Author Archives: Francesca Ressa

Your Boob is Showing aka Somebody’s Thinking of You

An oicotype of the folk belief that “Somebody’s thinking of you” when the clasp and pendant of your necklace touch, the phrase which is usually said/signified by a person who isn’t wearing the necklace.

As told verbatim by informant:

“Yeah, people have that thing where the clasp of your necklace and the pendant touch each other and they say ‘Somebody’s thinking of you.’ ‘Your boob is showing, someone’s thinking of you’—my mom always tells me that. I always think I have a nip-slip or something. (laughing) She says it in front of people too. It’s more like now when I see it I think ‘Who’s thinking of me?’ It’s like ‘Who would’ve done that?’ She def brings it up. She says it to get my attention more I guess. Like when I tell my friends ‘Hey, your boob is showing’ they don’t know what I’m talking about, but I think I tend to say that so that they’ll look down themselves to find out someone’s thinking of them.”

This little dite is a legitimate folk belief to my informant. The forwardness of her mother’s version is humorous to say the least. Of course this belief/dite is something my informant knows to be subjective to girls and from the reference to “boobs” probably has its origin among pubescent girls. Naturally, this is a time when having someone think of you, especially romantically, comes into the forefront of young girl’s minds. In this case though, the sheer fact that my informant’s mother has her special signifying dite always reminds my informant of her. Since she’s picked up saying this dite, she consciously allows the person who’s “being thought of” the simple pleasure of finding out that someone’s thinking of them for themselves. To my informant, it’s a real thing, and even at age 20 she enjoys thinking about who might have her on their mind.

“Solamente son pajitas que le caen in la leche.”

The folk metaphor described verbatim by informant:

“When there’s something I’m bothered by, my Puerto Rican mother says to me ‘Solamente son pajitas que le caen en la leche’: they’re just little flecks that fly in the milk. You can see them but they’re just not important.

I agree with that philosophy to try and not allow the small things to bother you, you should save your pain and suffering for the big things that are going to come no matter what.”

My informant says that her mother has being telling her this proverb her whole life and that she has since said it to her own children in its original Spanish form. Her mother is from Cabo Rojo, Puerto Rico where as the oldest of 13 children she worked, cooked, and took care of her family on a farm for many years. She since has jumped from the United States, San Juan, Puerto Rico (where my informant grew up), the Dominican Republic, and back to the United States again. In the words of my informant, her mother was a strong woman who had a hard life. She says the proverb because it’s true and important to her and because it reminds her of her mother. It’s a metaphor that is applicable to anyone, as stress over little things is a not uncommon. The philosophy of not letting “flecks” ruin your “milk” is great, and is nowadays seemingly lost within the unnecessarily high-stress life of post-modernity. Everyone has little problems or “flecks” that fly in their “milk.” It’s a part of life. Save your pain for something bigger.


Duendes in this context are described as both little people or little children that are in people’s houses who can be mischievous take your things or want to play. They are creatures that my informant knew of in both Mexico and here in the United States.

My informant talked about duendes as both good and bad and then went on to discuss why she thinks Mexicans tell kids scary stories.

Her description of duendes verbatim:

“People they say those they call the duendes they say they’re little bit people some people said they’re little people and other people said they are kids. I hear two versions. I heard a story from my friend a long time ago because we talking about them and they say they scare you but they say they are play people, they like to play with you. They say they are mischievous? Something like this and they say they like to play, and they like to hide the things for you. Then another person say they are bad when you do something or when you are angry with them they are bad they do bad things to you. Also when I was a girl I had a neighbor and she was an old lady very very old. She was very very old. She has uh big house. She was living alone at that time, she was living alone in the house and she never come out. She’s always sitting in right inside it or behind the window. And she has the window with a gate, with the metal thing that always covered the window. I like to to go next to the house, but we stay outside by the street and we talking with her, she’s behind the window. And she always says she has duendes in her house. She would always say that ‘I have duendes in my house. And they play with me they come to be with me.’ And we we think it’s something bad or something scary and I remember I asked her all the time do you feel scary when they come and she say ‘Oh no, it’s not scary because they are good with me, they play and they come to be with me’ and I ask her ‘Really?’ And she say ‘Oh, yes, they are good.’ But I have friends that say they are bad and they do bad things but I never had that experience.

