Author Archives: Ellen Eastaugh

The Church on the Hill

The following are the informant’s exact words:

“This is a story that my grandmother tells. It’s a pretty popular story, umm… that involves that… Juan Diego, a young man’s name… a peasant and a Mexican. And when she tells it, it is that he is walking one day, uhh… and the Virgen di Guadalupe appeared to him and said, “I’d like you to build me a church, here.” It was a particular hill I believe. And uhh… and he was like, “Well okay, I guess”. And ummm…  then he goes to, I believe, the power that be, the kinda Catholic Church, the bishop. And he says, “Okay well we need to build this church because the Virgen di Guadalupe appeared to me and said she wants a church.” And, uhhh, the bishop, because of, you know,  the lowly statues of this peasant, Juan Diego, said, “Well you know, why should we believe you, you need to have some proof, you need to find some proof.” So he’s kinda turned away. And the next day, or I don’t know, a week later I suppose, he’s walking by the same place, but he actually tries to go a different way, he’s kind of trying to avoid her I think (laughs), but she appears again! And she’s like, “Hey, why are you trying to avoid me?” You know. And he proceeds to tell her, ummm, you know, “They don’t believe me, you know, there’s no proof.” And she says, “Well, climb up on this hill and uhhh pick some roses, and uhh pick these roses umm to bring to this bishop.” And umm so he does that, he picks these roses. And he carries them in his ‘thilma’, in his shirt, uhh kinda like this, like makes a kind of pouch with his shirt and carries them. And then goes to the bishop and says, “Okay, she appeared to me again.” And uhh the bishop’s like, “Well where’s your proof?”And so he, he drops the flowers from his shirt. And you know, he’s thinks like, here’s my proof, the flowers, the roses. But actually, the roses, being carried in the shirt, had stained his shirt, his ‘thilma’ and there was an image of the Virgen di Guadalupe. And then the bishops all got down on their knees, because this is a holy thing, you know, and imagine this miracle, ‘milagro’, and so he got down on his knees. And there’s a church there today, right this is a church, a famous church, and that’s the story of that church.”

The informant said that his grandmother told him the story when he was much younger. The informant is half Mexican, and he included several Spanish words in his retelling of the story. The story seems very personal to the informant, because he learned it from a cherished family member and it ties back to his heritage. However, he said that he could not remember the name of the church, though he knew it at one point. Thus, the story meant more to him as a tale in itself, tying back to his grandmother, his Mexican heritage, and his religion, than a tale about a specific church. When he was telling it to me, his voice became more excited towards the end of the tale, when Juan Diego’s proof succeeds in convincing the bishops to believe him and build the church. The informant believed in the tale and regarded it highly.

Many narratives have meanings beyond the literary plot. This narrative has ties to heritage and religion. The informant, living in Los Angeles, doesn’t often get to celebrate his unique heritage and religion, and narratives like this help to reaffirm some of his beliefs. The story venerates both the Virgin of Guadalupe, the new Catholic church, and the efforts of a poor peasant man following the will of God. Thus, it is held dearly by a religious common-man. I found the tale interesting, more so because of the informant’s enthusiasm and emotional connections to it. I don’t know if I believe that the roses stained the shirt in the form of the Virgin, but I believe that something similar could have happened, or that the stain could have looked similar to her form. In any case, the connotations of the story are more important that it’s actuality. I think this legend is a good example of the strength of Mexican heritage and familial ties, the prominence of Catholicism in Mexico and its emotional power, and the tendency of legends to connect with the common-man.

It should also be noted that I didn’t know how to spell some of the Spanish words, specifically “thilma”, and I couldn’t find it online. I spelled it phonetically.

 

Queso Hand Trick

“So you write ‘Queso’ on your fingertips (Q-thumb, U-index finger, E-middle finger, S-ring finger, O-pinky). And then you would say, ‘Que’ (put down the ring finger and pinky) ‘Es’ (put down the thumb, index finger, pinky) ‘Eso?’ (put down the thumb and index finger) ‘Eso’ (put down thumb and index finger) ‘Es’ (put down thumb, index finger, and pinky) ‘Queso’ (put all fingers up). ‘What is that? That is cheese’ It’s a thing that we would do, you can come up with all these words with just one word. It doesn’t work in English because what and cheese are different, in Spanish it does.”

The informant said that when he found out about this spelling trick, he was mind-blown. He and all his friends thought it was so cool, and they would do it all the time in elementary school. It was still done in middle school sometimes, but the informant said that it would be done secretly, because in middle school kids are trying to seem cool, even though they’re not. Even now, at age 20, he seemed to enjoy playing the game and the clever spelling trick that it involves. It reminds him of his childhood and native Spanish language, which he doesn’t get to utilize as much here in America.

I remember playing similar games with other English words, such as “this”. I think the meaning of the game, “that is cheese”, is silly, but that’s probably why kids enjoy it so much. It’s fun to appropriate a language and make games out of it. This little hand game is creative and silly, so it appeals to children. I definitely understood what the informant meant when talking about the difference between elementary school and middle school. The games change a lot in middle school, when kids start becoming aware of their sexuality and the status quo. I think this spelling trick is cute and fun.

