Author Archives: dgdelaro

Rubbing the belly of a pregnant woman to absolve it of “El mal de ojo” or bad energy

--Informant Info--
Nationality: Mexican
Age: 54
Occupation: Health Care Executive
Residence: San Diego
Date of Performance/Collection: 4/18/2020
Primary Language: English
Other Language(s): Spanish

Main Piece

Informant: This one is weird because strangers can just come up to you and ask to rub your belly. It happened to me. If a woman has an impure thought or is envious when they see a pregnant woman, usually it is about them not being able to have a child, they ask the pregnant woman if they can rub their stomach so that their child doesn’t have “Mal de Ojo” or any bad energy. The Mal De Ojo is between the woman to woman, but the baby is caught in the middle, so they rub the stomach to absolve the baby if that makes sense. I have never seen a man do it, that would be kind of..weird. Oh! And the woman rarely discloses why she rubbed the belly, it is more about absolving their conscience so when it happens you just kind of let them rub it so your baby can get cleansed. It is very odd, it is kind of scary because you find out these women are having bad thoughts about you. It is even scarier to think about the ones who don’t rub the stomachs and just let the bad energy impact the baby.  

Interviewer: Did this ever happen to you?

Informant: One time. The person didn’t even know I was pregnant because I wasn’t showing. I just think she was talking ill of me and found out I was pregnant and rubbed my stomach. She probably thought I was just getting fat haha haha. She was an acquaintance of my ex-husband’s family, so that explains a lot haha. 

Interviewer: Can you explain more about El Mal de Ojo?

Informant: It is interpreted as an evil eye. In the sense of pregnancy the evil is are the ill thoughts of the woman, only she knows why. To try and remedy their conscience they rub the stomach, and disclose if they may “ay no lo quiero dar el mal de ojo, me permites?” (“I don’t want to give the baby the evil eye, may I?”) You do it in an apologetic way, to secure the baby and to get forgiveness for having those bad thoughts. I think its humanity. I think it is an immediate remedy to perhaps absolve an ll thought. People have ill thoughts all of the time- jealousy, comparison. So they do it to apologize in a way, and to save the baby from these ill thoughts, because they don’t deserve that. 

Background:

The informant is my mother, a Mexican woman who is first-generation and the oldest of 3, who was born and raised in San Ysidro,CA  a border town just north of Tijuana, Mexico. Influenced by memories and conversations with her great great grandmother, many of her practices, customs, and beliefs were passed down from her maternal side of Mexican customs. Fluent in both English and Spanish, the informant has always felt conflicted about her culture as she wanted to fit in with American customs but wanted to preserve her Mexican heritage and traditions. The informant had her first child when she was 18, and worked her way as a single mother with two kids to attain her Master’s Degree and is now the Executive Vice President at a non-profit health clinic that serves the community she was raised in.

Context

My whole life I have heard of this premonition, and saw it for the first time when my sister was pregnant and a stranger at a store came up to her and asked to rub her stomach. With that story in mind, I asked the informant more about it and she explained. 

Analysis

This is a very interesting form of folk magic, superstition, and protection. At the end of the day, this practice stems from a belief of magic harming the baby just from a glance. However, I think it is interesting that the act of this practice requires someone to admit that they were sending bad energy in the first place. However, as the informant describes it is more to protect the baby who doesn’t deserve to be impacted by that bad energy. This demonstrates the link of witchcraft to women, and is also a form of superstition present in Mexican communities.

“Dios en mi. El en ti, la sangre de cristo, me alibre de ti” Mexican proverb and narrative

--Informant Info--
Nationality: Mexican
Age: 21
Occupation: Student
Residence: Los Angeles
Date of Performance/Collection: 4/24/2020
Primary Language: English
Other Language(s): Spanish

Main Piece

Informant: My grandma tells me this story about a lady who lived three towns over when she was living in Mexico. There was a time when bulls got out and were running through the streets because they escaped, and this woman was in the streets and caught off guard and a bull was running straight towards her. And there was a prayer that she said over and over again watching the bull run over.  When the bull came up to her it stopped right in front of her, they made eye contact, and the bull  just walked away. She told everyone in town the prayer she told herself to protect her, and it spread across town and that is how my grandma heard it. The prayer went like this:

“Dios en mi. El en ti, la sangre de cristo, me alibre de ti”

It roughly translates to “God is with me. The Devil is with you. The blood of Christ protects me from you.” 

