USC Digital Folklore Archives / Posts Tagged ‘Mexico’
Legends

US-Mexico Border urban legends

MR is a student at the University of Southern California, originally from Ames, IA.

MR shared a harrowing story that she’d heard from a friend in San Diego:

“My friend told me that in high school, there were kids who would sometimes cross the border into Tijuana to go out and party, and then they’d just post up on a hotel before driving back the next day…one year some kids went after finals and were out at a bar, and one of their girl friends was hanging out with a guy behind the bar. She told them she was going to stay and hang out with him, and that she’d call them when she was on her way back to their hotel…by morning no one had heard from her yet, and her phone calls would go straight to voicemail. They went back to the bar from last night and tried to show the owner a picture of the man that they’d taken last night, but the owner said he’d never seen him before. They drove around everywhere trying to find signs of their friend, but at some point they knew they had to get back to San Diego and would have to talk to the police then, after talking to the border patrol. So they started driving back and they were waiting in line to be search by border patrol, while they were talking to them also freaking out about their missing friend.

All of a sudden in another line they see something going on, and the cops are talking to this guy who has a sleeping girl wearing sunglasses in the passenger seat. The cops tell the guy he can’t cross the border unless he can wake the girl up, and he’s putting up a lot of resistance. Finally they take off the girl’s sunglasses and realize she’s dead – at the base of her spine there’s an incision, and her spine has been padded by bags of cocaine.”

My analysis:

While this story initially freaked me out, MR offered her reservations about the whole thing. It seems like there are a lot of these nightmarish stories about cartels using dead bodies to smuggle drugs over the border, but there are almost no records of such a crime actually taking place. MR thinks these stories are used near the Mexican border to scare kids like her friend from going across to get away with drinking or partying, or at least encourage them to be extra-vigilant. It also makes those in the drug business as monstrous, inhuman entities, maybe making it easier to discriminate against people like them (ie. Mexicans in general). Legends like this seem pretty common in border communities, but luckily it doesn’t sound like they’re true.

For more information on stories like this, see:

Mikkelson, David. “Drugs Smuggled In Dead Baby.” Snopes 23 Apr. 2015. Retrieved from http://www.snopes.com/horrors/drugs/deadbaby.asp
Folk Dance

Deer Dance

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’s a dance that the indigenous people do around the area where I’m from. It’s called the deer dance. Basically for the deer dance, they just do like this ritual for help for when they go to hunt deer. They dress up with a deer head for their head, and they dress normally in white clothes, and they have this special cascabeles on their ankles. There’s not any special significance to it, I think it’s just for sound. And then they start dancing, and when they dance they start to imitate the deer. And then they sing in their native language which is Yakki.

Collector: Do you know why they do a deer dance? Do they do dances for any other animals?

Informant: No, not really. They only have one for deer because deer is their primary source of meat. It’s a desert, so there aren’t many animals around. There’s only deer in the area, so that’s all that they hunt.

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

Informant: I like it because it’s from the natives of where im from, like the region of Mexico where I’m from. It’s part of my identity, even though I’m not an indian, but it still kinda is my identity. I learned about it when I was on a road trip close to my birth city and my uncle we saw it and pointed it out to me. We drove past a native place and we got to see it. They live right on the outskirts of the city. It kinda makes me feel proud that to be Mexican. It gives me a sense of home, a connection to where I’m from, seeing the natives of my region.

I found this one interesting because of how the natives adjusted their culture to the area around them. This dance has such a specific purpose – to help them hunt deer. Rather than having created a dance for food, or for success in hunting, they did one specifically for deer, because that’s the only animal around that area, and I find that fascinating. I also think it’s really cool how these people and my friend are from the same area, but yet they are still so different and she takes pride in these little differences in her culture.

Legends
Narrative
Tales /märchen

Dont hit your elders

The informant, C, is an 18 raised in South Central Los Angeles, California. His parents are both Mexican and he considers himself Mexican as well. He is studying Astronautical Engineering.

