USC Digital Folklore Archives / Posts Tagged ‘peru’
Customs
Holidays
Rituals, festivals, holidays

Peruvian New Year’s Tradition

Main Piece: Peruvian New Year’s tradition

 

This was told to me by my friend Liv about a New Year’s tradition in Peru:

 

“In high school, my Spanish teacher was from Lima, Peru. She told us about celebrating New Years Eve in Peru and the many festivities that went on. First, people in Peru buy new clothing to wear on New Years Eve to represent a fresh start in a new year with new clothes. They frequently buy and wear yellow clothing, as yellow represents happiness and luck. Some people even go so far as to wear yellow underwear. Secondly, at the stroke of midnight, adults and children across Peru eat 12 grapes for good luck in the upcoming year- 12 grapes for 12 months.”

 

Background:

 

Liv is a freshman at USC, and this tradition was told to her by her high school Spanish teacher around New Years before they went on winter break. Liv likes this piece because it is a great tradition, and has much more of a meaning than how Americans usually celebrate New Year’s with parties and those types of festivities.

Liv told me she began to incorporate these traditions into her New Year’s celebration to give it a more symbolic meaning. She doubts many other people will do it, but it is something she enjoys doing.

 

Context:

 

This is a commonly practiced tradition in Peru, and occurs every year with most of the citizens participating. This tradition is only practiced on New Year’s and does not necessarily hold any other context.

 

My Thoughts:

 

I personally like this tradition, as it gives an added symbolic meaning to the New Year, not just people going out and not remembering the festivities and making resolutions that fall through within the next week.

I may start using this tradition at New Year’s, and could give me something to take the New Year seriously and use it as a time to get more done and more effectively.

general
Legends

El Tunche and the Tour Guide

Folklore Piece 

“I was told this story when I was probably… a senior in high school. Um, I, uh, for my bio class we got to go to the amazon jungle, um a research trip with my class. There’s a lot of mythology and a lot of like, ancient beliefs, especially in the jungle and the highlands and places that are not as metropolitan as the main city. Um, and there’s this story that I first heard on that tour from our guide, and it’s about this monster called El Tunche. E-L T-U-N-C-H-E. Um, it’s supposed to be this monster that they say lives in the dark areas of the jungle, and he’s like, not good or bad, it depends on the type of person you are. If you’ve sinned, and you go into the jungle, he’ll come find you. But only if you’ve done something bad. The way that you know he’s coming is he’ll actually whistle. You’ll hear a whistle, like lost in the jungle or something. And if you hear a whistle in another town or something it’s supposed to be bad luck. So like, you have to be aware of like, if you ever hear a whistling sound, that the Tunche coming for you. The Jungle is like super serious and like mysterious, so it’s really easy to believe in these sorts of things”

 

Background information

She spoke often about the Jungle and its role in Peruvian folklore. Specifically its separation from the city and the familiarity of everyday life; it held this sort of mysticism that enabled various folk stories, legends, and tall tales to come from it. She said that Peruvians respect and even revere the jungle for this reason. While she learned this story originally from the guide on a school trip, she said that she confirmed with some family and friends about the legend of El Tunche and the its association with whistling.

 

Personal Analysis:

There are a number of key takeaways from this story. The first and most prominent of which is the interaction between the natural, as represented by the jungle, and the industrial, as represented by the city. While the city – which is manmade – signifies comfort, home, and safety, the jungle signifies mystery, malice, and magic. This story is a manifestation of those fears as humans become more and more separated from their natural habitat.

The second takeaway from this story is the context in which she heard it. Hearing it from an official guide that is profiting off of visits to the jungle reminds me of the tourist communities we learned about toward the end of our Folklore class. Similar to the Borneo tribes that would further their branded image of savagery to the outside world, so too are the Peruvians furthering violent and mysterious folklore to garner attraction to their jungles.