People in Mexico it’s very popular to scary the kids with uh scary stories. I think it’s something in Mexico we have. Now we don’t do that with my daughter. But we always use the scary stories to tell the boys or the girls. We tell because we expecting that if we say something then they are going to be good or they are going to be better. I think that’s why. Especially in Mexico. Especially Mexicans do. They scaring their children with scary stories because they hope if we tell about the scary stories we are going to be better or we are going to respect our mothers our father our brothers our family. I think that’s why people say that.”

There’s a lot to be said for duendes. I grew up hearing about them myself (I grew up in San Diego) and they were, as I knew it, creatures that took people’s things from them. I never believed in them but I didn’t know them to be scary either. I was also told scary stories by my friend’s parents who were Mexican about magical little people/creatures which scared the living hell out of me. That being said, I know first hand about Mexicans telling children scary stories. My informants theory that it’s to keep them in good behavior and establish respect for family, as most scary stories told to children probably serve that purpose. Duendes are interesting here because she knew them to be both good and bad. Either way, they are playful, and it’s interesting that they are sometimes seen as children rather than little people or creatures of some kind. My informant didn’t not believe in duendes, she just said she never had any personal experience with them, which makes them somewhat of a spectacle. With her neighbor’s description the duendes almost resembled ghosts in their likeness to children, since the name duende clearly distinguishes it from being human. It’s understandable that these entities seen as “bad” or “mischievous” would resemble children too because they can be impish without necessarily appearing threatening or dangerous.

Eberhart, George M. “Duende.” Mysterious Creatures: A Guide to Cryptozoology. Santa Barbara, CA: ABC-CLIO, 2002. 150. Google Books. Web. 22 Apr. 2012.

Mexican Refranes (Proverbs)

Here is a series of Mexican proverbs that my informant told me she uses or hears every day as she told me verbatim:

“If you are with bad people, like when somebody tells you a refrán. That means something to make you think about the things you doing.”

“Dime con quién andas y dire quién eres.” (Tell me who you walk with and I’ll tell you who you are)

“If you have bad company, if you have bad friends people can tell you hey you don’t do that because you have a bad friends but you say im not doing anything bad and then people say ‘Dime con quién andas’ ok? tell me who you’re with and I tell you who you are. ‘y dire quién eres’ people are going to think you are the same you have with bad people, but you are not bad. But people are going to think you are the same. ‘Dime con quién andas y dire quién eres.’ Tell me who you’re with and I’ll tell you who you are.”

“Quién con lobos anda, aullar aprende.” (Those who walk with wolves learn to howl)

“You are still with bad people and then you are not bad, you are a good girl but the other person are a bad person. No no bad only they are younger they… you are with a people but you are not bad and then we say ‘Quién con lobos anda, aullar aprende.’ Those who walk with wolves learn to howl. You learn to do the same.”

These two are similar in that they are about who you surround yourself with, in the second case, “wolves.” They’re about how you should be careful because we are easily influenced by others, and perceived in terms of people we choose to be with, even if you are good. Wolves are dangerous vicious animals that run in packs, so this is a warning not to get involved with bad people, who can turn you and make you “howl,” or be bad like them.

“Hacer bien, sin mirar a quién.” (Be good without looking at who)

“‘Hacer bien, sin mirar a quién.’ Be good no matter who are. Be good with a person no matter how a person is. That’s one we use more. Be good no matter. Be good without looking at who.”

This refran is about being good to everyone, no matter who they are, how they may seem. Treating others well is very important to my informant and she believes strongly that you shouldn’t judge others.

“Dime de que presumes y te diré de que careces.” (Tell me what you’re showing off and I’ll tell you what you lack)

“This is a nice one. You know especially we in Mexico, maybe you know people like this. People who, how how you use the word when you have friend and they said ‘Oh I have this Oh this cost me a lot money Oh this very expensive Oh mine’s is better oh blah blah blah.’ They always telling you they have the best or you know if I get if I have my dog oh yes I have dog and then I have a shoes oh I have a shoes or I have a new bed or some ‘I have this’ all the time I’m telling you what I have ok. They always telling you what they have. You know people like this. ‘Blah Blah blah.’ They are always trying to tell. And they they say ‘Dime de que presumes y te diré de que careces’ That means persons talk about they have they have when you realize what they have they have, really they don’t have nothing. That’s why. You telling me you have a lot a lot and maybe when I go to your house, you have nothing.”

