Americanized Ecuadorian Custom: Mal de Ojo or “evil eye”

Text: “If someone compliments what you have, my nana told me you have to give it to them or you’ll get the evil eye on you: it’s a jealousy thing. A look of admiration could stem from jealousy and it may have evil intentions.”


The informant’s grandma (“nana”) is from Ecuador and brought this practice with her to Los Angeles. Many cultures have “evil eye” beliefs accompanied by practices and objects to ward them off. With this practice, it is believed that giving the complimenter the thing they admire will stop the jealousy before anything bad can come from it.


The complimenter’s reaction to this exchange plays a part in determining whether they are part of the “folk” or not. Someone familiar with the superstition will respond by turning down the offer and reassure the complimentee about their intentions but not explicitly. Though this signals awareness, it isn’t a bad thing if the person accepts the gift, since the offer is ultimately based on a genuine belief in its effects.