USC Digital Folklore Archives / Posts Tagged ‘Mexican’
Holidays

Dia de los Muertos

Informant was a 19 year old female who was born in Mexico and currently lives in Brazil. She came to visit me.

Informant: So there is the day of the dead in Mexico. In Spanish, it’s called the dia de los muertos. Basically, it’s a day where you worship… well not exactly worship… it’s a day dedicated to remembering all of the people who passed away and celebrate their life.

Collector: I’ve heard it’s like Halloween. Is this true?

Informant: No, its not like Halloween. On this day, normally you go to the person’s tomb with their favorite food and you place it there like you’re offering them your favorite food. And you also eat it, not theirs but you have a plate of their own.

Collector: Do you eat the food with them?

Informant: Yes you eat it with them on their tomb, and then you decorate their tomb with a bunch of flowers, and everyone dresses up like skull candy, like skeletons but in a fancy way, and then you also save them their favorite alcohol, and you have to drink like your drinking with them, and you play their favorite music, and its like you’re having a party with the tomb.

Collector: Do you pour the alcohol on their grave or do you just leave it there?

Informant: You just leave the cup there with their favorite food. There not actually supposed to be eating it, it’s a more symbolic thing, just to honor them.

Collector: Have you done this before?

Informant: I’ve done it before both in Mexico and in Brazil. But since all of my family is buried in Mexico, I don’t go to the graveyard in Brazil. Instead, I do kind of an alter, like you build an alter for them in the house if you don’t go visit their tombstone, and you can put their favorite food there, and there’s a special bread that you do for that celebration that’s basically a sweet bread. It’s called Pan de Muerto. Bread of the dead.

Everyone kinda gets together during this holiday and it doesn’t really matter who are are, cuz youre celebrating the dead. Who you are and where you come from doesn’t really matter.

Collector: Who have you celebrated?

Informant: I celebrated my grandfathers and Frida Kahlo. It’s not just for family members, you can celebrate whoever you want if their dead.

Collector: Why do you like it?

Informant: I like it because it’s a big party and you don’t mourn them you kind of celebrate them. You look at death with more of a positive attitude. My mother would do it at home when I was young, she would decorate the house and she would celebrate my grandparents. I think its good to remember the people who pass away because sometimes we forget them.

I found it fascinating how in Mexican culture, they have an entire day to celebrate the dead. Generally, when people think of dead people, the thought tends to be accompanied with feelings of mourning. The Mexican culture turns the tables on this feeling, and takes one day out of the year to celebrate the dead and interact with them as if they were living. I also found it interesting that you don’t necessarily celebrate only family members. I would think that when mourning or celebrating the dead, it would be people that you knew rather than strangers, but I think it’s interesting how they really embrace the whole celebration of the dead thing.

Folk Dance

Mayan Rain Dance

Informant was a 19 year old female who was born in Mexico and currently lives in Brazil. She came to visit me.

Informant: There’s a thing that the mayans do for rain, there still are some mayans, but not many. They still do it, and if you go to see it, and it actually rains it’s kinda scary. They do this dance around the fire asking for rain from the rain god Chaac, and then they play this special instrument that is made out of cascaveles. It looks like a big bean with little seeds inside of it to make noise. It’s kinda like a morocco.

Collector: Have you ever seen the dance?

Informant: Yes I have. It’s really cool. They wear these typical outfits. It has like a feather hat and stuff, and they do these paintings on their face with red coloring. They make their own ink, too. I remember when I visited the pyramids, and my tour guide was like “This is where they make their own ink.” Anyways, so they sing in mayan. I can’t understand then, so I don’t know what they sing exactly. The dance itself is just a mixture of movements, nothing very particular. Oh, and it’s also from the south, I think. Yeah, definitely from the south.

Collector: Why do you like this particular piece of folklore?

Informant: Well, I like this one because of the one time that I went there and I saw them doing it, and then a few hours later it started raining. It was kinda scary at first, but I thought it was really cool. I think it’s interesting to to see how there’s different stuff and cultures inside of one country. And even though they’re praising someone who’s not my god, because I’m Catholic, it’s still cool to see how it works.

I think that this rain dance is particularly interesting because of how my friend told me that the one time she saw the Mayans doing the rain dance, it actually rained. I also then thought about how, if she believed in her God but saw the miracles of another God, would she change her beliefs? I thought it was really cool how even though she still believed in her own God, she could appreciate the different cultures and beliefs of others.

