Author Archives: cmaguile

Leaving a Purse on the Floor is Bad Luck

--Informant Info--
Nationality: Half American Half Puerto Rican
Age: 21
Occupation: UCLA student
Residence: Southern California
Date of Performance/Collection: 4/30/20
Primary Language: English
Other Language(s): Spanish

SD: Whenever I visit my family in Puerto Rico, If I ever put my purse on the floor they would get mad at me. The same thing happens to me at my house because I always leave my purse and by backpack on the ground and my mom gets really mad because they really believe it. It kind of like makes her scared that I am going to bring bad luck to us and it is just passed down to her from her relative in Puerto Rico. There is not really a reason why it is just a think they get taught when they are little, um and they just carry into adulthood and it is made to feel so real that you actually believe it. I think it is mainly like say you have a test coming up, you just screwed that up.  

Context

SD is a 21 year old student at UCLA whose mother is from Puerto Rican and dad is American. This was taken from a casual interview over FaceTime talking about any folklore she had when she mentioned her mom has many superstitions about things that are bad luck. Neither of the know why, but her mother follows then very strictly. 

Analysis

It is interesting that these superstitions have so much power with SA’s mother and her whole family living in Puerto Rico following it religiously. There is a great deal of trust and respect for tradition that these practices are followed without knowing the reason why. 

Additionally, the tension between the younger and older generation is interesting because one firmly believes it while the other does not and repeatedly breaks the rule. SD does not see it as having any merit, which gives her mother a great deal of worry that she will bring bad energy into the house. 

Sending Someone the Evil Eye

--Informant Info--
Nationality: Mexican American
Age: 48
Occupation: human resources manager
Residence: San Fernando Valley
Date of Performance/Collection: 4/29/20
Primary Language: English
Other Language(s): Spanish

EA: The ojo (eye) is that people do believe that there are other people that have the ability to. If they have something that belongs to that other person like a picture or something they can with bad things upon them. It is called “hiciste ojo”(“gave the eye”). For example, if someone wants some harm to come to someone else they will take a picture of that person to that individual and they will say I want them too whatever. There is the belief that there are people than have that ability to I guess curse them with bad things. You like a form of voodoo because it is kind of like you have an alter for them. You have a picture of them, you have their hair. You have some thing that belongs to them 

Interviewer: Where did you hear this?

EA: I heard this from my parents and like people, aunts. You know when a lot of bad things are happening to you it is common for people to say “ay, alguien me hiso ojo, necessito una limpia!”(“someone gave me the eye and I need a cleaning”). Then you go to someone that does the good and they take that curse away from you . 

Context

EA is my mother who was born in Southern California, but whose parents are both from Mexico. She and her whole family are Catholic. However, she is not as religious as the rest of her family. She is a Human Resources manager at a small manufacturing company in the San Fernando Valley. The information taken from a casual conversation I was having with my mother about any folklore she had for me while my sister was also present.

Analysis 

It is surprising to me how much magic is involved in this considering how religious many of my family members are. Magic is normally frowned upon in the church as God is the only one that should be able to do things like see your future and change your destiny. However, getting the evil seems to be something that many people in Mexican culture are afraid of. The trope of the witch or “bruha” character that many are afraid of even portrayed through their entertainment, and I’m sure people talk about who they feel practices this dark form of magic. It is also similar to many other forms of contagious magic where you need something of the person in order to curse them, since our belongings and images are extensions of ourselves. 

Arnica and Linaca Mixture for Healing

--Informant Info--
Nationality: Mexican American
Age: 48
Occupation: Human Resources manager
Residence: San Fernando Valley
Date of Performance/Collection: 4/28/20
Primary Language: English
Other Language(s): Spanish

EA: Arnica is a tea it is like a natural herb, arnica and linaca and it is supposed to be like a a homeopathic remedy you can use for like swelling and just kind of instead of like a Neosporin type thing. It helps to heal a little bit better. Back then when they would make it when you know they did not have modern medicine so they would take it with like leaves or whatever and they would put it on and then they wrap it and then that helps with the cut of whatever you have. 