She always tells me to say this whenever I am in danger, whenever I don’t feel safe, to just recite it over and over again and now I do whenever I am scared shitless. There is nothing else to do! Haha. 

Background

The informant is a great friend and housemate of mine, and he is a senior at USC studying Lighting Design. Coming from Oxnard, CA he and his family are very connected with their Mexican roots and he has grown up practicing and identifying with many aspects of Mexican culture. He is also a very big raver, as he enjoys going to many EDM festivals and aspires to do lighting design for different raves as well. 

Context

One day the informant was driving while I was in the passenger street and we had to take a very dimly lit dirt road. When he was driving I heard him reciting a  prayer in Spanish while we were taking this road, and since I speak Spanish fluently as well I could understand it was some sort of protection prayer. After we got off of the road I asked him what he was reciting, and asked him about it once more in our interview to get more of the context. 

Analysis

Coming from a very Hispanic city and a Mexican family, the informant was taught this folk proverb and accompanying narrative through in Spanish and through word of mouth. It offers a sense of protection and security, and ties into the religious nature of Hispanic communities. Since this story was passed down from his grandmother, it also is a signifier of identity not only to his family, but to his culture as a whole.

“One Up, One Down” Folk Game and Riddle

--Informant Info--
Nationality: Mexican
Age: 21
Occupation: Student
Residence: Los Angeles
Date of Performance/Collection: 4/24/2020
Primary Language: English
Other Language(s): Spanish

Main Piece

Informant: This is kind of a camp riddle and game mashup and it is called One up One down. I like it because it is difficult enough to take days to figure out, so people can spend time figuring it out. One person will run it, and will introduce the riddle. They are the keeper, of the uhh game I guess. It goes in a circle, and you have three options: two up, one up one down, and two down. And so like, each person will give one of the three and try to figure out the pattern that would consistently allow them to say the correct answer. The person in charge tells them if they are right or wrong, because they know the secret to the pattern. Then it keeps going in a circle, people guess, and the keeper tells them if they are right or wrong and it keeps going until people figure out the right answer. The correct answer is based on the orientation of their arms. So right now, I would be two down, because both of my hands are in my lap. But, if I left one hand on my lap and one to rest my chin on, the correct answer would be one up one down. Basically, people overthink and start trying to guess elaborate patterns, and you kinda just win when you figure it out and you usually can’t tell the people still figuring out what the right answer is. 

Interviewer: Where did you learn this?

InformantI learned this in high school during my freshman river trip, where we would canoe down the Colorado river for four days. It was a game my group’s guide taught us, and I didn’t get it until our bus ride back. It drove me crazy, but when I got it I felt so frustrated but like I was part of a secret club!

Background

The informant is a great friend and housemate of mine, and he is a senior at USC. Coming from Oxnard, CA he and his family are very connected with their Mexican roots and he has grown up practicing and identifying with many aspects of Mexican culture. He is also a very big raver, as he enjoys going to many EDM festivals and aspires to do lighting design for different raves as well. He also identifies as part of the LGBTQ+ community, comfortable identifying as a bisexual man.

Context

While on a road trip with some of our other housemates the informant taught us this game and began to play it with us. At the end of the trip, I was the only one in the group who could still not figure it out. During the interview I had him explain the rules and origin of the game. 

Analysis

I think this game is a great combination of a kinesthetic folk game mixed with a folk riddle, as there is a secret pattern you have to find out in order to comprehend the game as a whole. It is also inherently folklore as the rules are never shared, you either understand the pattern of the game or you don’t. Being intended for longer trips, it also proves to be a great way to pass the time as it could take a while for players to figure it out.

