Author Archives: Hunter Stomberg

La Mano Peluda

–Informant Info–
Nationality: United States of America
Age: 30
Occupation: Lead Associate of Operations, Chase Bank
Residence: Laguna Niguel, CA
Date of Performance/Collection: 4/19/2021
Primary Language: English
Other Language(s): Spanish

Main Piece:

The following conversation is transcribed from a conversation between me (HS) and my co-worker/informant (MR).

MR: So La Mano Peluda translates to “hairy hand.” It’s basically an old legend that my parents used to scare me with when I did something that I wasn’t supposed to do, like not taking out the trash or doing chores. So I would literally crawl into a ball at night and make sure that my legs weren’t hanging out of the covers because I genuinely thought that this terrifying hand would come out from under my bed and drag me by my ankles out of my room to who knows where.

HR: Hahahaha. So how old were you when you heard this story?

MR: It went back to when I was probably like 5 or 6. Because I was in school already, and if I didn’t do my homework my mom would be like, “If you don’t do your homework La Mano Peluda is gonna come and get you!”

HR: And do you know where this legend came from?

MR: Well my mom got the tradition from her family in Mexico, but after you asked me about it I did a little googling. Apparently, it was a man’s hand that had survived from the Spanish Inquisition. He wanted to seek revenge on the people who had pillaged his home or something like that. But when I was little, I didn’t really care about the origin and just got freaked out when I thought about an old hand hiding under my bed.

Background:

My informant is my co-worker from my job. She is essentially my supervisor and she enjoys helping me to practice my Spanish and telling me a lot about her culture and heritage. She was raised in a Spanish-speaking household by two parents who both immigrated to the United States from Mexico. She used to be intimidated by the legend of La Mano Peluda as a young child but grew to see it as a funny way that her parents made her do her chores. 

Context: 

The legend of La Mano Peluda was brought up while having a general discussion with my co-worker about her culture and traditions. She had told me about the legend before but I asked her to go more in-depth for the sake of the collection project. We were sitting next to each other on the teller line at work and we would chat in-between customers. 

Thoughts:

The story of La Mano Peluda is a classic legend that is prominent across a wide range of Latin-American cultures. I would equate it to classic American campfire stories where the goal is to scare and entertain the audience. I have heard multiple recollections of this folk tale and they all seem to stem from having a fear of something hiding under one’s bed. For particularly young children, the legend of La Mano Peluda is used as a sort of scare tactic to get them to do their chores, while in older adolecents it is seen as an entertaining folk tale. What is interesting is that there is a pattern of “hairy hand” stories across the globe.

For another “hairy hand” story, see:

Mary Curtis Special to The Star. “Dartmoor Nights and Scary Tales Stir Imagination: SA2 Edition.” Toronto Star, Torstar Syndication Services, a Division of Toronto Star Newspapers Limited, 1990.

Milagros

–Informant Info–
Nationality: United States of America
Age: 30
Occupation: Lead Associate of Operations, Chase Bank
Residence: Laguna Niguel, CA
Date of Performance/Collection: 4/19/2021
Primary Language: English
Other Language(s): Spanish

Main Piece:

The following conversation is transcribed from a conversation between me (HS) and my co-worker/informant (MR).

HS: So what are milagros?

MR: So they literally mean “miracles”, but from the perspective of my Catholic family, they are kind of like a blessing that we would do in my parents’ hometown. Like not a lot of people would know saints from my hometown. People hear about Saint Jude, you know, or, La Virgen de Guadalupe, but there are also lesser-known saints that are only known in the small towns that they had an effect on.

HS: So what is an example of a saint that was special and important in your town just outside of Guadalajara?

MR: Well in Guadalajara the saint that everyone knows is Virgen de San Juan de Los Lagos, but in my mom’s town of Guanajuato, they all know the miracle baby Jesus.

HS: So what are some examples of Milagros that you have?

MR: So you’d ask your saint, for example, I had a major issue with my car motor that would have cost me thousands and thousands of dollars and I didn’t know what to do because there was no way that I could afford that expensive of a repair. So I asked my saint for a Milagro/blessing to help me with the situation and it ended up costing half as much, and so I promised my saint that when I return to my town I will visit and show my appreciation. Another time, at the beginning of COVID, I asked the Miracle Baby Jesus from my parents’ hometown of Guanajuato for a Milagro to protect me and my parents. Luckily my parents never got COVID so I plan on also showing my appreciation for fulfilling my Milagro when I am home.