Additionally, the main religion in Peru is Roman Catholic, and the story has strong religious undertones. First, the use of the word ‘sin’ implies that the transgressions that would invoke El Tunche are aggressions against an established moral code. The jungle and its foreboding mysticism can be thought of as hell, and El Tunche as the Devil. According to Roman Catholicism, to be free of sin is to be free of the temptations and tortures of the Devil and his Kingdom.

Finally, the tour guide might have said this story so that the kids don’t wander away, thus acting as a warning. He’s probably liable, to a certain extent, for anything that might happen. So while this story can be entertaining, it can also provide a lesson for the kids not to leave the tour.

 

Customs
Rituals, festivals, holidays

Peruvian Ceremony

The informant is a 21 year old girl raised in Lima, Peru. She moved to the states 3 years ago for college. Her first language was Spanish, and she learned English in the classroom. She never spoke it outside the classroom before coming to America.  She had a more stories about Peruvian culture than I realized was possible. This specific

Informant: Peru is very diverse. It has 3 different regions. It has the highland, the coast and the jungle. It is also very diverse in terms of its different economic statuses. There is a big difference between the very very poor and the very very wealthy, which is unique… not only to Peru… but to a lot of South American countries. There is a lot of tradition.

Me: Can you pick one thing to go in-depth into?

Informant: In the jungle, particually, there is a lot of tradition in using homeopathic medicine. It is like medicine from natural resources. Back in the day, when the Inca empire existed, the Incas gave a lot of value to the sun as their god. And also the motherland as their god. So there are still these traditions going on even now, in smaller, of course, less urban areas. For example, in the jungle we have what are called shamans. We also have them in the highlands, but they are really common in the jungle. They are basically… natural doctors… that heal. But they also do a very ceremonialhealing process in which they sing a song in their native dialect. Theydress up in very traditional clothing and also use natural plants for the healing process. So everything is completely natural. Everything is based on plants and different scents that they use to heal you. There is also this tradition, that I have actually done, in which people believe in plants having a supernatural power in which they can read your future. So when I went to Couzco, I went to this small little town in which there was a woman who claimed she could read the future through Coca leaves. She would literally throw them around sing in Quechua which is the natural dialect of the Incas. And would read your future.

Me: Was she right?

Informant: Yeah, she said that a big change was coming. And it was going to change me a lot and for the better and that I was not going to want to come back. I was going to leave to a place and not come back. And I was going to be really happy and find my passion. I never mentioned that I was moving to a new country. She said it all herself. The whole ceremony occurred in this small room. She had little stands and images of the virgin Mary, as well as a lot of coca leaves and a lot of traditional plants from the highlands. Everything was in Quechua. But she told me my future in Spanish because I don’t know Quechua. It was a very traditional.

Me: So you do believe that this all works?

Informant: I mean, I do believe that it may have some supernatural power. Coca leaves, especially in the highlands, coca leaves are just the most valuable thing in the world. Back in the day, when the Incas had to work in the highlands, they would eat coca leaves because they have high caloric power and would give them energy. It is also really good in tea. It helps with altitude sickness too. Everything in Peru, coca leaves.

At this point the informant began talking about a different ceremony using coca leaves.

My analysis: I found the informant’s account of these events as fascinating.  The way she was so passionate about all the different Peruvian cultures and traditions and could not seem to say enough about any of them was a different experience compared to some of the other people I spoke to. I am personally not sold on the supposedly psychic woman.  I felt as though her predications were similar to horoscopes in that they were overgeneralized. It would be impossible not to find something relatable in that description.  That being said though, 3 years later and the informant is still looking back on what the psychic told her and comparing how similar her life is to the prediction. There is clearly still a huge respect for and abidance by tradition and ritual in Peru.  I gather this is because of its rich history.  The connection to the land definitely comes from previous cultures, as well as the dependance that the people have on the land. When something plays such a large role in so many people’s lives, it is not surprising that it becomes sacred and revered.

