Author Archives: emmorris@usc.edu

Spanish Proverb 2

Original Transcription: “A quien madruga, Dios le ayuda.”

English Transcription: “One who wakes up early, God helps him/her” or “God helps those who wake up early.”

This is another common Spanish proverb. The literal translation of the phrase is “one who wakes up early, God helps him/her.” If this proverb were translated into English syntax, it would read, “God helps those who wake up early.”

The Spanish word “madrugador(a)” refers to an “early riser” or one who wakes up early in the morning. The speaker uses this proverb to describe themselves when they have woken up early, usually before the other members of their family. Due to its meaning, the phrase becomes a form of bragging that shames those who choose sleep over work. Therefore, the proverb inadvertently accuses another person of laziness. If the person being addressed likewise wants God’s help, they must wake up early and begin working.

Although simplistic, the saying intertwines the Spanish cultural values. The proverb communicates the importance of good work ethic and reinforces the value with religious beliefs. The English equivalent of this proverb is “the early bird gets the worm.” The English phrase is a secularized version of the same proverb since it teaches that rewards come directly from one’s hard work. The English proverb places the power of reward into the human’s hands as opposed to the Spanish idea that rewards for hard work come from God.

 

Halcyon House (Washington, D.C) Albert Clemens

Transcription: “A couple generations later, the house was bought Samuel Clemens’ (Mark Twain) nephew, Albert Clemens. He owned it in the late 1800s. Albert believed that as long as the kept building the house, he wouldn’t die. He built stairways to nowhere, doors that open into nothing, and rooms within rooms. He was adamantly opposed to electricity. He didn’t let anyone bring anything electric into his house. They say that to this day, people will walk into the house and their phones will stop working or light bulbs will burst. When he died, he wanted the coroner to put a pick-ax in his heart to make sure he was dead.”

The same informant who works for a Washington D.C. tour company told me another story involving the Halcyon House. Several decades later, the house was owned by Samuel Clemens’ nephew, Albert Clemens. I did not realize the historical significance of Samuel Clemens until my informant told me I would recognize his pen name, Mark Twain. Therefore, the Halcyon house is not only connected with American history, but American culture.

I do not know much about Samuel Clemens or his nephew, but according to my informant, Albert suffered from mental health problems. Albert convinced himself that he would not die as long as he continued to build and renovate the Halcyon property. Albert likely attached some spiritual significant to the house or associated it with his life purpose. In hopes of postponing his death, Albert built designs that would inhibit the completion of the house. He built stairways to nowhere, doors that open to a wall, and rooms within rooms. He believed these paradoxes of design held the key to his immortality. Albert’s superstitions were not limited to structural design and immortality. He also was opposed to electricity and had a fear of being buried alive. His rejection of electricity could be explained as a fear of progress and technology.

This story combines multiple genres of folklore since it documents the superstitions of an individual, includes a legendary figure, and the history lives on today in the form of a ghost story.

 

Spanish Proverb 1

Original Transcription: “Más vale prevenir que curar.”

English Transcription: “It is better to prevent than to cure.”

This proverb came from Spain. The literal translation of the phrase is, “it is better to prevent than to cure.” One would use this proverb when you do something that you do not need to do, but you do it as a precaution. For example, a student might say use this phrase while studying their notes in case their professor gives a pop quiz the next day. By reviewing their notes even when unnecessary, the student can prevent (cure) a bad grade. This proverb is a mark of the hardworking, cautionary individual.

English has a proverb that is very similar to this Spanish saying. I thought of this Spanish proverb as the equivalent to the English proverb, “better safe than sorry.”  Both proverbs seek to encourage hard working, forward-thinking behavior. If one is prepared for a variety of possible futures, they will never fall into a precarious circumstance. I found it interesting how these shared cultural values were translated across the world.

 

La Llorona

Transcription: “In Mexico, there was supposedly a woman who drowned her own kids in the river and then regretted it. Her name is La Llorona. She wears a white dress with a veil–wedding attire–because her husband left her. She appears at all the rivers, crying “ay, mis hijos.” When I go to Mexico, there is a river down the street from my grandma’s house and they say that she appears there late at night. All the kids go down there to check it out, but I have never gone because I was scared.”

For another version of this legend, see https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/La_Malinche

This collection is a variation of the La Llorona legend. The Spanish word llorar means “to cry.” Therefore, La Llorona is the feminized variation of crying. The most common structures of the legend are present. The story takes place at a river and involves a woman who drowned her children. However, the version I collected has more specific details. She includes La Llorona’s clothing, a white dress and veil. At first, my informant did not remember the story line that La Llorna’s husband left her, but after mentioning her clothing, she remembered the meaning behind her attire.

My informant likewise mentioned the words La Llorona is said to be weeping. The phrase, ay, mis hijos, means “oh, my children” which relates back to the idea that La Llorona drowned her children then regretted her actions. I assume that variations of the legend that provide different motives for La Llorona would have her call out different words.

My informant’s variation of the legend was unique to others I have heard since she had personalized the legend. The river by her grandmother’s house in Mexico is rumored as a site for La Llorona. The purpose of the legend is to act as a safety precaution that scares children away from rivers at night. The legend fulfilled its purpose with my informant since has never ventured down to the river at night out of fear. Nevertheless, my informant claims that the legend has had the opposite effect on the those who are fascinated by the supernatural and investigate its validity.

 

Sports Tradition: Atlético Madrid vs. Real Madrid

Transcription: “The rivalry is intense. If Real Madrid wins a big game, fans go to Cibeles, and if Atlético wins, they go to Neptuno. The players come too and will jump in the fountains if it was an important game…The only time I will cheer for Atléti is when they are playing Barce.”

 

Similar to how Americans have several traditions surrounding football, Spaniards have many fútbol centered traditions. Two teams in particular, Real Madrid and Atlético Madrid, have inspired colorful victory celebrations.

Elaborate sculptures and fountains are scattered throughout Madrid, often times centered in the middle of large roundabouts. Each of the soccer teams has their own fountain that functions similar to a mascot. Real Madrid’s fountain is named Cibeles and Atlético Madrid’s fountain is named Neptuno. When one of the teams wins, especially if it was an important game, fans hurry to the respective fountain where they are joined by the team. The team members will even jump into the fountain depending on the importance of the game.  

Since Atlético Madrid and Real Madrid are rivals, the fountain celebrations following their games are chaotic. The fact the fountains are only a few streets apart amplifies the intensity of the celebration. Overall, the tradition signifies a coming together of a community to honor the athletic achievements of their soccer team.

I would compare the rivalry between Real Madrid and Atletico Madrid as the Spanish equivalent to the rivalry between UCLA and USC. Both are “cross town rivals,” and when the two teams play each other, the game brings out much tension between fans on each side. The only time Real Madrid and Atlético support each other is when one of them is playing against Barcelona, a common enemy.