 

C-“Ok so once long ago in a small town, like a rancho, there were these two kids who would always mess with their grandpa and like f***K with him essentially. And these two kids were one day playing after school and they decided to be funny to throw rocks at the grandpa who was sitting at the porch. And so these kids do end up throwing rocks, and they find it hilarious and they are laughing and as the grandpa angrily yells at them, they run away. But you know, they live in this desert so they are pretty much running to the horizon, and then this great earthquake occurs and the floor opens up and swallows the two kids so the gap that was once created by the earthquake swallows the kids and closes again. And so the moral of the story is that you know don’t hit your elders because the earth may open up and consume you. And punish you for hitting your elders. “

Where did you first hear this?

C-“So my mom told me this when I was younger, because I was a trouble maker and would sometimes hit her”

Have you heard this story other times from other people?

C-“I have heard different alterations of the story but it’s pretty much the same moral of don’t hit your elders”

Analysis- The story can be seen as a representation of how the informant’s culture behaves. It is a culture that respects its elders and that shows there will be consequences for bad behavior. By having the characters getting punished be children, the elders are able to teach the values of the culture early on. The story is also set on a place that is known to many people of the same Mexican background, a ranch and a desert. The earthquake, as stated by the informant, is also evidence that it is nature that will punish and not the elders, which gives the story greater validity

Folk Beliefs
Folk speech
Proverbs

Work with your mind

The informant, C, is an 18 raised in South Central Los Angeles, California. His parents are both Mexican and he considers himself Mexican as well. He is studying Astronautical Engineering.

 

 

C-“An old family saying is ‘trabaja con la mente y no la espalda’ (Work with your mind and not your back)”

When did you first hear this?

C-“My dad used to tell me when I was younger so that I would try hard in school”

What does it mean to you?

C-“It means that you know you really have to invest in your education so that one day you can be working with your mind rather than your back”

Have you heard it other times besides from your dad?

C-“yea, I’ve heard it many more times”

Do you use it?

C-“Yea I use it from time to time. I add my own twist to it. I don’t know it depends on the situation”

Could you give an example?

C-“If you’re talking to someone who doesn’t want to try hard in school versus someone who is struggling in school. One has the motivation to do well and the other doesn’t. You just have to adjust it”

Analysis-The Mexican culture is a hard working culture that many times focuses on getting the children to work to help support the family rather than earn an education. The father of the informant clearly grew up experiencing some of this mentality, which he does not want to pass on to his children. The proverb is a way to encourage getting an education especially at a young age.

Folk Beliefs
Signs

The utensils that know the future

The informant, C, is an 18 raised in South Central Los Angeles, California. His parents are both Mexican and he considers himself Mexican as well. He is studying Astronautical Engineering.

 

C-“So in my family we have this superstition that if you drop your utensils by accident you will receive different guests. If a spoon is dropped then a child is going to come, if a fork is dropped then a friend is going to come, and if a knife is dropped a stranger is going to come”

When did you first hear this?

C-“When I was little my aunts and grandma and my mom would say ‘oh a friend, or whatever person, is going to visit’ every time that I dropped a utensil.

Have you heard or seen this in other places?

C-“I have heard variations in other families and even with the other side of my family. Sometimes it’s that a woman is going to visit if you drop a fork and a man if you drop a knife”

Do you believe in it/think it’s true?

C- “I’m not sure. Sometimes it does like come true and then the person comes and visit but other times they don’t or is the wrong person. So I guess it depends if the right person shows up”

Analysis- The superstition could be a way to cover-up what may be an embarrassing and socially looked-down thing. Adding the consequence of the different visits creates a nicer response to this rather than public humiliation. The different visits could be different according to what the utensils resemble and remind the people of.

Childhood
Folk Beliefs
Legends
Narrative
Tales /märchen

La Llorona

The informant, K, is 19 years old. She was born in Long Beach, California but was raised in Los Angeles. Her dad is from Guadalajara, Mexico (Southern Mexico) but moved to the United States when he was 2. Her mom was born in Obregon, Sonora (Northern Mexico) but grew in Mexicali (a US-Mexico border town), and she moved to the United States when she was 18. She is majoring in Applied Mathematics with a Computer Science Minor. She considers herself Mexican-American (or Chicana).