Using a string and piece of string to predict the gender of a baby

--Informant Info--
Nationality: Mexican
Age: 54
Occupation: Health Care Executive
Residence: San Diego
Date of Performance/Collection: 4/18/2020
Primary Language: English
Other Language(s): Spanish

Main Piece

Informant: So you put a ring on a string. You loop it and then you hang it in front of the pregnant woman by her stomach-but don’t let it touch the stomach. If it motions sideways then it means it is a girl, but if it motions front and back it is supposed to be a boy. They say the energy of the baby swings the ring, that is kind of what they say causes it.

Interviewer: Was it ever done on you? 

Informant: It was never done on myself, but I saw it done on others. It was really popular at baby showers if the Mother was dying to know, and it was almost like a game. I guess before sonograms that is how they did it, haha. I just think the unknown of wanting to know the gender before the technology caused it. Is there any scientific proof that will cause the ring to sway a different way, I don’t know. 

Background

The informant is my mother, a Mexican woman who is first-generation and the oldest of 3, who was born and raised in San Ysidro,CA  a border town just north of Tijuana, Mexico. Influenced by memories and conversations with her great great grandmother, many of her practices, customs, and beliefs were passed down from her maternal side of Mexican customs. Fluent in both English and Spanish, the informant has always felt conflicted about her culture as she wanted to fit in with American customs but wanted to preserve her Mexican heritage and traditions. The informant had her first child when she was 18, and worked her way as a single mother with two kids to attain her Master’s Degree and is now the Executive Vice President at a non-profit health clinic that serves the community she was raised in.

Context

I remember seeing this practice done at one of my older cousin’s baby showers, and I asked the informant more about it. From what I remember, the ring accurately predicted the gender of the baby as it was before they revealed or found out the gender of the baby.

Analysis

This folk belief is a perfect example of signs, and using material objects in order to predict the future. I think it is interesting that this practice is usually done at baby showers almost as a game, as it continues to foster the belief that magic and witchcraft are associated with the female gender. This practice is still used in our family and in baby showers as a fun game, and it is one usually passed down in Mexican families as well.

Using Yerba Buena to ail colicky babies

--Informant Info--
Nationality: Mexican
Age: 54
Occupation: Healthcare Executive
Residence: San Diego
Date of Performance/Collection: 4/18/2020
Primary Language: English
Other Language(s): spanish

Main Piece

Informant: That was my situation, I got married at 18 and at 19 I had my first daughter. That is when all of the wives tales emerged. All of my family members shared with me their tips and tricks. My first daughter was very colicky so the first one I remember was feeding her Yerba Buena. It was very hard because Doctors told me not to give her anything, but my family was telling me to. From a science perspective I knew that was ridiculous, but at the end of the day I did it because what harm could be done? 

Interviewer: Can you guide me through what they told you to do? 

Informant: First of all every woman in the family had Yerba Buena, so my Mom called me and told me to come over when I told her my daughter was colicky. She gave me my own little sprout, and a pot to plant my own because she told me that I was gonna need it. First you wash them really really good because they’ve been out in the dirt. And then you put 2-3 leaves and boil it and it’ll turn a light brown, but don’t let that scare you. You have to cool it before you put it in the bottle. I tasted it, it tastes like mint and water. No sugar. You don’t put sugar, you just let the leaves lose in the water. 

Interviewer: How much would you feed her? 

Informant: No more than an ounce, I would give her more as she grew up but usually just an ounce. 

Interviewer: Did you see it work? 

Informant: Yes, I saw it work. You have to burp the baby after they drink. When they have colic they are tense and crying– usually that’s how you know. You will see the relief in them, they will start relaxing- at least she did. She was able to calm herself. 

Interviewer: What does this practice mean to you?

I think this is where the conflict between Americanized medicine and, I’m forgetting the word, what do they call it now? Alternative medicine. We used to call it home medicine, back in the day that is how we had to go about treating it when medicine was new. People knew this stuff, and even today some of it is true. 

Any other comments? 

No. I just think when you are a young mother you just want your baby to be happy. I was skeptical when my family told me about this, but I saw the proof in my own eyes. So, I guess I started to, um, trust the remedies more.