Folk Beliefs
Folk medicine

Cure for Bad Dreams

A friend, CB, was visiting me from Texas, and heard me talking with my roommate about the bad dreams she had been having. Camila jokingly proposed that my roommate try this remedy that her mom always made her and her sister do whenever they had nightmares. It is used to remove bad spirits. CB’s mom is very spiritual and uses folk remedies and prayers often.

“So you need an egg and a glass of water and you say a prayer and then rub the egg all over your body in cross motions. After that you crack the egg in the water, put the egg under your bed or near your bed, and sleep. When you wake up the egg has collected all the bad energy and dreams around you and you have to flush it down the toilet to remove the energy.”

It’s interesting that an egg is chosen to soak up the negativity. From reading other sources it seems that the egg would start to smell after some time and the bad smell represented the bad energy that you would throw away. Another blogger mentioned that when it dries it leaves circles that look like the evil eye. I’d be curious to see if any more reasons behind it exist or if there’s anything that has to do with fertility.

Folk speech
Proverbs

Crea fama y Echate a Dormir

Title: Crea fama y echate a dormir

Interviewee: Armando Vildosola

Ethnicity: Mexican-American

Age: 21

Situation (Location, ambience, gathering of people?): Just me and my older brother Armando, as I asked him to share his most important pieces of wisdom that our family has shared throughout the generations. We do this every so often as some way to strengthen the bonds that we have as brothers, something of a brother meeting or a brotherly bonding session. We are sitting in our home in San Diego around our dinner table, having just finished dinner. Out house is full of family walking about visiting from Mexico. We are both on spring break from school at USC.

Piece of Folklore:

Interviewee- Crea fama y echate a dormer”

Interviewer- “What is the English translation of that?”

Interviewee- “I guess it would be make fame and go to sleep.”

Interviewer- “I assume there is more to it than just the words? They don’t make much sense.”

Interviewee- “It means that people should make their fame, and in that sense, well… hold on.”

(A minute or so goes by)

Interviewee- “Ok so it means that when someone goes out and meets people, you should make the kind of impression that you want them to remember you by. And in that sense, you should become famous and have people remember you the way you want to remember. Because when you become famous because of something, people remember you for it. And as the saying goes, in reality, once you are famous for something and people will remember you for it, you can, basically, take a nap. And I guess what that means is that you can relax. You have made your fame and people will remember you for something, and you can relax and take it easy. You did your job, and now you can sleep! I love sleeping.”

Interviewer- “Where did you first hear this saying? Do you remember?”

Interviewee- “Of course. I first heard it from our dad, some time ago. It just made sense to me since I always dreamed of being famous, and he always wanted me to work hard. He uses it to motivate me.”

Interviewer- “Why do you still use it?”

Interviewee- “Well its meaning hasn’t left me, and I guess it helps me remember my dad and that I should do great things with my life. It helps me remember home and remember who I am as a person.”

Analyzation:

This is a proverb that makes sense, but at the same time, it is very Mexican in the sense that when it is translated into English, some of the meaning is lost in the words. The true meaning is only understood within the Mexican culture, but some of it transfers. This is all about first impressions, and those impressions are important in Mexican culture as well as American culture. We always hear of getting off on the right foot, and things of that nature.

Tags: Proverb, Mexican, Fame

Childhood
Customs
Musical

Las Mananitas

Las Mañanitas

Instead of the english birthday song, every time it was a kid’s birthday in my elementary school class we would sing Las Mañanitas before taking turns hitting a piñata. It’s a traditional mexican birthday song sung at parties. YOu usually replace “mi bien” with the person’s name.

 

Lyrics:

Estas son las mañanitas que cantaba el rey David.

Hoy por ser día de tu santo, te las cantamos a ti.

 

Despierta mi bien, despierta, mira que ya amaneció

ya los pajarillos cantan la luna ya se metió.

 

Qué linda está la mañana en que vengo a saludarte

venimos todos con gusto y placer a felicitarte.

 

El día en que tu naciste nacieron todas las flores

y en la pila del bautismo cantaron los ruiseñores.

 

Ya viene amaneciendo, ya la luz del día nos dio.

Levántate de mañana mira que ya amaneció.

Translation:

 

This is the morning song that King David used to sing.

Today being the day of your saint, we sing it to you.

 

Wake up my dearest, wake up, see now that the day has dawned

the sparrows are singing, the moon has finally set.

 

How lovely is this morning, when I come to greet you

we all come with joy and pleasure to congratulate you.

 

The very day you were born all the flowers first bloomed

and in the baptismal font all the nightingales sang.

 

The dawn has come my darling, and the sunlight is here for us.