 

K-“Ok so we were told the story of La llorona, and for us it was basically like uh the background was that this woman this beautiful woman in this indigenous pueblo uh she fell in love with the Spanish conquistador and had children but then the conquistador left her for like another woman. Because she was in love with this man so much, every time she saw him in them, the children. And that’s the whole reason she drowned them in a like. After she drowned them, she like mourned them so she would go around at night saying ‘oh mis ninos’ (my children) and supposedly she kidnaps kids at night if they’re near the lake. And she is still a ghost that haunts that area where she used to live”

When did you first hear this story?

K-“Um I heard it in elementary school I think I was in 4th grade”

Have you heard this story from other people as well?

K-“Yup, I heard it from my family and the kids at school. Kind of all the same, all the same versions”

Did you use to live near a body of water or some forested area?

K-“No”

Analysis- This version of the story is seen as a way to ensure the proper behavior of children. The legend is specifically aimed to children, as it is the children that get drowned and the children that get kidnapped. The fact that she did not live near a body of water, which is where according to the legend is where the ghost appears, proves that this is a story told by the adults to make children behave. The legend is also given credibility by introducing some history into it in the form of the conquistador and the traditional Mexican woman. This legend would, therefore, not be easily accepted and used in other cultures.

Folk Beliefs
general
Magic
Narrative
Tales /märchen

Walking Gnomes

The informant, K, is 19 years old. She was born in Long Beach, California but was raised in Los Angeles. Her dad is from Guadalajara, Mexico (Southern Mexico) but moved to the United States when he was 2. Her mom was born in Obregon, Sonora (Northern Mexico) but grew in Mexicali (a US-Mexico border town), and she moved to the United States when she was 18. She is majoring in Applied Mathematics with a Computer Science Minor. She considers herself Mexican-American (or Chicana).

K- “Ok so we have like a folklore of garden gnomes where it’s like, so it’s like my family in Mexico like my tias (aunts) from my mom’s side they believe that garden gnomes they come alive at night. And like the proof they have of it it’s like my grandma used to own gnomes and her neighbors used to own gnomes in Mexico. And the garden gnomes the next day would be found in different places and a lot of stuff was broken and sometimes my mom and her sister would wake up at night, and they used to hear things and they would look outside and they would never see the gnomes there. So there’s that story that they become alive at night in Mexico.”

Did you hear this story anywhere else with other people or other versions of it?

K-“Well recently I was talking to one of my cousins who like is from same side from my mom side and we all grew up here in America but like my cousins was supposedly telling the story to some friends whose parents were also from Mexico and like their parents here in LA here in California their parents own garden gnomes. And the thing is that this friend was telling my cousin that he actually believes what the parents are saying, because one night the garden gnomes were not where they had placed them and they found them inside the house and like the friend found them one night in the house and they were like rolling in the hallway. Since then, they got rid of the gnomes, or at least they tried to. They threw them away but the next day they were in the same place they had put them before. That’s another version, at least from here in California.”

How long ago was the first time you heard this?

K-“Two or three years ago. I just found out about my mom”

Analysis- This story is very interesting in the fact that this is one of the few stories from Mexico where inanimate objects, that are not haunted, come to life. The Mexican culture does not traditionally include creatures such as gnomes but instead, it consist of larger creatures and ghosts. This is because the country did not originally have gnomes until places, such as the United States introduced them to there. This story can be seen as a representation of the fear towards the unknown and the things that are not traditional. Traditions or stories of gnomes coming to life are more common in Europe.

Folk Beliefs
Legends
Narrative

El Cucuy/Chupacabra

The informant, K, is 19 years old. She was born in Long Beach, California but was raised in Los Angeles. Her dad is from Guadalajara, Mexico (Southern Mexico) but moved to the United States when he was 2. Her mom was born in Obregon, Sonora (Northern Mexico) but grew in Mexicali (a US-Mexico border town), and she moved to the United States when she was 18. She is majoring in Applied Mathematics with a Computer Science Minor. She considers herself Mexican-American (or Chicana).