Background

The informant is my mother, a Mexican woman who is first-generation and the oldest of 3, who was born and raised in San Ysidro,CA  a border town just north of Tijuana, Mexico. Influenced by memories and conversations with her great great grandmother, many of her practices, customs, and beliefs were passed down from her maternal side of Mexican customs. Fluent in both English and Spanish, the informant has always felt conflicted about her culture as she wanted to fit in with American customs but wanted to preserve her Mexican heritage and traditions. The informant had her first child when she was 18, and worked her way as a single mother with two kids to attain her Master’s Degree and is now the Executive Vice President at a non-profit health clinic that serves the community she was raised in.

Context

My Mother and I often joke about how horrible babies we were, and she often tells us the stories of the different practices that my Nana would teach her to calm us down. My grandmother lives in our house in San Diego and still practices many forms of folk medicine and plants her Yerba Buena in our garden to this day. Over the phone I asked my Mom about the different practices we would talk about to understand the context better. 

Analysis

As the informant points out, this is a perfect example of folk medicine as it can not be proven with “science” but has passed down in our family for generations. Since the informant has worked in the healthcare industry for most of her professional life, she is often conflicted with following these home remedies even though they work because she is around medical professionals on a daily basis. However, I believe that she still practiced many of them and tells my sister’s who now have children of their own to practice them not only because they work, but to preserve our Mexican culture and roots. 

“Bottoms Up” Soccer Game

--Informant Info--
Nationality: Korean/White
Age: 21
Occupation: Student
Residence: Los Angeles/Colorado
Date of Performance/Collection: 4/19/2020
Primary Language: English
Other Language(s):

Main Piece

Informant: Whenever it was someone’s birthday on the team they would have to play “Bottom’s Up.” They would have to stand in the goal, bend over, and grab the net with their head down and closed eyes. Their butts would be in the air facing the field, and everyone else on the team got to take a shot and hit you in the butt. If you were hit, you were hit. If you flinched then the person got to shoot again. It was a fun thing we always ended practice with whenever there was a birthday. I just hated when it was my birthday, haha.

Background

The informant is a great friend and housemate of mine, who is currently a senior at USC studying Health and Human Sciences whose family is living in a town four hours outside of Denver, Colorado. Coming from a military family, the informant has lived in various areas, the most memorable for him was New Orleans. The informant is half Korean and half Caucasian, and is a sports fanatic having played soccer for most of his life. The informant is also a very big raver, as he enjoys going to several festivals a year, originally beginning to attend in his senior year of high school. 

Context

During our interview I brought up how different games can be considered as folklore. After I described how games fit these categories he remembered a game him and his high school soccer team used to play which was taught to them by their coach. 

Analysis

This folk game is a great combination of a game, as well as a folk ritual as it occurs on every birthday almost serving as an initiation. This shared experience that everyone on the team had to go through is something they could all relate to and participate in, fostering a sense of unity amongst teammates as well. There is also a great sense of humor about this game where everyone gets a chance to honor the person whose birthday in a more rabble-rousing way.

“You shank it, you shag it.” Saying in soccer

--Informant Info--
Nationality: Korean/White
Age: 21
Occupation: Student
Residence: Los Angeles/Colorado
Date of Performance/Collection: 4/29/2020
Primary Language: English
Other Language(s):

Main Piece

Informant: “You shank it, you shag it.”

 It’s kinda like a motto you just say with friends when you are kicking the ball around. Whenever you are just messing around with friends, or at practice and you try and make a goal and you miss it, like completely,  you have to go get it. We are not there to shag balls for other people, especially if they missed super badly. So we just say it kinda as a rule.

Background

The informant is a great friend and housemate of mine, who is currently a senior at USC studying Health and Human Sciences whose family is living in a town four hours outside of Denver, Colorado. Coming from a military family, the informant has lived in various areas, the most memorable for him was New Orleans. The informant is half Korean and half Caucasian, and is a sports fanatic having played soccer for most of his life. The informant is also a very big raver, as he enjoys going to several festivals a year, originally beginning to attend in his senior year of high school. 

