now my wife and I use it when we get lost or don’t understand something.”

ANALYSIS:

I feel like people can learn a lot about others during travel. Traveling is just one of those times when the best and worse is brought out of everyone. It is in those moments of stress that so many funny things can happen that make for great stories later.

This is one that apparently is told with some regularity to it, with that line being the real gem of it all. To adopt it and say it, of course brings this family back to those days of traveling in a new location, half-way across the country. I think their might even be some unconscious cultural bias here. Amy, I was told is from the west, and is generally remembered as being somewhat ditzy. So that line kind of encompasses that stereotype of dumb blonde California girls.

More than that though, I think it is one of those really funny, organic moments that people tend to hold on, not wanting to forget. That line is a perfect excuse for whenever something does not go your way in a new location, and can also serve as a way to ease the tension and stress. If something goes wrong, just say, “I’m not from around here.”

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