USC Digital Folklore Archives / Posts Tagged ‘Mexican’
Adulthood
Childhood
Customs
Festival
Musical
Rituals, festivals, holidays

Dale, Dale, Dale – Piñata Song

Informant: Maria Burguete. 20 years old. Born and raised in Mexico City

Informant: “Mexican parties are very fun. If there is a piñata involved we all sing a specific song while the person hits it with a stick. Once the  song is over, the person stops hitting the piñata”

Original:

“Dale, dale, dale! no pierdas el tino,

Porque si lo pierdes… pierdes el camino;

Ya le diste una!

ya le diste dos!

ya le diste tres!…y tu tiempo se acabo!!”

 

Translation:

“Hit it, hit it, hit it! Don’t loose the aim,

Because if you loose it, you loose the way;

You already hit it once!

You already hit it twice!

You already hit it three! and your time is up!

 

Collector: “Do you recall when you first heard this song?”

Informant: “No, this song has literally been in my life forever. When I was a baby and I could not hit the piñata, my dad would carry me and everyone would sing it. Over time, this song has stayed with me and everyone I know. It is really part of our culture.”

Thoughts: This song is really important in Mexican culture. Whenever there is a piñata at a party, everyone immediately sings. It really has been engraved in the culture forever. Piñatas are an important part of a celebration in Mexico and although it usually involves kids, adults also partake in the activity.

Folk speech
Proverbs

Mexican Proverb

Informant: Maria Clara Williamson. My mom who is originally from Colombia but has lived in Mexico City for 25 years.

Informant: “Está mas caro el caldo que las albondigas”

Translation: “The broth is more expensive than the meatballs.”

Informant: “This is a saying I learned living in Mexico. My friend Paloma uses it a lot but I never do. It is said when the effort put into something is more expensive than the end result. Right now we are building a house in an underserved community with your sister. We have to sell tickets for a raffle, travel to the community, get people at the school to participate, and make the whole thing work. This has taken so much of my time and so many people have been uncollaborative. This effort is more laborious, tiresome, and expensive than the end result (the house) and although it’s a good deed it is indeed more expensive.”

Thoughts: This proverb is really interesting. I had never heard it and my mom has certainly never said it in front of me. It is definitely an interesting way of describing a laborious task. There are many Mexican sayings people have and I’m actually surprised to not have heard it before growing up or from Paloma.

Foodways
Material

Mexican Recipe

Main Piece: Beer Battered Fish Tacos

 

For this piece, I asked my nanny of 18 years, Mirna, for a recipe, and being native to Mexico, she delivered. She prepared beer battered fish tacos, which consists of frying a white fish meat in a batter made from bread crumbs and beer (Corona, of course). It is put into a taco with a chipotle sauce, cabbage, and salsa. I asked if there was a set recipe she followed but there was not, she just cooked based off how she had done it in the past. The entire time she was cooking she was adding little bits of ingredients here and there according to taste, and nothing was perfectly measured. Once the fish was battered it was fried in a pan with vegetable oil, not a traditional deep fryer. There was no set time to cook or anything of the sort, just judging based on the look of the food and feel based on the cook.

 

Background:

 

This is a traditional recipe from my nanny’s home in Mexico, and she has been using it for as long as I can remember at home. It was a traditional recipe used when a successful fishing trip returned and would be cooked right away.

She learned it from her mother, who would generally cook for all of her brothers and sisters, of which there were 6 of them. She had many recipes she could’ve chosen from, having grown up in this large family and also having cooking as a big part of life for them. There was never really much take out or dinners out, so it was typically home cooked meals from her mother.

 

Context:

 

This time she cooked the meal for me, it was just one night for dinner, and did not have much contextual meaning. I used to fish a lot during the summer, and fresh fish was my favorite food for that span of time. I used to call my nanny as we were unloading the boat telling her what we had caught and she would prepare to cook it for me, and this became one of my favorite preparations of fish. She cooked a very large portion as it would serve as our family dinner that night, and had a sort of system going where she would be constantly breading the fish, frying it, warming the tortillas, and prepping the plates. She said that’s what it was like at home when her mother would cook for everyone, needing to feed many mouths.