Context

While playing soccer for fun one day my informant taught me this quote that him and his friends from his soccer teams would frequently use. When he was willing to participate for an interview I brought it up and asked him to explain it to me. 

Analysis

This use of folk speech and proverb set general rules and boundaries while soccer players are kicking and shooting goals. Being used in high school, it could reflect the morals and values coaches want to pass down to their players as it encapsulates the general notion of accountability and responsibility in a very pithy way. The alliteration also might help people use it more as it is easy to remember and to say.

Mosh-pit culture at EDM raves and festivals

--Informant Info--
Nationality: Korean/White
Age: 21
Occupation: Student
Residence: Los Angeles/Colorado
Date of Performance/Collection: 4/19/2020
Primary Language: English
Other Language(s):

Main Piece

Interviewer: What are the rules of mosh-pitting?

Informant: If someone falls, you pick them up you do not trample them. You are not trying to intentionally hurt anyone, that is usually a golden rule. Sometimes there are also women-only moshpits, and it is pretty cool because it encourages women to mosh without worrying about the muscled-up guys that usually mosh. Every guy will let them just have their pit, it is always respected. 

There are different types of moshpits too. There is a circle where people just mosh in a big circle thing. And then there is a circle pit, basically you are just running in a circle, there’s no bumping or hitting it is just running. Sometimes people are inside the circle, and some of them can get huge like wall to wall at venues. That is a weird one haha.

There are also ones called Wall of Deaths–those are crazy, man. DJ’s usually start it by saying “Yo, this is my last song, I wanna see a Wall of Death in this Motherfucker. Lets’s Go!” 

Basically what happens is two lines open the middle of the venue, and people go to one of the sides. Once you have a big enough opening, the bass drops, and then both sides just run at each other. You collide with each other and then you just make this giant mosh pit. It is crazy. You’ll usually see this with EDM, pop-punk, heavy-metal. 

Background

The informant is a great friend and housemate of mine, who is currently a senior at USC studying Health and Human Sciences whose family is living in a town four hours outside of Denver, Colorado. Coming from a military family, the informant has lived in various areas, the most memorable for him was New Orleans. The informant is half Korean and half Caucasian, and is a sports fanatic having played soccer for most of his life. The informant is also a very big raver, as he enjoys going to several festivals a year, originally beginning to attend in his senior year of high school. 

Context

Being someone who attended a lot of Latinx punk shows in my hometown, I am a big fan of moshing. Last year my informant took me to my first rave, and explained the different styles of moshing and how to mosh in this scenario. Now, I have gone to a couple of more, and during our interview I asked hi to break down the rules and different types of moshpits. 

Analysis

I think mosh-pits are a type of folk dance at certain venues where participants are able to act in a more aggressive and violent manner than how they’d act in everyday scenarios. Moshing gives a lot of individuals a chance to express any pent up anger or aggression, while still balancing the concept of PLUR (Peace, Love Unity, Respect) which many ravers follow. I believe that is why there are many types of mosh-pits and set rules to secure that people do not seriously injure themselves. 

Rave kandies and the process of trading them at festivals

--Informant Info--
Nationality: Korean/White
Age: 21
Occupation: Student
Residence: Los Angeles, CA/Colorado
Date of Performance/Collection: 4/19/2020
Primary Language: English
Other Language(s):

Main Piece 

Informant: The motto and the handshake of the community, and the code we live by is PLUR. It stands for Peace, Love, Unity, Respect. It means you’re peaceful, and not there to start shit. We gotta spread love, we gotta spread unity because we are all vibing together. Then there is respect, because you have to respect everyone there and the land where the concert is because we don’t want to leave trash around. 

One of the things that ravers do to express themselves are Kandies. They are bracelets made of elastic string and beads, they are really easy to make and people usually make them themselves, and then some people get really advanced. You can trade kandi with people, when you meet them usually you trade kandies when you are about to leave and there is a whole handshake for the trade. 

Interviewer: What is the handshake like?