Interviewer: Did she say how she boiled it?

EA: Yeah she boiled it and lets it simmer for like a while on high heat and then she lowers he heat and lets it simmer. Ten minutes I think she said and it boils it and then you turn it off and then you just let it sit and  then that’s when it gets that vava, which is kind of like a vasiline type texture and then it just like sits there. 

Interviewer: That’s when you know it is done?

EA: Yeah, like a little thick.  

Context: EA is my mother mother who was born in Southern California, but whose parents are both from Mexico. The information taken from a casual conversation I was having with my mother about any folklore she had for me and my sister was also present. She was referring to an ointment that my aunt made for her son when he had a really bad insect bit and gave to us when our dog had a rash. 

Analysis

In Mexico, even know it is difficult in many places to see or either afford a doctor. This has given rise for the necessity of home remedies. Arnica is in many supplements and gels that are sold in pharmacies. Thus, showing the ability for homeopathic remedies to transfer to modern medicine and being legitimizd by being formally sold in stores. However, people would likely still feel that something like Neosporin is inherently more effective than something homemade when this is not inherently the case. Accordingly, when recommending these home remedies it is often accompanied with an anecdotal success story to prove it’s merit. would be It also shows the versatility of the homemade treatments because they are made with natural ingredients and how it can help your family and having advice when another person you care about is having a difficulty. 

Avocado Pit in your Guacamole

--Informant Info--
Nationality: Mexican American
Age: 48
Occupation: Human Resources manager
Residence: San Fernando Valley
Date of Performance/Collection: 4/17/20
Primary Language: English
Other Language(s): spanish

EA: Put the pit of one of the avocados form the guacamole into it after you are finished making you guacamole to keep it from browning. 

Context

EA is my mother who was born in Southern California, but whose parents are both from Mexico. She and her whole family are Catholic. However, she is not as religious as the rest of her family. She is a Human Resources manager at a small manufacturing company in the San Fernando Valley. The information was from when I was making guacamole for lunch and she was telling me what I could do to keep it fresh to eat it later.

Analysis: After I told her I wanted to collect that as folklore she told me it was not folklore because it was true. She said it very matter of fact as if it something that everyone does. Specifically, related to food and medicine the value is placed on whether or not it works. That folklore is something outdated that people believe, but does not actually work. This is obviously not the case given that many recipes and standard cooking practices originated as folklore. It also shows the negative connotation that arises when using the word folklore to describe people’s practices and how they might not like having their culture being referred to as folklore. 

Praying to Your Car

--Informant Info--
Nationality: Indian American
Age: 20
Occupation: USC business student
Residence: Southern California
Date of Performance/Collection: 4/19/20
Primary Language: English
Other Language(s): Sindi

NA: We pray to our car when we get a new car. You basically do like a ritual to the car when you are praying because Indian people believe there is god in everything. Like there is god in a pillow, there is god like that is what we learn when we were younger so it’s like you are praying to the god in the car that nothing will happen to you or the car. 

Interviewer: Do you know what exactly the ritual entails?

NA: Part of it is you have to drive over a coconut you also you know how people wear the red dot on their forehead, the bhindi, it’s not like the fashion kind it is literally just a red dot um you have to do that to your car in certain stops. Then, the is a ritual called like Arti where you put fire on the plate kind of like. I don’t know what Arti is, how to describe it. You basically go in like circles like with the plate and that’s just. I don’t understand why you do that but you do it. So anytime you go to the temple or anything first people will sing songs and read the books we have to read and then at the end of it you do Arti so you go stand in front of the alter where all the gods are and then there is like a silver plate with fire in the middle but its not like a candle it is usually like oil with a cotton swap. Then you have to put a dollar, don’t know why you put a dollar. And then you have to move the plate in a circular motion around the gods for the prayer song 

Interviewer: So you do this in the temple to bless your car?

NA: Oh no you do that for anything, anytime there is a religious ceremony you do that plate thing [Arti] where you go in circles but like when you pray to your car you do that too like you have that with you. 

Interviewer: Can you pray to other things to that are not your car? Is there another common thing you pray to?

