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

Making Tamales–No Boys Allowed

LK explained that his grandmother and great grandmother would make tamales routinely at his great grandmother’s house.  His grandmother, great grandmother, aunts and mom would sit around the table and make tamales while telling stories.

While this tamale-making is a tradition in and of itself, LK shared a superstition present during the cooking.  LK explained that men were not allowed in the kitchen.  If there were men helping out in the kitchen or even simply standing in the kitchen, the women believed the tamales would burn and therefore be ruined.

LK’s family are Mexican Americans who were for the most part born in America.  LK’s grandmother and great grandmother were very superstitious women.  Therefore, it is not out of the ordinary for them to have superstitions regarding time spent in the kitchen.

Perhaps this superstition developed because the men would distract the women if they were in the kitchen and the tamales would actually burn–a kind of self fulfilling prophecy.  Or perhaps this superstition developed because the kitchen was a woman’s territory in Mexican American culture.  Their belief may have been a mechanism to keep the men off the women’s turf.

Folk Beliefs

Baptisms Can Determine a Child’s Future Fortunes

Baptisms Can Determine a Child’s Future Fortunes

“The way a baptism goes can either mean that the child will have good luck in their future or not. This though is specifically entirely in the hands of the padrinos(god parents) so the parents of the child must choose a good fit. The padrinos are said to have to buy the baby’s attire for the day, pay for the holy mass and then contribute in whatever else they want for the baby’s party. The padrinos also have to throw a “bolo”, this is money thrown in behalf of the baby and other kids then get to pick it up. The baby’s luck is measured by how lavish the attire is, and how much money the padrinos throw… they say that if the padrinos are being stingy about the party, then the baby will suffer terrible luck but if the padrinos don’t show any signs of stinginess and are willing to rip a hole in their pockets, then the baby will be very lucky… I don’t really know how this originated, what I do know is that everyone goes by the same rule. I know my mom talks about how this was something that had been happening since years ago back at home in Mexico. I don’t think it’s like something set in stone but I mean, everyone else is doing it so why not. And it also is kind of true. My mother says how I have really good luck because my padrinos gave a lot of money the day of my baptism, and I do feel like I’m pretty lucky, whereas my sister didn’t even have a party and she’s not doing as good as I am. I also did the same for my children and I hope that they choose good padrinos for their kids. I guess this is all a tradition that makes us who we are.”

My informant is a 41 year old Mexican descendant who was born in Mexico but has lived in the USA for the most part of her life. She maintains most of her ties to her Mexican culture while living in the USA so therefore, most of the things she knows has been passed down by her mother and other relatives. She does not necessarily learn her folk tales for different thing via a specific book or other published material, but rather from relatives in her daily life.

This was pretty fascinating to analyze because who knew that a baby’s future can be determined at such a young age. Furthermore, I found interesting that parents are solely responsible for what kind of future their kids will have, based on this tradition. It might be interesting to try and see where this tradition originated from because that way we would be able to see exactly why it is formatted the way it is. Regardless, I don’t think that just because it seems silly, it’s not entirely a myth. It may actually be true, and if so, it should be practiced because who wouldn’t want good luck.

Folk Beliefs
Rituals, festivals, holidays

Los Reyes Magos

Los Reyes Magos

“Los Reyes Magos are the three kings that came to visit Jesus after he was born. Supposedly they arrived January 6th so it is custom that kids receive gifts on that day as did baby Jesus many many years ago. Another big part of the Reyes Magos is that if you line one of your shoes next to the entry door, then they leave money inside of it. I now know that our parents were the ones who put that money in the shoes but back when you’re a little kid, you actually believe this myth. It’s seen as kind of like Santa Clause I guess. Oh and also, the crappier shoe you line up against the door, the bigger pay you get because supposedly the 3 kings give more money to the poorest kids. Anyway, I heard this story from my mom and my grandma, I think my mom was the one who first told me about this but it was probably because my grandma told her to start this tradition with me. I think they use this so that we don’t forget about the whole Jesus story because when believing in Santa Clause, kids can go away from their heritage and follow the more American version of it.”

The informant is an American born Mexican. Her parents and family all were born and raised in Mexico but she was born in the U.S. This essentially makes her a Chicana of 20 years. She grew up with the U.S customs yet still had really strong ties to her Mexican heritage because of her relatives and parents therefore, she fuses her American surroundings with her Mexican heritage. This can explain why she still practices some of the customs that are very Mexican originated.

In my opinion, I believe that my informant really hit the points I would try to make. This is that the 3 kings arriving to one’s house is a way that older folks of the culture can sort of preserve specific aspects and bestow them upon future generations. I find it interesting how the informant mentioned that the reason the mom may have kept this tradition alive may have been because her grandmother told her to do so. This is interesting because yet again, on can infer that this may be a matriarchal type of society in which the alpha male bestows important knowledge onto the young ones of the group. Overall this story is very interesting because it shows how one person can take part of a dual culture while still maintaining both at the same time. This is because the informant celebrated Santa Clause, a very American tradition, while also celebrating the arrival of the 3 kings which is a very catholic tradition, yet is able to distinguish both from one another.