Because my informant comes from very humble beginnings in León, Guanajuato, México, she can’t stand materialism and thinks that people who are obsessed with things and showing off are either fake, liars, or as the proverb suggests are lacking otherwise. This lack is likely a more metaphorical lack, like they have something perhaps emotionally or spiritually missing from their lives or are unhappy. This saying has probably become even more applicable since she moved to the United States, where image and things is a part of daily life and are even more in your face.

“No soy monedita de oro.” (I’m not a gold coin)

“If you have somebody… I don’t know if I say in the right way or no. Ok, you ah you like me, ah? Because if I say ‘I love you’ (Te quiero) that means I want you, and if I say you don’t want me, you don’t want me ah? This is when you have somebody and that person don’t like you and we say this most of the time, all of the time all the time because you know you find most of the persons they don’t like you. We answer ‘Oh good, I’m not gold coin.’ ‘No soy monedita de oro.’ If you are gold coin, everybody want you. If you are not gold, not everybody want you. Somebody can say ‘Oh I don’t like her,’ or somebody say ‘Well, I don’t like you.’ Well good, ‘No soy monedita de oro’ and everybody loves gold, so it’s good that they don’t all want you. Not everybody loves me. We use that every time, everyday, all situations. That’s the most popular in Mexico. ‘No soy monedita de oro.’”

I found this refran to be the most interesting because the connotation or the reason why she says it seems somewhat contradictory at first. I’m not a gold coin is considered a positive thing. It’s good that you aren’t gold because then everyone doesn’t like you, everyone doesn’t want you, love you. This tells me that self-esteem in Mexican culture has a different slant in that it truly comes from the self as opposed to from affirmation from others, and also in the sense that not being perfect is a good thing. This saying emphasizes uniqueness and the imperfection of humanity as good and safe. It’s not as important that everyone love you because not everyone is good and you shouldn’t want everyone to love you. That she ends telling me this particular refran, which she explains to be the most popular and commonly used one she knows from Mexico, it really highlights the motif that you need to be cautious with people. You don’t want everyone to like you. It’s almost a giant Freudian defense mechanism, because again, the other motif is that not all people are good, or good for you to be around, though you should treat everyone well (even if you don’t like them).

Dirty Jersey and Trophy Helmet: Sport Customs

A Rugby ritual and a Football tradition as told verbatim by informant:

“One of the team rituals we had playing rugby in college was that we wouldn’t wash our jerseys from the beginning of the season to the end of the season. Um, and so, um, I I don’t know what the why it started but that’s how it was told to me and and uh some people believed it made you look like a rougher tougher team um it certainly made us smell worse. And you know I stuck to that tradition um and you know rugby of course can be a very dirty game and particularly if you play in the rain you’d get incredibly muddy and so you know your shirt you could hang outside if it was really full of mud and then it would dry and cake and you could beat your shirt and get the mud off it but still you had to put it on for the next game, so. I tried to instill a similar tradition uh you know when I played rugby in medical school but the, the other guys weren’t as interested in keeping the tradition. (wife interjects, they both laugh, and he repeats) Some of them did it. It bonds you as a team but also again it was for some players a form of intimidation. If you went out there with a clean jersey you looked like a rookie. But if you went out there with a dirty jersey you looked like you really knew how to play the game.

There was a tradition in football too where in um in football you wear a helmet and in the beginning of the season usually the helmet’s nice and clean, it’s been freshly painted. Well, during the season your goal was to collect as many marks on your helmet as you could uh because we use our helmet to hit people and so you wanted to get scratches and scuff marks and you wanted to get at least a color from every team you played against. It was like a collection of trophies from the other team so you wanted to get a color of every single team you were playing against. And that showed you were always hitting people, that you were a tough guy. And you never wanted the coach to re-paint your helmet during the season. In college it’s a little tougher to do because they wanted to re-paint your your helmet all the time. So literally you had to sometimes take your helmet and keep it with you against team rules so that they wouldn’t paint it. I did it in high school for sure and then I tried to do it as much as I could in college.”

While both customs hold little symbolic or abstract meaning, as the informant suggests the factors of team bonding and intimidation signified by the dirty jerseys and marked up helmets play a big role in physically brutal sports like rugby and football. These traditions provide solidarity while still playing the mental game inherent in any competition. Rugby and football also are particularly dangerous, difficult, and “macho” sports, thus jerseys and helmets function like war-paint in battle, as players animalize themselves in the face of their opponents.