Rise up and shine with the morning and you’ll see that here’s the dawn.

I do know of similar things before, as where I went to for middle school in San Antonio, Texas also had similar traditions where they sang long spanish birthday songs. Having never learnt Spanish however, I never knew what the lyrics meant.

Customs
Kinesthetic
Life cycle
Rituals, festivals, holidays

The Lazo and Arras in Mexican Wedding Tradition

The informant is a 67-year-old Mexican-American woman who is a reverend. She is known for tailoring wedding receptions to couples from different cultural backgrounds, and in her words “taking old traditions and giving them new meaning.” Many consider her to be the “guru of new wedding traditions.”

When out to breakfast with the informant while she was visiting me in Los Angeles, I asked her if there were any Mexican rituals or traditions that she often incorporated in her weddings. She responded,

“Oh yes. The lazo and arras ceremony. Before the couple takes their vows, the maid of honor and the best man take a lazo (a rope) and wrap it around the bride and groom. This symbolizes to the community that the bride and groom are now one. The arras is 13 coins representing Jesus and the 12 apostles. I bless the coins and pour them into the groom’s hands. He then pours these into the bride’s hands. This symbolizes to the community that he will take care of her. Nowadays, because women want to be viewed as equals, often times the groom will pour las arras into the bride’s hands, and the bride will then pour them back into the groom’s hands, showing that she will take care of him, just as he will her, spiritually, emotionally, and financially.”

This ritual, which the informant often performs when marrying an individual with a Mexican cultural background to someone without this background, is symbolic of the spiritual, emotional, and physical commitments that come with marriage. It is typically performed at weddings where one or both partners practice the Christian faith, because of the parallel between the thirteen coins and Jesus and the 12 apostles. However, the informant stated that the ceremony is still sometimes conducted during secular weddings due to family tradition. It is interesting to examine how this form of folklore has evolved over time to reflect the cultural norms in which it is performed, as it was once held that the man is entirely responsible for taking care of his bride, but with the recent push for gender equality across all spectra of life it is now also important for the woman to show she will take care of her groom. The lazo is a public display of a couple’s commitment to one another, and highlights the permanent merging of two individual’s lives as a result of their marriage.

Folk speech
Proverbs

What’s Done is Done

Original Text: “No por mucho madrugar amanece más temprano.”

Transliteration: “Not for much waking early dawns more early.”

Translation: “No matter how early you wake up, the sun still rises at the same time.”

 

According to the source, this proverb is similar to the proverbs “What’s done is done,” and “You can’t change the past.” To put this proverb in simpler terms, it means that it doesn’t matter what you do. The sun will always rise at dawn, and there’s nothing you can do to change that. The source says he uses it when people are worried about things they’ve done that can no longer be corrected. He couldn’t remember specifically when or where he’d first heard it, but he remembered his mother using it when he was young. He’d go to her crying about something that he’d done poorly in school, and she’d tell him not to cry because it’s in the past, and there’s nothing he could do about it anyway.

This collection particularly interests me because of the source’s interpretation. The proverb is stated in terms of something that will happen in the future (i.e. the sunrise), but when he explained how he understood it, he explained it in terms of the past (i.e. “You can’t change the past.”). When I first heard the proverb, I understood it to be making a statement on destiny. I understood it as being, “No matter what you do, you can’t change the rules of the world. The sun is still gonna rise at x time. So and so is still going to die. Etc, etc.” The source, however, makes it sound like a statement on regret. We shouldn’t worry ourselves about things that have already happened because the past can’t be corrected.

In either case, the proverb is understood as making a statement on how people can’t change things. But why did he and I understand it differently? Personally, I hate the idea of destiny very much, which might be why I jumped to that conclusion, ready to tear apart this proverb. When I asked him why he saw it as a statement about regret, he said he thinks it’s because that’s how his mother always used it, so he kind of inherited her view and never quite thought of it any other way. He understood my view, though, and wondered if maybe he’d start to see the proverb that way, too.

Customs
Holidays
Myths
Narrative
Rituals, festivals, holidays

Posadas

“From the 15th of December to Christmas Eve, we have posadas. We re-enact the journey of Joseph and Mary to find a place to stay.”

 

The source says that his local church would hold the posadas every year. The re-enactments would take place twice a day, one performance in the morning and one in the evening. It sounds similar to the Stations of the Cross and the re-enactment of the Nativity scene. It’s all about getting into the “true spirit of Christmas,” which for the source and other church-goers was always about accepting Jesus into one’s life and being more like Jesus. It’s strange, though, because the posadas don’t feature Jesus. So maybe this tradition is more about family in general and how everyone journeys to one home on Christmas Eve to come together and celebrate the birth of Jesus.