NA: You do your car, pictures of elders in your family, your house, anything with like value that you do not want anything bad to happen to. Like you are not going to do your Louis Vuitton bag. I mean if you are really extra you can, but you can do your bike. Something of value. 

Context: 

NA is a 20 year old USC business student whose family is from Sindhi culture in India. She grew up in southern California. This was taken from an interview conducted with NA. She is also my roommate and I asked her about folklore she had related to her Indian background. This information was gathered from an informal interview conducted over Facetime.

Analysis: 

After research, I found this is called a Puja. This protection ritual is tapping into the divine in an object. Not only is this a blessing of an object, but also an indirect blessing of yourself. For example, your car keeps you safe while you are traveling. Therefore, if your car is safe then you are as well. 

Blessings are very common in Sindhi culture where the Arti can be used as a general blessing as well for use for specific purposes. The use of the Bindi is often used to bring out the power in the Chakra. Placing in on the car is likely a way to calling upon the divinity that lives in the car. The coconut seems like an offering of some kind to a god or gods that are often used in blessing rituals. 

Giving Monetary Gifts that End in One

--Informant Info--
Nationality: Indian American
Age: 20
Occupation: USC business student
Residence: Southern California
Date of Performance/Collection: 4/19/20
Primary Language: English
Other Language(s): Hindi

NA is describing an Indian custom around the amount of money you should give a gift. 

NA: There is also like when you give gifts, you don’t give like 50 or 100. You give like 51 or 101. It can be any hundred amount, but it can’t be like a ten is has to end in one. 

C: Is it related to luck or anything like that?

NA: I guess it’s so like that, Indian people see it as, when I give you 100 it’s like a hundred full stop. When you do 101 it is like money will keep coming to you. 

Context

NA is a 20 year old USC business student who comes from a Sindhi Hindu family from India. She grew up in southern California as an active Hindu going to temple and fasting on Mondays and active in her Hindu tradition. She is also my roommate and I asked her about folklore she had related to her Indian background.  This information was taken from a casual interview conducted with NA over Facetime. 

Analysis

One explanation for addition of the $1 is that it represents the continuation of wealth. It also makes the gift more meaningful by showing the recipient that not only are they providing money but also a blessing of the sort for you to be more successful in the future. Thus, making a gift that may seem somewhat impersonal more meaningful. I also found a tradition of giving a single Rupee coin when a larger monetary amount is not given. Thus, showing an aversion to the finality and absence the number zero represents. In contrast to the potential form growth represented through the number one. Additionally, even though zero comes before one, one is the number we start counting with. As a result, the giving of a Rupee coin is often giving on occasions that represent new beginnings, such as a wedding 

Little Girl Ghost in House

--Informant Info--
Nationality: Mexican American
Age: 21
Occupation: student at college of the canyons
Residence: San Fernando Valley
Date of Performance/Collection: 4/25/20
Primary Language: English
Other Language(s): Spanish

SR: Okay, so like I went to Virginia and then, like I think I was 7 but um it was a two story house. I was sleeping and I woke up because I was thirsty and I didn’t know where everything was because it was my second day there. The only light that was there was like a Christmas tree light, so I went downstairs to go get water as I was getting water I noticed my cousin was following me and I was like, “oh, do you want some water” and she kind of like nodded. I drank my water and put my cut back in the sink and then I went upstairs and then I saw my cousin go into the part downstairs. They had two living rooms and she went into the smaller living room and I was like that’s weird but whatever. So I went back upstairs and my cousin was like in her bed and I was like that is so weird. The next day, it was so funny, the next day my grandma was talking about this little girl they see often and then they are like, “oh yeah , she is like always around here. She looks like Stephanie.” Stephanie is my cousin. 

CA: She looks like your cousin that is still alive?

SR: Yeah 

CA: Why do you think there is a girl there?

SR: I don’t know, I think honestly maybe she died in the house. In Virginia their backyards are basically open land and it’s like foresty. Maybe she like died somewhere there and her body is still around. It was crazy my grandma told me she would forget that the girls were at school and she will see the girl and then offer her like food not knowing that it’s not my cousin. The only one that she doesn’t appear too is my uncle. She has appeared to all my cousin’s and even my guy cousin, and my grandma and my nina, but she has not appeared to my uncle like at all.

