Author Archives: Carlos Gonzalez Jr.

Latin American Home Remedies


Menthol and “The green liquid”


Informant: “Menthol, or what Americans call Vapor rub, was a huge remedy for me as a child. My grandma would use it on me anytime I was sick, and she would put it everywhere. She’d apply it on my nostrils, chest, and back, and it always gave me a feeling of relief.

Collector: “My parents and grandmother would do the same thing, we think that stuff can cure anything. It kind of felt icy hot when applied, and it smelled medicinal, it would also give me immediate relief.

Informant: “Icy hot is a great way to put it, and yes it smelled herbal. And speaking of herbs, did your grandma also have this green, herb-infused liquid that she’d place on you for like good luck or good health? It looked nasty and brownish but smelled really good.

Collector: “Yes! My cousins and I would call it the money water, but my grandma never really gave us a formal name for it.


In the case of Menthol and the mystery greenish/brown liquid, we have an instance of monogenesis, the diffusion of folk to different locations. What’s interesting in this case, is that HR’s grandmother was a Christian woman, while mine was a practitioner of Santeria, a fusion of witchcraft and religion. Although they both have different belief systems, it seems they share customs and folk medicines. I am not entirely aware of the origins of the heavy use of either form of medicine in Latin America, but they mostly stem from the interaction of European faith with indigenous belief. Latin America is a colonized land, and thus a lot of its culture is a fusion of some sort. When HR mentions the herbal smell or use of herbs within Menthol and green liquid, I was immediately reminded of Indigenous cultures and their ties to herbal remedies. Native cultures are known for being highly adept to use of herbs for rituals, medicines, and even good luck. When taking a step back and considering a diachronic perspective, one can see how Indigenous culture has diffused into Latin America over time.

Swedens National Dance


The Hambo


Collector: “Give us a brief history on practice and use of the Hambo.” 

Informant: “The Hambo is Swedens national dance, and is a couple’s dance that originated in the late 19th century and became popular across Sweden and other Nordic countries. It is characterized by its graceful, flowing movements and the use of a gliding step that gives the dance a smooth and fluid quality. The music for the Hambo is typically played on a fiddle or accordion and has a lively, upbeat tempo. The dance is usually performed at traditional Swedish celebrations, such as Midsommar, festivals, and weddings. It is more often taught in schools as part of physical education and is sometimes performed by professional dance troupes.

Collector: “How did Hambo play a role in your life?

Informant: “Dancing is a very integral part of Scandinavian celebrations and ceremonies, symbolizing joy, unity, and tradition. My father made me start Scandinavian dancing from a young age, so it has just become a part of who I am. From this I have developed a tremendous appreciation for dance, which brings a joy I cannot obtain from anything else.


The Hambo seems to play a crucial role as a performance in the carrying out of many Swedish traditions, which makes sense since it comes from a nordic country. Sweden is a small nordic country, regions known for having rich, nationally recognized folklore. These countries typically weaponized folklore against the presence of outside, unwelcomed invaders during the 19th and 20th centuries. With this weaponization comes a greater sense of nationalism, and as a result, spurs the interconnectedness of its peoples and cultures. This way, countries like Sweden are able to act more like a single body, and strengthen themselves under their unity. Larger, more powerhouse countries like France, the UK, or the USA, did not require such weaponization for their strength was more industrial as opposed to cultural. This is why you see a weak, distilled presence of folklore within all of them.

Mexican Magical Practices


Egg Cleansing


Collector: “What is this egg cleansing and what does it mean to you?

Informant: “Egg cleansing is when you take an egg, typically a large white egg, and rub it all over your body to cleanse yourself. Any negative energy that currently has a hold in your life, will go into the egg and be absorbed, thus leaving you. After rubbing the egg all over yourself, you’re supposed to crack it in a cup of water and see how the yolk forms. If there’s spikes, or if the yolk looks almost spider-webby, then you did have some negative energy released into the egg. If there are no distinct, or sharp patterns, then there was no negative energy to cleanse from you.

Collector: “Have these sharp patterns ever occurred from your egg cleansing?

Informant: “Yes and it was so scary. It happened to be around the time that I injured myself during Volleyball practice and had to be out for the rest of the season. It was first time that I have ever had negative energy reflect in my egg cleanse, so Im glad it worked and healed my leg.

Collector: “When were you first exposed to egg cleansing?

Informant: “I’d say around when I was four years old. My grandma would do it to all of her children and grandchildren on Christmas day. She also does it to us when an ill occurrence has befallen us, such as maybe an accident, or just something unlucky.


