“So I went to a Spanish immersion elementary school; everything was taught to us in Spanish except for English. Um, and so, when anyone would sneeze, as kids usually do, there’s this Spanish saying that correlates sneezing with health. I guess, you could say. So if you sneeze once, you say ‘Salud’, if you sneeze twice you say ‘Dinero’, if you sneeze three times, ‘Amor’. So you’re wishing someone health, money, and love after each time that they sneeze.”
“I don’t know why I did it. I guess I was sort of caught up in it. I mean, if you’re a little kid and someone’s screaming at you in Spanish, but it’s a happy scream, you’re like ‘Yeah! I’m a happy screamer too!’ But like everyone’s just happy yelling at each other. Which I think is a lot of the Spanish language. I learned that when I was really young, I mean I started Spanish when I was in kindergarten.”
“I don’t really say it anymore, but yeah, in general, people say it any time you sneeze, like saying ‘bless you’. But I guess it doesn’t really change in English. But I think it’s the same idea.”
I learned about this in my Spanish class in high school as well. Much like the term ‘Bless you!’ many of the native Spanish speakers I know weren’t sure why they say it. Generally, it’s to wish someone good luck: health, money, and love.
My family does something similar where we change our “bless you’s” each time. The first one, it’s just a mild “Bless you.” The second, a bit louder, “Bless you!”, and the third “Take a sick day!” Each and every time.
These sneezing rituals are not uncommon; as we talked about in class it used to be believed that when someone sneezed, a bit of their soul left their body, hence the phrase “Bless you!” This general sentiment of wishing someone good fortune when something bad has happened to them could be the reason for the extension to this Spanish saying that the informant is talking about.
Interesting, too, is the informants reaction to being asked about its origins. She had no idea, didn’t claim to have any idea, and removed herself from the culture entirely. Even though she attended a Spanish immersion school, spoke in Spanish for a large portion of her life, and learned and celebrated an immense amount of Spanish culture, she still speaks of it as if it were entirely removed from herself.
This deals a lot with our class discussions about cultural identity and heritage. I think the informant might feel that, because her heritage isn’t of Spanish origin, she doesn’t claim ownership over the Spanish culture. There’s no right or wrong answer to this dilemma, only that the informant acts in the way that she feels most comfortable, which evidently is not identifying herself with the language or culture.
Original Script: “Okay so you were there when we heard this story from Sheliah…but I will say it again because GOD BLESS, that stuff has helped us. So, a while ago, Sheliah was doing this wedding—she is a makeup artist—and the bride had food poisoning on her wedding day! Food. Poisoning. That is probably the worst possible thing that could happen on her wedding day. It was from a Mexican restaurant at the rehearsal dinner the night before. Anyways, the bride was literally feeling so sick and Sheliah had tried EVERYTHING to get the bride to feel better. Even the vendors who were just for set up were trying to get the bride to feel better because she was going to call off her wedding! They tried bread, everything you could find in CVS to make food positioning subside, EVERYTHING. Sheliah was about to follow the bride down the aisle with a bucket! The bride was crying and Sheliah was trying to put on her false eyelashes while the bride kept throwing up. But, this one lady from production or another, came into the room with this weird purple paste called ‘Umeboshi Paste,’ basically like a Japanese plum puree, that you have to go to a world market to find. Anyways, she open the jar up, took out a spoon full and gave it to the bride, you could literally see the brides color in her face come back! It is literally a miracle paste! The ending of the story was sooooo funny though! Everyone started working double time to get the bride all set and ready. Sheliah walked into the room where the bride had her wedding dress and stopped in her tracks, she ran out of the room yelling, ‘YOU HAVE A FREAKING MONIQUE LHUILLIER!? IF I WOULD OF KNOWN THAT I WOULD OF KICKED YOUR BUTT TWO HOURS AGO!!’ Hahah, but ever since hearing that story, we, and every other wedding planner I know carry this miracle paste in their emergency kits. Just in case. You never know!”
Background Information about the Piece by the informant: Tiffany is an event coordinator and has been for a couple of years. She has ample experience in the event planning business and usually knows how to get out of the most complicated situations. However, She has never heard of a story where a planner was able to cure food poisoning during the wedding day (given that most brides do not risk having rehearsal dinners at unknown restaurants). Usually, when food poisoning occurs the bride is able to last the ceremony. Recently, the story Tiffany, and I, heard was a few months ago. Since then, she always carries this Umeboshi paste and knows many event planners that carry the paste as well. Just in case food poisoning occurs.
Context of the Performance: Wedding Day Food Poisoning
Thoughts about the piece: Given the fact that I work with Tiffany as well as heard the story myself, it is still an interesting and funny tale as well as a fascinating way to cure food poisoning. Hearing the story a second time was just as amusing as the first time I heard it. At first, Tiffany and I thought that Sheliah was making this story up—that it was a practical joke. Nonetheless, after she showed us a picture of the paste, and using it in a food poisoning case ourselves (but thankfully only once) it is as Tiffany had noted, a “miracle paste.”
Furthermore, it is interesting to note that CVS or western medicines—a “modern” medicine—could not cure the food poisoning of the bride but a paste from Japan was able to—and quickly as well. This shows that even though America prides itself on being a developed nation, there are still some barriers that are not broken. Moreover, the fact that this paste is now widely used with event planners to cure food poisoning, it has become a folk medicine; the folk being event planners and the medicine being the Umeboshi Paste. Even though, this paste was probably not meant to be a cure for food poisoning, event planners have innovated it to work as such.
Following up with Tiffany a month later, she said that she does not go to an event without it. Thus, this material object—which is now a folk medicine—can also be seen as a sacred object and/ or good luck charm just in case something was to go wrong during the event. This folk medicine demonstrates how even when modern medicine, that has coincidently been mostly derived from folk medicine, cannot cure a simple case of food poisoning, when a simple paste from Japan can. In which, this folk medicine surpasses westernized medicine.
So my dad’s grandfather, my great-grandfather, had three wives and they all lived in the same house – yeah, it was fucking messy. And then my grandfather, my dad’s father, was the favorite son, or so he says. And so they had this huge family – you know, cause it was three people’s families, basically, of like twenty kids. And they had like nannies, cause my dad’s side of the family made a lot of money in the timber industry. And so one day my grandfather got super super ill. It was gastrointestinal. And they didn’t know what to do with it. They tried herbal medicine they tried purging and bleeding. And so my grandfather’s mother, as a last resort went to see a Taoist practitioner. And she was like, “what should I do? My son is so so sick. And he’s about to be married off. Like we want to see him get married and start his own family.” So this Taoist drew a picture of this pentagram and then he told my great- grandmother, take this to this specific field on this day in the evening and burn it under the night sky. So she went out and did that and then apparently magically he was better after that. Cured him of his illness.
This is a family story that was passed down in my informant’s family. It attests to the luck and perseverance of a large family as well as to the power of magic. Life works in mysterious ways, so my informant’s grandfather “magically” being cured reveals his fortune. Also, his healing may be related to him being the favorite son within the context of Chinese culture.