CA: Why do you think that is?

SR: I don’t know maybe the way she died or I don’t know. 

CA: Is he the head of the house?

SR: Yeah, he is definitely the head of the house. 

CA: So he is the main male presence?

SR: Mhm

Context

SR is a 20 year old student who attends college of the canyons in Santa Clarita. This conversation took place over a casual FaceTime call where I asked her is she had any folklore I could use for the database. She comes from a Catholic Mexican household and has lived in Southern California her whole life. Also, many of her family live in Virginia and she visits there on occasion 

Analysis

This is a memorate surrounding a haunting of a house. The nonchalant attitude of those who lived in the house was surprising because most of the stories I have heard surrounding ghost stories have been meant to inspire fear. However, in this case the girl did not seem to be bothering anyone and it is something that had all gotten used to. It was a story that everyone involved believed to be true and did not find it a ludicrious notion that there was a spirit in their house. 

It is also interesting that the only person the girl has not appeared to it the male authority figure in the house. Thus, showing that she only appears selectively and that she may have animosity against males. 

Wearing Black for a Year After a Death

--Informant Info--
Nationality: Mexican American
Age: 48
Occupation: Human Resources manager
Residence:
Date of Performance/Collection:
Primary Language:
Other Language(s):

Piece

EA: You are supposed to mourn someone like your spouse, child, or like parent in like you wear all black for a year. If you don’t then there will be a public hanging of you, no. I mean that is like you don’t care type of thing. 

CA: Is this in Mexico? 

EA: Yeah in Mexico.

CA: Does anyone do it here [United States].

EA: Still like older people will do it here. Like I don’t know if you have seen tia [whose mother recently passed away] she is wearing all black. 

CA: Do they do it for as long?

EA: No, I think now they will do it for a shorter period of time, but I think people like tita [her mother] or like older people will do it for a longer period of time. I don’t know about a year. They will do like grays and black but they won’t put on like loud colors. It’s called el luto. Then also, you are not supposed to go to like a party, a dance, anything that is supposed to be happy and lively for a whole year. See like Papa Javier [husband’s father] didn’t come for your [my sister’s] quinceanera because his brother had just died and like none of his family came because of that reason because we were going to have a party and have music. It is frowned upon like if they come it is like, “did you see that he is here, his brother just died. I can’t believe it either.” The longer the time the better. I would say a good three to six months. I would say after six months maybe people won’t say anything anymore, but the older people will still say something. Especially if it is your spouse and you are like not, then you are talked about that like you didn’t care. 

CA: Is it the same for husbands and wives or is it more frowned upon for one or the other?

EA: Well, yeah most husbands will not do that for their wives. Women have to do it. I mean men, that is a good question it is probably really sexist because it is okay for a man to do it but it is not okay for a women to do it. 

Context

EA is my mother who was born in Southern California, but whose parents are both from Mexico. She and her whole family are Catholic. However, she is not as religious as the rest of her family. She is a Human Resources manager at a small manufacturing company in the San Fernando Valley. The information taken from a casual conversation I was having with my mother about any folklore she had for me while my sister was also present.

Analysis

The luto is an outward expression of grief and how much the loved one that passed away meant to you. This is why it is seen as so disrespectful to break the luto because it is a sign that you did not care about the death. Additionaly, the dark clothes and avoiding parties play on the sadness and loss surrounding death more than the celebration life. The person must have meant a lot to you if you are unable to really enjoy yourself after they are gone.

It would also potentially be a way to release your misery and give yourself a set amount of time to grieve, and after it marks the time when it is appropriate to move on and enjoy yourself without feeling bad about it. With the younger generation it is becoming a more personal decision about when people are ready to start moving on and enjoying themselves. However, this opens you up to more outside criticism and comparison. If everyone mourns the same amount there is no comparison between who has mourned a husband longer than another woman. 