This egg cleansing seems to be dependent on the use of the embryo within the egg, transferring the negative energy of one life force to an unborn life force, to purify one over the other. The cracking of the egg is a symbolic release of that energy back into the world. HR’s grandmother comes from a Christian background, and it’s interesting to see the presence of superstitious or magical practices within a religion like Christianity. The presence of egg cleansing likely comes from the fusion of European religion with indigenous practices, or some other ethnofusion of sorts. Latin America is one of the most, if not the most culturally diverse and mixed region in the world. It takes from the practices of Indigenous, European, and African cultures. Within my own Puerto Rican culture, we have a similar use for the egg cleanse, but instead it’s practiced on New Years eve. When the clock hits twelve, the egg that has collected your negative energies is tossed out into the street, signifying a purified beginning of the New Year. This is an example of monogenesis, as Mexican and Latin Caribbean customs share lots in common due to their similar colonized backgrounds.

Christian Holidays


Day of the Three Kings


Collector: “HR, as a Mexican woman, today you will be talking about a popular holiday celebrated within your Christian family, the Day of the Three Kings.

Informant: “Yes, El dia de los tres reyes, such a big holiday within Christian Latin America. It’s almost as big as Christmas, and kind of commoderates the same traditions and rituals, essentially the giving of gifts. I love it because ever since I was a little girl, I would always get double the amount of gifts as some of my friends.

Collector: “Are you aware of its origins and history?

Informant: “Vaguely, I think it follows three kings who followed the star of Bethlehem to reach Jesus Christ after he was born. They reached him on the twelfth day of Christmas, January sixth, and brought him lots of gifts. It’s very similar to Christmas in that they basically both celebrate Jesus.

Collector: “What else would your family do besides gift-giving?

Informant: “Well since the Day of the Three Kings celebrates the life of Jesus, we sort of just celebrated living. We would come together with our extended family and have a huge feast, almost on the same level as Thanksgiving. It really is such a great holiday.”


Although not a Christian myself, I can acknowledge that the bible as a collection, or string, of stories, contains a plethora of folk rituals, superstitions, and celebrations. Its vastness, and rich content, may remind one of the Kalevala, a Finnish collection of thirty-two poems, depicting many magical, supernatural stories originating from Finland. Coming from a Puerto Rican background, I am aware that my mother use to celebrate the Day of Three Kings when she was a little girl in Puerto Rico. It’s a tradition that she, for some reason, did not pass on to me and my siblings, and stopped practicing once she reached America. This would make her a passive bearer of Day of the Three Kings since she doesn’t really discuss it much with us either. Similar to HR, she would rejoice in the holiday anytime it came because it meant double the number of gifts for her also. A noticeable difference I noticed between HR’s recollection of the holiday versus my mother’s, is that my mother’s family would place three mirrors somewhere in the home, all facing the same direction with proximity to each other. This was something used to  acknowledge the benevolence of the three kings, and how we can hopefully all find that same good faith within ourselves, through our reflections.

Swedish Folk Costumes


Folkdräkt – Swedish Attire that depicts family history


Informant: “Folkdräkt is a dress outfit for women and Busserull shirt and trouser set for men. It represents where an individual’s family comes from, or in many cases, like my siblings and I, the garment is passed from generation to generation. My Folkdräkt is from Mora, Sweden in Dalarna County. Each Folkdräkt from each family has its own distinct patters and garment styles. They are a result of the family’s history, and their certain ties with perhaps specific flowers that can be depicted in Folkdräkt. It is not rare for Folkdräkt within the same region to look very similar, for they are often influenced by geographic elements and resources. Folkdräkt is often worn at weddings and festivals, or any event that may include Hambo. Typically children are the ones performing for adults, but the reverse can also be true.


Folkdräkt is a dress attire within Sweden that can be used to trace a family’s lineage, or geographical origins. As a folk costume, it is powerful since it’s a physical tie between the individual and their extended history. Nordic countries are known for having a rich, strong sense of folk, that extends from their weaponization of folk to protect themselves since they are smaller countries. Here we can see that this concept may not only occur on the national level, but can be applied to individual families as well. Families within Sweden use Folkdräkt as a catalyst to be able to distinguish themselves from other families. This comes from a desire to be able to define your legacy from others, within a stream of millions of legacies. It is also interesting that Folkdräkt quite literally translates to folk attire, with “dräkt” meaning suit or attire, and folk being an english cognate.