Informant: First it is peace so you hold out a peace sign and touch both fingertips. And then you do love, so you make half of a heart with your hand and join it to theirs. So when they’re together they make one big heart. And then you do unity where you grab each other’s hands, like interlocking fingers. And then on respect, you trade the kandies and transfer it from your wrist to theirs while your hand is still interlocked. 

Interviewer: What are kandies usually made out of?

Informant: The kandies are usually handmade, they are made of beads. sometimes they spell out different artists, different DJs, different sayings. It is kinda like the pins at Disneyland, people are always looking to trade kandies with each other to collect memories of different times. 

Background

The informant is a great friend and housemate of mine, who is currently a senior at USC studying Health and Human Sciences whose family is living in a town four hours outside of Denver, Colorado. Coming from a military family, the informant has lived in various areas, the most memorable for him was New Orleans. The informant is half Korean and half Caucasian, and is a sports fanatic having played soccer for most of his life. The informant is also a very big raver, as he enjoys going to several festivals a year, originally beginning to attend in his senior year of high school. 

Context

One day while we were at our house I noticed that he had on a whole sleeve full of what looked like friendship bracelets, and when I asked him what they were for he explained that they were kandies for a rave he was attending that night. After he was willing to interview, I asked him about the bracelets and the customs of raves. 

Analysis

I think these folk objects are a very inexpensive and easy way to make and a great way for ravers to identify with one another when they are in crowds at large festivals. I think the practice of trading kandies and the handshake that goes along with it symbolize folk greetings at these festivals, and provide a sense of unity and togetherness. As the informant mentioned, it is also a way for people to remember certain festivals or raves that they attend. 

Kajabe Cancan

--Informant Info--
Nationality: White
Age: 22
Occupation: Student
Residence: San Dimas, CA/Los Angeles, CA
Date of Performance/Collection: 4/19/2020
Primary Language: English
Other Language(s):

Informant: So I learned this game as a camper at the summer camp at Hume Lake it was called Kajabe Cancan. It was a game that we were never really taught to play, but it is very easy to figure out and it was a huge thing at this camp. Basically there’s a bunch of people, they usually do it by gender because it is so violent. Everyone stands in a circle, and they hold a piece of rope that is like a foot long between everyone. Inside the circle there is usually like 2-3 trashcans, like the big grey ones. The goal of the game is to be the last one standing. To get people out you had to make people let go of one of their ropes, or hit the trash can with any piece of their body. So basically, you are trying to throw around the person next to you to either rip the rope from their hand or toss them into the middle. It is a great forearm workout, haha. It is such a big thing at this camp that they have a night dedicated to it, like there’s a championship round. They form small groups and the winners of each group play a championship round, and whoever wins gets to sign a Golden trashcan. 

Interviewer: Did you ever win?

Informant: No, I got close though, haha. I made it to the championship round but got out pretty early. 

Interviewer: What happens when you get out?

Informant: Nothing really, you just sit out and join the people watching. You let your hands rest. It gets intense, some people got injured. 

Interviewer: What did this game mean to you?

Informant: Everyone always looked forward to it, it was always a really fun night. This was a church camp, so a lot of churches would go to this camp at once. People would train their campers before going to play because winning was like a huge deal. 

Background

My informant is a good friend and housemate of mine from USC and is a senior at the University of Southern California majoring in Health Promotion and Disease Prevention with a minor in Health Care Studies from San Dimas, CA. She says that a lot of her mannerisms and sayings come from growing up in San Dimas which she describes as being a very small town outside of Los Angeles that feels more midwest than the West coast. She attended summer camps throughout most of her life, starting as a camper and becoming a counselor in high school. 

Context

During our interview the informant let me know about the different games and experiences she had going to many camps growing up as both a camper and a counselor. One of the games that was brought up was Kajabe Cancan. 

Analysis

This game has a very competitive and physical nature, and I believe that it is fairly easy to play as you need participants, trashcans, and pieces of rope. In the context of the church, this folk game potentially served as a mini competition of all of the different churches who combined at this specific camp, gaining pride or brownie points if one of their campers won the championship.