When this dish was being prepared, my dad had a few different beers at home but none were a Mexican beer, so my nanny actually went out and bought Coronas to cook this recipe, which I think is interesting in that even though I’m sure other types would have worked, it is more traditional to the recipe that she used a Mexican beer for the recipe.

 

My Thoughts:

 

I had always thought this was just a random recipe my nanny had found and cooked for our family, but it turned out this was a recipe she had learned from her mother and brought here to cook for us. There are many more dishes my nanny knows how to cook from home and makes them constantly, but this one is hands down my favorite that she does.

Life cycle
Rituals, festivals, holidays

Mexican Birthday Tradition

Informant:

Joseph is a sophomore social science major at USC.

Piece:

So our family tradition, and i think it’s  a pretty common Latin tradition is that well what our family does is that every time its someone’s birthday party when it comes time for the cake and after they blow out the candles and we take those candles off we always yell mordedura which means bite and the person has to bite the cake. But what they don’t know is that someone always has their hand behind their head and actually smashes their face into the cake. Its one of our favorite most enjoyable traditions ever.

 

Collector’s thoughts:

This tradition is interesting because in any other context the action is rude and mean, but in the context of one’s birthday it is a fun playful tradition that everyone enjoys even when they are the one getting their face smashed into the cake. In this way, this tradition reveals the bonds within families and the importance of birthday traditions.

 

Gestation, birth, and infancy

Mexican Pregnancy and Menstruation Beliefs

LP’s (the informant) family is originally from Mexico. She learned this superstition from her mother who advised her not to eat certain foods when she was menstruating. I remember when I was roommates with LP my freshman year, and her mom would bring her certain foods that she believed would help reduce the pain of menstrual cramps. For the pregnancy part, she said her entire family believed in the tradition and that her mother used this method to determine the sex of a baby, and has never been wrong.

Both of these things apply to women, either pregnant or menstruating women specifically. Therefore, the following needle test is used on a pregnant woman, usually within the home.

“During your period, don’t eat spicy stuff because those make cramps worse. Don’t eat watermelon because that makes it worse too, or any watery fruit will hurt you. It’s bad to eat these when you’re menstruating. Also, when you’re pregnant don’t eat watery foods because they’re afraid the baby will slip out. Ha, it’s so strange….Oh also! When you’re pregnant there’s a test to see if you will have a boy or girl baby. Someone will put a needle on a red string and dangle it over the mother’s stomach when she’s lying down. If the needle starts swinging back and forth it means it’s a boy, and if it goes in a circle, it’s a girl. My mom has done this and has always gotten it right. Also if your pregnant stomach is bulging out, it’s a boy, if it’s round and droopy it’s a girl.”

I’m very curious as to how this needle test came about. Is there some sort of reasoning behind it? LP did not know how it came about, so she wasn’t able to answer me. I’d like to know where they got the idea about the direction of the needle swinging indicating the sex of the baby.  Additionally, LP tried to explain the reasoning behind eating certain foods during menstruation and while it seemed plausible, I don’t think it’s scientifically accurate. 

Legends
Narrative

La Llorona

Background of informant:

My informant (AG)’s parents moved from Mexico to Los Angeles before her birth. She speaks Spanish to her parents in home and is surrounded by Mexican culture.

 

Main piece:

AG: “The story that I know about her is that, she was with a man and they had children together. And for some reason, she became crazy. Either because of the guy, or just because of herself [in a questioning tone]. Let’s say, I don’t really know why. Because of that, uhh, she went crazy and she drowned her kids in the river. And then when she realized what she did, she wanted the kids back. But she couldn’t so she killed herself, thinking that she could reunited with them. But when she went to heaven, because she committed suicide, she couldn’t get into heaven and had to find her kids back. So she came back to earth and she’s like [pause] damned. Just wandering on the street looking for her children. And then like, what she said, was like ‘Where’s my kids?’, ‘¿Dónde estás Mi hijo?’”