Simon Dice

“One person says things and the other people have to do them or they lose”.

Simon Dice is a Spanish name for Simon Says, a game that kids usually play among themselves. One person is the leader, called “Simon”, and they give commands such as, “Stand on one foot” or “Clap your hands”. These commands are preceded by the words, “Simon dice” or “Simon says”. If the leader does not say these words, the children are not supposed to do the action, and if they do they lose.

The informant played this game back home in Mexico when he was a young boy. He played it with friends at school. He said they he probably wouldn’t find it fun now, nor does he remember it being much fun when he was a kid. This is because it is very simple and not very exciting. He did not know that there is a similar version here in America.

I remember playing Simon Says when I was a kid. However, it was usually suggested by the adults as a group game to keep us entertained for awhile. We could play it at school or at camp. I think at one point I found it fun, because the commands can get pretty ridiculous. And when someone loses, by doing the action when you’re not supposed to, they stand out as the only one who messed up, and everyone laughs at them. I think it’s interesting that the exact same game exists in Mexico, showing that it has been around for some time and traveled across country borders. I also think it’s interesting that the name “Simon” is shared in both versions, although I can’t see a reason why this particular name is important. Note: In the Mexican version, the o in Simon has an accent, but I can’t enter it on the computer.

Pepito

Pepito is a character that shows up, or is the subject, in many Mexican jokes. He is a little child who is always getting into trouble.

An example of a joke with Pepito from the informant (a rough translation):

Pepito’s mom comes home after a long day at work and asks Pepito, “What are you doing, my son?” Pepito responds, “Nothing, just playing with what comes from my eggs.” The mother gets mad and yells, “Don’t you ever talk to me like that again, you little rascal! I can’t believe you just said that to me! You horrible son!” She slaps him around. The next day, Pepito is with his father. He is all beat up from his mother. He says to his dad, “Papa, papa, that is the last time you buy me chocolate eggs.”

The informant said that “eggs” in Spanish is a dirty alternate name for “balls” on a male. Therefore, this joke  rests on the dual meaning of the word and is kind of dirty. Pepito is playing with a chocolate egg in the joke, which is a treat that they have in Mexico. Inside the eggs are toys or trinkets. Thus, when Pepito says he is playing with the things inside his eggs, he is playing with his toys. But his mother thinks he is playing with his junk. The informant said that he learned this joke in middle school from a friend at school back home in Mexico. He still finds it a little funny. He said that there are many jokes that involve Pepito, some of which I found online.

I think I would find the joke funnier if I understood Spanish, but I still understand it. It is appropriate that the informant learned this is in middle school, because that is when sexuality becomes increasingly prevalent for children. I think it’s strange that half the joke rests of the mother beating up her son, because that could suggest that child abuse is more common in Mexico. I don’t know if that is true. The only similar consistent character I can find in American jokes is the dumb blond, who is constantly getting herself into trouble. The informant did not know about dumb blond jokes, which I found surprising. It just shows how much we take our own culture for granted, and how much cultural diversity there really is.

Piscatore

“So this is a game we play in Sardinia. Everybody holds the hand of the person next to them making like a circle. And there is a person in charge and he gives secretly everyone a type of fish. Like, you know, I would whisper to Samuel, ‘salmone’, salmon. And I would whisper into your ear, ‘you are, I don’t know, um, trout’. So each child is a type of fish. And then they, you know, they start singing this song, ‘We are fish and the fisherman is here to catch you and if I’m lucky I’m going to catch…Salmon!” And at this point Samuel is supposed to leave the circle and run around it while I try to catch him and if he’s able to get back to where he was and avoid the hands of the fisherman then he wins, and I have to go again. If I catch him, then it’s his turn to lead it.”

The informant told me about this childhood game after telling me about several other games he played as a child. It seemed that once he started talking about what he did as a child, he did not want to stop! He said that this was one of his favorite games to play, because it involved running around and was a little silly. It’s fun to make up fish names for people and then chase your friends around. He would normally play this at school during breaks with his friends. He has good memories of such times. Furthermore, he still remembers the tune of the song, which he sang to me. Now, as a teacher, he still sometimes uses games like this to teach his students Italian vocabulary.

This game remind me of duck, duck, grey duck, a game I used to play when I was in preschool and elementary school. The punchline is still the same: race your friend around the circle to the spot you just left. However, I like the edition of the silly fish names and the song. I think even now, as a college student, I might find this game entertaining, because it’s simple yet the chase is exciting. It’s interesting that the version I know talks about ducks, while the Sardinian version is about fish. Sardinia is an island off Italy, and they probably have a lot of fishing in their economy. A lot of culture centers around what and how people eat, so it makes sense that this version is about a fisherman, a “piscatore”, and his fish. Furthermore, it involves the fisherman chasing the fish, sometimes winning and sometimes losing. This reflects the reality of how hard it can be to fish for your food. I’m sure that the idea of chasing someone around a circle of people has many origins, because it is a simple and fun way to entertain a group of people. It is still interesting that similar versions of this game appear in many different countries. I like the idea that we grew up playing similar games, despite our disparate birthplaces.