K-“For me growing up the Chupacabra (goat sucker) and the cucuy (bogeyman) were the same. Thing I know for other cultures I’ve heard that they were different. I forgot how they were different but for me growing up they were the same thing. Basically our parents used to tell us ‘oh if you don’t go to sleep on time, or you don’t listen, or disrespect me the cucuy/chupacabra is going to get you. It was mostly if you didn’t go to sleep because it was told the chupacabra ate the children who stayed past their bedtime.”

What age were you when you heard this?

K-“I think they started telling me when I was about 5”

According to the story, where did they used to live?

K-“Anywhere. That’s why it was used by the parents, because they could come from anywhere. But mainly I heard that they can come from like a cave in the mountain but even if we lived nowhere near a mountain they would still come and get us”

Analysis- Normally in the Hispanic culture, the chupacabra and the cucuy would be different. Only the cucuy would be the one that would take the children if they did not behave or at random moments when it came out from under the bed. The chupacabra was not really a worry to children but instead to cattle. This version of the story, however, was adapted to scare children even more by creating this new monster than consists of two already scary creatures. The fact that the monster can still come and get the children, even if they do not live near anywhere near where the monster lived, shows that the story was specifically aimed at children.el cucuy

Folk speech
Game
general
Proverbs

Wise Devil

The informant, J, is 18 years old born and raised in Coachella, California. His mom is from Delano, California, while his dad is from Indio, California. He is majoring in Print and Digital Journalism with a Media, Economics, and Entrepreneurship minor. He also considers himself Mexican.

J-“My family really likes proverbs and saying. We many times have arguments through just proverbs. One of them is ‘mas sabe el Diablo por Viejo que por diablo’(more knows the devil for age than for devil)”

What does that mean to you?

J-“It means that older people have more wisdom since they have gone through more. They have more experience”

When would you use this?

J-“It is mainly used by parents on their children when the child argues. They tell them that to tell them that they know what’s best because they have already experienced something like that”

Do you use it?

J-“I rarely use it since I am not that old, but I do tell it to my younger siblings when they argue with my parents or even sometimes when they argue with me”

Analysis- The proverb shows that the Mexican culture is one that respects its elders and that has high respect for them since they are the ones with the wisdom. They also like to test their wisdom and ability through all the different proverbs that they have. The family is even teaching the young children by telling them the proverbs and using them on them.

Customs
Foodways
Holidays
Material
Rituals, festivals, holidays

A Mexican Christmas

The informant, K, is 19 years old. She was born in Long Beach, California but was raised in Los Angeles. Her dad is from Guadalajara, Mexico (Southern Mexico) but moved to the United States when he was 2. Her mom was born in Obregon, Sonora (Northern Mexico) but grew in Mexicali (a US-Mexico border town), and she moved to the United States when she was 18. She is majoring in Applied Mathematics with a Computer Science Minor. She considers herself Mexican-American (or Chicana).

K- “For Christmas every year my family makes tamales and posole. My mom’s side makes tamales and my dad’s side usually makes posole. We celebrate it Christmas Eve and Christmas day. Depending on the family since we interchange every year. One day we have posole and the other we have tamales. When it comes to opening the gifts, we always wait until 12 midnight. We basically start on Christmas Eve and end at midnight. If we have little kids, we let them open their presents up at 10. And that’s it, only the little kids. Everybody else has to wait until 12.”

What is a tamale and posole?

K-“Ok a tamale is like maza (corn dough) with meat inside, or it can be cheese and chile, or sweet with pineapple or strawberry. Posole is like a soup with grano (white hominy) and we make ours red because there is usually red, white, and green. We always do ours red. You can put cabbage and onions and chile if you want, lemon, or radish.

How long, that you are aware of, has this tradition been going?

K-“Since I was born. Before I was born. “

Analysis- This Christmas tradition gives some background into the way the informant’s culture functions. They are a culture centered around family that likes to maintain its traditions. They like to include everyone by switching families every year. Even though the family is no longer in Mexico, they continue to have the traditions that they grew up, which will be later adopted by their children. They also belong to a culture that likes to celebrate and enjoy every moment together. It is very good that everyone is part of the tradition, even the small children.

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