 

SH: Is this sentence always a part when people tell this story?

 

AG: “Yes, cause you learned as a kid…like… [pause] I think I learned from some older cousin and they were trying to scare the younger kids. And cause you are little, so its like “no you can’t follow us, cause La Llorona will come and she’ll be like ‘¿Dónde estás Mi hijo?’ [in a different tone] and she’ll take you!” Cause you’re kid so she’ll think that you were hers kid. ”

 

AG: “Surprisingly, a lot of adults, [pause], kind of believe in it. Cause like, my uncle claimed that he heard her and seen her. But a weird thing about Latin American, especially Mexican, is that they can be very superstitious. […] People claim that every time when you’re sleeping and hear a crying outside, “Oh, that’s Llorona!” And when you wake up, you’ll just have discussion with your family, like, “I heard, I heard La Llorona last night.” So it’s like in certain situation, we talk about supernatural stuffs.”

 

Context of the performance:

AG and I were discussing on Alfred Hitchcock’s 1958 film Vertigo in a writing class. When we were close reading the scene when the female character jumps into SF Bay to kill her self, she told me this really reminds her of a story she heard when she was young. And she started to talk to me about this story and it turns out that this female character in Vertigo shares many similarities with La Llorona.

 

My thoughts about the piece:

This piece was performed after I first knew about La Llorona’s story on ANTH 333 lecture. Not only is the content of the piece slightly different from the version that I heard of, the context when my informant learned about this piece is also different. Instead of being told by parents to kids, or among young women (as what we’ve discussing on class), AG was told by her older cousins to scare her in order to prevent her from following them.

 

For another version of this legend, see Vertigo (1958).

Folk speech
Proverbs

Mexican Slang – El Huevon Trabaja Doble

Do you have, umm… like a saying, or a riddle, from when you were growing up?

 

“One of the popular ones there that came, comes to mind right now is, uhh… Whenever you use, somebody entrances you to do something, uhh… umm… almost of any kind, any kind of task, and uhh… you just, uhh, careful, you’re careless, you just want to finish something like right away, you just say, uhh, you just do it, you know, really fast, kinda shoddy, so… they send you back to do that kind of thing again, they say, ‘El huevon trabaja doble.’

 

Which is, uhh, pretty much like, lazy people have to do double the amount of work, because they don’t do it carefully in the first place.

 

So it’s an old saying that everybody knows this, it was applied so frequently when I was growing up, and you know, so, it was in a way it was a message for you to do things right the first time.”

 

So it’s kind of like the English saying ‘measure twice, cut once’?

 

“There you go! Very, very similar to that.”

 

Analysis: This is a very straightforward proverb relating to laziness. It essentially proclaims that laziness doesn’t pay dividends, as the lazy man will inevitably need to do more work anyway to make up for being lazy. Proverbs like this, and their equivalents in English, are very common in more rural areas like that which the informant hails from, and it seemed very well-known to the informant years later, implying its frequent use. It is also worth noting that the Spanish word ‘Huevon’ is a very derogatory term for someone who is so lazy that they are incapable of holding their testes above the ground.

Folk speech

Mexican Elderly Idiom

“The second one is, umm… More knows the devil, because he’s old, than to be a devil. Do you want me to tell you in Spanish? ‘Mas el diablo por viejo que por diablo.’ ”

 

And in what context would you say that? Like, what would you say that in reference to?

 

“Umm, that, uhh, we need to pay attention to the old people. That the old people is, is they know the way and we need to listen to them.”

 

Analysis: Another short and sweet proverb, this one celebrates old age in a very tongue-in-cheek sort of way. The proverb proclaims that the Devil knows more about being the Devil from simply living into old age than by being the Devil in the first place. In other words, this proverb would seem to reveal that, in rural Mexican culture, learned wisdom gleaned through experience is superior to natural-born intellect. This would suggest a deference to rural elders and a suspicion of up-and-comer types in the informant’s culture.

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.

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