Legends
Narrative
Tales /märchen

Mamahuarmi

This tale was told to Marisol by one of her nannies.
She said that in her mother’s town, one of her family’s neighbors, a man named Huaman went to bathe at a lake in Churin. While he was bathing, he saw a beautiful white woman with blonde hair down to her ankles. She was nude and standing on the other side of the lake form where she was beckoning him with her hand in a very flirtatious way. The man could not hold back for long and so, ensnared by her beauty, he crossed the river and went towards her. Many days went by and the man was not seen back in the town; then, Huaman was found at another town completely blind and incoherent. His family took him to a local hospital, but the hospital couldn’t explain the man’s sudden blindness, and so the family took him to a shaman. It was during a healing, that Huaman was able to tell them about his meeting with the blonde woman of the lake, the mamahuarmi. After the healing his mind was restored, but his sight was not, and he died many years later from old age.

The mamahuarmi is a very popular creature from Peruvian folklore. Unfortunately, there is not much study devoted to Peruvian myths and folktales; however, the mamahuarmi can be found in the recently released encyclopedia of Peruvian magical creatures titled, Seres Magicos del Peru compiled by Javier Zapata Innocenzi. A story similar to the one Marisol heard can be read in Relatos Magicos del Peru

Legends
Narrative
Tales /märchen

La Casa Matusita B

During the 19th century, the house was inhabited by a migrant Chinese (sometimes Japanese) family. The father worked very hard and came back late at night every day. One day, he came back earlier and was surprised to hear strange noises coming from his and his wife’s bedroom. He went there and fount his wife in bed with a lover, irate, he grabbed a knife and hacked them both up into pieces. When his kids got home, he decided to kill them as well since he saw no feasible explanation of his deeds and he didn’t want them to hate him. After that, he committed suicide.
While property records show that a Chinese family did indeed live in the house during the early 19th century, there is no proof that the above events transpired. This story’s popularity however could be attributed to lingering xenophobia, staring from the mid 19th century to the early 20th century, there was a very large wave of Chinese migrants to Lima. These immigrants were brought to Lima under false pretenses of wealth and opportunity when in reality, they were brought to collect guano since there was a dearth of cheap labor in Lima (the remaining Africans who were brought over as slaves were too few and the indigenous population had fled to the Andes to avoid being enslaved). These Chinese immigrants suffered horrendously and died by the thousands; however, there was a good number who survived the Guano age and established themselves in the city. In spite of their work which had brought an immense level of prosperity for Lima, these migrants were viewed with distrust by the Peruvians of European descent and were actively discriminated against. This version of the story is a vestige of that sentiment.

Legends
Narrative
Tales /märchen

La Casa Matusita C

The American embassy used to be situated in a building directly in front of the Matusita house, and it is said that the legends were all invented and fostered by the American mission so as to prevent people from entering the Matusita house and using it as a site to launch terrorist attacks on the embassy itself (during the late 80s unrest due to the communist Sendero Luminoso).
This version is corroborated by multiple  facts. First, my mother and her coevals heard of the Matusita stories only in the early nineties, and second, as a consular officer herself, she once heard from her peers at the Ministry that the Matusita legends were a product of “Hollywood at its politically finest”.

Legends
Narrative
Tales /märchen

La Casa Matusita D

In the late 1970s, Argentinian comedian, Humberto Vilchez Vera made a bet on his television show that he would stay in the house for seven days without incident. However, on the the fourth day, neighbors called police because of the horrible screams that could be heard inside the house. The police and ambulances arrived and took Vera away who was still screaming, speaking in tongues and acting erratically. He was also frothing at the mouth. He was sent to an insane asylum for 13 months and after his release forever declined to speak of the house.
While the previous versions about the Chinese family and the cruel master are not supported by any evidence other than property records which show that the house was indeed inhabited by Chinese migrants, the Vilchez Vera case re is the most recent occurrence that is well-documented and would seem to corroborate the stories of the hauntings. However, Vilchez Vera denied having entered the house in his autobiography and said that while he made the bid, his intention was only to fool people into believing he’d entered the house. Vilchez Vera was very vague in his autobiography which was published shortly before his death, and he doesn’t state exactly how he pretended to enter the house nor does he address his documented rescue by the police or his disappearance after the incident (the insane asylum story has never been proven since no documents have been found). Over all it’s a very puzzling case.

