USC Digital Folklore Archives / Posts Tagged ‘Puerto Rican’
Folk speech
general

“Solamente son pajitas que le caen in la leche.”

The folk metaphor described verbatim by informant:

“When there’s something I’m bothered by, my Puerto Rican mother says to me ‘Solamente son pajitas que le caen en la leche’: they’re just little flecks that fly in the milk. You can see them but they’re just not important.

I agree with that philosophy to try and not allow the small things to bother you, you should save your pain and suffering for the big things that are going to come no matter what.”

My informant says that her mother has being telling her this proverb her whole life and that she has since said it to her own children in its original Spanish form. Her mother is from Cabo Rojo, Puerto Rico where as the oldest of 13 children she worked, cooked, and took care of her family on a farm for many years. She since has jumped from the United States, San Juan, Puerto Rico (where my informant grew up), the Dominican Republic, and back to the United States again. In the words of my informant, her mother was a strong woman who had a hard life. She says the proverb because it’s true and important to her and because it reminds her of her mother. It’s a metaphor that is applicable to anyone, as stress over little things is a not uncommon. The philosophy of not letting “flecks” ruin your “milk” is great, and is nowadays seemingly lost within the unnecessarily high-stress life of post-modernity. Everyone has little problems or “flecks” that fly in their “milk.” It’s a part of life. Save your pain for something bigger.

Folk medicine
general

Puerto Rican Folk Remedy for Laryngitis

A remedy for Laryngitis described verbatim by informant:

“A remedy from my Puerto Rican mother and it is using lamb fat, just lamb fat, put a little piece of lamb fat in a snifter, that is like brandy snifter and then you pour a little bit of brandy in it and you light it until it goes out, it burns up really all the fat and all the, pretty much all the alcohol. You have to do it at night right before you’re gonna go to bed, because you don’t want to speak after you drink it. You just go to bed, you wrap something around your neck to keep your neck warm, you drink it down like in shot, like you swig it, and the next day you always have you always have your voice completely back, your laryngitis is gone. I don’t know why, but it is. And it’s lamb fat—not bacon fat, not beef fat. Lamb fat, fat of the lamb.

I know in Puerto Rico in the 20’s and 30’s, in the Caribbean, there were not a lot of doctors usually, there was one doctor in the whole town, so there were a lot of remedies that were home remedies, herb remedies that people used. And it works! I love it because it works, and it’s from my mother. I love it because it’s Puerto Rican, it’s my mothers. I have used it with my own family, even when they were super little. Absolutely.”

I am not well versed in the science of how this remedy is effective, but my guess would be that since, as my informant said, people in Puerto Rico were often left to their own devices when they got sick, burning lamb fat in brandy is a pretty logical choice. The flambéed lamb fat might provide some soothing, coating quality to the throat while the alcohol or heated brandy probably provides some antiseptic quality. Doing this before bed makes sense because you don’t salivate in your sleep, so the medicine can “stay” in your throat and do its thing. Why it only works with lamb fat is not within my knowledge but my informants was insistent that that’s the only fat that works.

general

“No one knows what’s in the pot except the one who stirs it.”

The metaphor described verbatim by informant:

“That’s about gossip. That’s a Puerto Rican saying about gossip. I learned it from my mother, my Puerto Rican mother. Who would hear people talking about stuff especially about like somebody’s marriage or you know ‘Oh you know she did this’ or you know ‘They’re doing that’ or ‘This happened’ when it’s something going you know you hear that something isn’t right in a marriage or a family, and my mother was always quick to say, really, she would say, ‘You know what, you and I can look in and we can make all sorts of judgments but the truth is, none of us know for sure, because no one knows what’s in the pot except the one who stirs it.’ And she’d say that in Spanish. No one knows what’s in the pot except the one who stirs it. And that’s the truth isn’t it? So my mother was always quick to say that because she really wanted me to understand that I shouldn’t judge. That’s really what she was saying to me: be careful how you judge other people’s actions cuz you really don’t know what’s going on. I thought that was lovely. My mother was always, she was all about that really, she was all about that. Because judgment was really huge in Puerto Rico, you know? Everybody’s watching you, everybody’s watching what you do.”

The fishbowl living that my informant experienced while growing up in San Juan, Puerto Rico is a big part of why this proverb holds meaning to her. As my informant infers, the saying relates to people’s assumptions and preconceived judgments—“Nobody knows what’s in the pot except the one who stirs it.” You think you might understand other people’s situations or give yourself the authority to pass judgment but you don’t. Coming from a place where everyone talks about everyone else’s business and gossip is rampant, my informant says her mother did her best to teach her the opposite. The metaphor in cooking terms also aligns well with the culture because it’s women who traditionally cook and, in many cases, gossip.

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