The fact that it ends on Christmas Eve is also significant. While the most obvious reason is because Joseph and Mary “found lodging” by December 24th, the less clear reason is because of the value Latin Americans place in Christmas Eve. For other cultures, Christmas Day is the most important day. That’s when everyone gathers with their family for food and games and whatnot. But Latin Americans host what’s called Noche Buena or “The Good Night” which takes place on Christmas Eve. What most other cultures do on Christmas Day, Latin Americans do on Christmas Eve. Why? Who knows! I asked the source what he thought about this, and he said it’s because Christmas Day is for you to spend only with your immediate family rather than every cousin and great aunt and uncle.

Customs
Festival
Holidays
Rituals, festivals, holidays

No Such Thing As Too Many Parties

Original Text: “En el día de los Reyes Magos, se pone un bebé en la Rosca de Reyes. El que corta el pedazo con el bebé tiene que hacer una fiesta con tamales el día de la Candelaria el 2 de febrero.”

Transliteration: “On the day of the Kings Magicians, you put a baby in the Thread of Kings. He who cuts the piece with the baby has to make a party with tamales the day of the Candelaria on 2nd of February.”

Translation: “On the day of the Three Kings, you put a baby in the Thread of Kings. The person who cuts the piece with the baby has to host a party with tamales on the day of the Candelaria on February 2nd.”

 

This is a Mexican tradition, similar to that of New Orleans’ King Cake. You bake a baby doll (not an actual baby, of course) into a cake known as the Rosca de Reyes or “Thread of Kings” as it translates into English. The person who gets that piece is then in charge of hosting the celebration for the Feast of Candelaria. The Feast of Candelaria celebrates the appearance of the Virgin Mary in Tenerife, Canary Islands. The source fondly remembers celebrating both Three Kings Day and the Feast of Candelaria when he was younger. Much like Christmas, it brought the family together.

Both of the holidays involved in this tradition speak to Mexico’s roots in Christianity. The Feast of Candelaria, however, is made uniquely Mexican in this tradition because of the making and sharing of tamales, a food native to the country. While other Latin American countries do make tamales, none of them celebrate the Feast of Candelaria like Mexicans do. I also find that this speaks to Mexicans’ fondness of celebrations. This tradition guarantees that someone else is going to throw a party in the next few weeks. That’s three big celebrations in a row: Christmas, Three Kings Day, and the Feast of Candelaria.

Foodways

Mexican Stew

Informant was a 19 year old female who was born in Mexico and currently lives in Brazil. She came to visit me.

Informant: Even though we live in Brazil, we always eat Mexican food, my mom always found a way to make it. She made sure that we didn’t lose our Mexican identity through food. It was kinda embarrassing to invite your friends when we had stew.

Collector: Why was it embarrassing?

Informant: Because to people that don’t know it and haven’t tried it before, it doesn’t really smell appealing. Like I once made a friend of mine eat it, and I was so scared that she wouldn’t like it, but she did, thank God.

Collector: What is in this stew?

Informant: Well, there’s different soups, but the one my mom makes the most is this one with pork belly. It has corn, onions, a special pepper, garlic, and green sauce. The ingredients are what make it smell gross, but I’m used to it like I grew up with it. It’s something we also typically eat at Christmas, it’s a Mexican thing.

Collector: Is there any special reason why you eat this at Christmas?

Informant: I mean, it doesn’t mean anything s pecial like it doesn’t represent anything. It’s just because it’s warm and it’s cold outside. It’s funny, if I don’t have anything spicy in a period of a week, I start to lose it. I get mood swings, or I start feeling desperate for it, spicy food can actually be an addiction. I used to bring chili powder to school. (She laughs) I actually have a purse size of the chili powder, so I put it in my purse when I go out.

Collector: Why do you like this particular piece of folklore?

Informant: I like it because my family makes it and I’ve been eating it since I was little so I’m used to it. My first memory of it was when my grandmother made it in Mexico on Christmas. It’s always reminded me of home. It’s like a part of my identity.

I think that my friend’s story about her Mexican stew and how embarrassed she was to show it to others who weren’t Mexican was really interesting. It shows how she has such pride in her culture, that she doesn’t want anyone tearing it down because they don’t understand it. I personally always like to show people my Brazilian food, and I get upset when they don’t like it. I found it really interesting and enlightening how food can be a big part of our cultural identity.

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