Folk speech
Proverbs

Monkey in Silk Proverb

“Aunque la mona se vista de seda, mona se queda.”

Trans: A monkey in silk is a monkey no less

This proverb is one frequently mentioned by my mother and in Lima, in general. The interesting thing is that it is used to convey a slightly different (somewhat racist) message than its English equivalent. In the English proverb, the meaning is that a person’s worth is determined by who they are inside, not by what they’re wearing. In their words, appearances can be deceiving. In the Peruvian sense, however, this proverb is used to denigrate the “new money” class, the rapidly growing middle and upper middle class composed of indigenous people. Since these people are frequently self-starters who come from poor backgrounds and have no social graces or taste, they are ridiculed by the European class with sayings like these that denote that in spite of their new wealth and position, these “cholos” are still the same illiterate farmers (and should be treated as such).

Legends
Narrative
Tales /märchen

La Casa Matusita A

This house situated in Downtown Lima, Peru is the most famous haunted structure in the entire country. It is famous throughout, you can ask anyone in Lima, and they will all know of it whether they believe in paranormal phenomena or not. The house was first brought to my attention when I moved to Peru by one of my maids, she told me all about it and then my mother confirmed the stories circulated, but said they were all made up. During her last visit, I had her recount a couple of versions of the story of the Matusita which she knew (there are dozens):
At the turn of the twentieth century, there lived in the house a cruel man with two servants (cook and butler). During dinner with friends, the servants decided to get their revenge and poison their master and his friends with hallucinogenic substances. They served the tampered dinner and locked the door of the dining room. A few minutes later, the servants heard  a horrible scuffle. They waited until the noises ceased and then when they opened the door, they saw that the diners were torn to pieces, there was blood spread everywhere. The servants felt terribly guilty and took their lives right there. This version is said to explain the loud voices, conversation and laughter followed by blood curling cries and sepulchral silence that neighbors and passerbyers have attributed to the house.  It is said that if they get close to the house or look in, they will go mad at the sights of gore and debauchery inside.
This version shows the rift between the master and his servants which can be extended to the sentiments that the indigenous and African workers feel towards their European (and later on Asian) masters. This tension is found to this very day since in Peru there is a very strong, but passive racist undercurrent that is perpetuated from generation to generation and never confronted. The race of the master is left unsaid in some versions of the story like this one (it is implied he was white); however , there are also versions that connect this version to version b which I also discuss. In those versions, the master is Asian and a descendent of the Chinese family who lived in the house in the 19th century.

Customs
Earth cycle
Festival
Folk Dance
Foodways
Kinesthetic
Material
Musical
Rituals, festivals, holidays

Festival de Amancaes

Informant is a Peruvian friend who was visiting me this week. She first heard of the Amancaes festival from her grandmother. The Fiesta de San Juan was a festival that took place in the hills of the Amancaes located in the seaside Rimac district of Lima. The Amancaes are bright yellow flowers that grew on these hills during the months of June and July.
The Festival of Amancaes evolved from the pilgrimage site because of the beautiful Amancay flowers that blossomed during the months of June and July and covered the hills in their entirety. In these celebrations, limeñans of all classes and races came down to the hills for unlimited food, music and dance. This celebration went on until 1952 when it was discontinued because the hills of Amancaes were invaded by squatters coming from the outskirts in search of better opportunities in the capital.
This festival was meaningful because Limeñan society has always been very stratified and segregated by class and race. Limeñans of European descent always looked down upon the indigenous and African populations, but on this one day (like Mardi Gras and the Ancient Roman’s Saturnalia) all of these social mores are forgotten and people of all races and classes would party together and share food and drink. Now, there is a festival that was started two years ago called Mistura, this is a gastronomic festival organized every year in Lima and it has become so popular that tickets are sold out almost immediately after they go on sale. This festival is doing the same purpose that the Festival de Amancaes used to do which was to bring society together by providing them with something that people of all ages, races and social classes enjoy: good food.

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