Living by the Ocean Gives you Coronavirus

--Informant Info--
Nationality: Indian American
Age: 20
Occupation: USC business student
Residence: Southern California
Date of Performance/Collection: 4/19/20
Primary Language: English
Other Language(s): Hindi

NA: So his first one was that if you live by the ocean you have the coronavirus automatically because people with corona when you go to the bathroom, when you poo, you pee, wash your hands, take a shower it just goes in the water with it and all that water just gets mixed in with the ocean. Then, it evaporates in the air and then it rains on land by the ocean. So, it is just everything is in the ocean. Um, so basically if you live by the water you have corona. 

CA: And where did he her that from?

NA: I don’t know, What’s App videos?

Context: 

NA is a USC student who comes from a Sindhi Hindu family from India. She grew up in Southern California as an active Hindu going to temple and fasting on Mondays. The information was taken from a casual conversation over zoom with two other friends. We were talking about coronavirus and the conspiracy theories surrounding it when she spontaneous told this story about a conspiracy theory her dad told her about. 

Analysis

It is significant NA was telling the story in a context to emphasis how ridiculous she felt this conspiracy belief was and kind of making fun of the fact that her father believed it. I think it represents the broader frustration many people have towards all the different conspiricies that are coming out of the chaos of coronavirus that seem completely ridiculous and impossible. 

On the other hand, for the people seeking out these conspiricies it seems to be a source of perceived control over the virus. Especially, since most of them are founded on scientific claims that sound intuitive and makes you feel like you understand more about the virus and how it spreads. If you know all the people and places that are more likely to get it then it makes you feel more secure in your position. In this example, since NA’s father does not live by the ocean it might make him feel that other people will get the virus instead of him and that the belief is based on “science.”

Dia de Los Muertos Alter

--Informant Info--
Nationality: Mexican American
Age: 21
Occupation: College of the Canyons student
Residence: San Fernando Valley
Date of Performance/Collection: 4/25/20
Primary Language: English
Other Language(s): Spanish

Interviewer: So you were saying about Dia de Los Muertes?

SR: Yeah so Dia de Los Muertes is like a special thing for my family and I didn’t really know about it until I was 13. I think I turned 13 when someone in my family had recently past away and they were like “oh, let’s start this tradition again.” We had made the alter, “La Obra” that when we put like the pictues of like our dead one and like the belief about it is that you get to spend that one day with them and like their spirit comes and spends a moment in our home. It is kind of like comforting thing as they are like beign in the other world. I guess it is also guiding them in a way too. I heard that you put a glass of water out. It is for like their long trip walking and it is, you know stuff like that. Giving them and offering them and offering them the things they like here on earth. And it could be like traditionally like a shot of tequilla or a ban de muerto which is very traditional and then like their favorite food which could be like pozole or tacos honestly, but we keep those out because our belief is that they actually do come into our household or wherever the alter may be and they spend that moment with us here on earth. 

Interviewer: So do you only do it for those who have recently died? 

SR: No, we do it for everybody. So I have I want to say my great, great, great grandpa and from that generation on, like people we have pictures for. It could be anybody.

Interviewer: And who taught you about it and showed you how to do it?

SR: My mom, yeah I think my mom. It is because my grandpa is buried in Sacramento and since we live in {somewhere in Southern California}it is like a long trip right so they only way she feels connected to him for that one day. 

Context

SR is a 20 year old student who attends college of the canyons in Santa Clarita. This conversation took place over a casual FaceTime call when I asked her is she had any folklore I could use for the database. She comes from a Catholic Mexican household and has lived in Southern California her whole life. 

Analysis

This excerpt shows the connection Dia de Los Muertos offers to the people that practice it with their loved ones that have passed away. The tradition in SR’s household was not brought back until there was a more recent death and was a desire to connect with them. Despite being focused on keeping the connection with a more recently deceased family members there is an emphasis on including all the people you can. Her great, great, great grandfather is someone she would never have met, but still earned his place on her alter simply by being a part of her family. Thus, showing the importance of family in Mexican culture and seeing the value in staying connected with your anscestors after they have passed on. Additionally, doing it for much older members of your family better ensure that those that come after you will do the same for you long after you are gone.