Background:

My informant is my co-worker from my job. She is essentially my supervisor and she enjoys helping me to practice my Spanish and telling me a lot about her culture and heritage. She was raised in a Spanish-speaking household by two parents who both immigrated to the United States from Mexico. She comes from a devout Catholic family and has taught me a lot of traditions that I didn’t know pertain to Catholicism, seeing as to the fact that I myself was raised in a Catholic family.

Context:

These religious traditions were brought up while having a general discussion with my co-worker about her culture and traditions. We were discussing a tradition/ritual of crawling on one’s hands and knees to honor one’s saint when she brought up the topic of Milagros. She had told me about these traditions before but I asked her to go more in-depth for the sake of the collection project. We were sitting next to each other on the teller line at work and we would chat in-between customers.

Thoughts:

I found this tradition to be very interesting. Although not discussed in this transcription, my coworker showed me a list of tributes that she planned on giving to her respective saints once she arrived back in Mexico. Included in this list were 25 dollar coins for the Miracle Baby Jesus and some pictures of her family. While researching Milagros, I found a very precise explanation from an online article, a “person will ask a favor of a saint, and then, in order to repay the saint after the favor has been granted, one must make a pilgrimage to the shrine of that saint.” This is a very cherished and respected tradition in the social circles of my coworker, and she emphasized how personal a lot of Milagros get, going on to divulge some sensitive details about how the use of Milagros has helped her family through particularly hard times. I had never heard of anything like this before and found the tradition to be rather beautiful and unique. I also came to the realization that Milagros are a way to keep people who have left their hometowns connected to their community in some way. Because the saints that people make their Milagros to are usually particular to the region that they are from, Milagros provide people with an incentive to come back home after they have departed.

The article where I found a good explanation of Milagros:

https://zinniafolkarts.com/blogs/news/36153281-what-do-milagros-mean

The Lake Arrowhead Hand

The following conversation is transcribed from a conversation between me (HS) and my friend/informant (DS).

HS: So what’s your take on The Hand?

DS: Alright so first of all we’ve gotta explain how this lake story came to be. In water skiing, there are different ways of holding the cable that are more efficient than other ways. In some cases, some ways of holding the cable are more dangerous than others. So there’s this way of holding it where you kind of wrap it around your back, but it’s really risky because there’s a risk of you losing your hand if things go wrong. So back in the 1980s, there was this girl who was water skiing in that risky position, right. And she messed up and her hand came right off. My parents talk about this story all the time and I’m pretty sure that it is a true story. The girl even lost her wedding ring because she was wearing it on the hand that she had lost.

HS: So what stories did people start to tell after she lost her hand?

DS: It kind of turned into a ghost story. People around the lake have reported seeing walking hands and all that kind of crazy stuff. They see the old, rusted wedding ring on the hand. They say the hand is still trying to find the body that it used to be a part of. It haunts all night swimmers at Lake Arrowhead and whenever you’re out on the lake at night, and you see a sparkle off in the distance, people wonder if it’s the shine of the ring on the walking hand.

Background:

My informant is a friend that I went to high school and now college with. He spends a lot of his summer in Lake Arrowhead and has a lot of folk stories and traditions that he has gotten from the area.

Context:

So I was visiting my informant up in Arrowhead last summer and I was with him and seven or eight other people. It was late at night and we were all on a boat in the middle of the lake. Besides us, there was no sound coming from anywhere- complete silence out on the water. It was also almost pitch black, with only small amounts of light coming from the surrounding docks. We were all winding down for the night, kind of relaxed sort of vibe. We all started telling ghost stories and legends that we knew in an attempt to scare one another. Amongst the stories was that of the Lake Arrowhead hand. A year later, I was in need of folklore stories and so I asked my friend to act as an informant for me.

Thoughts:

This is the second collection that I have done regarding ghost stories that involve hands, which is an interesting coincidence. I’ve gotten the chance to do a decent amount of reading on the subject of ghost hands in the process and found this example to be compelling for a few reasons. First, this folklore is unique to a small, concentrated population that lives on the crest of Lake Arrowhead. But even though it is local folklore, it still had properties of similar legends from around the world. It is almost as if we take stories from a predisposed list and then augment them to fit our local context, which is a trend that I found to be extremely interesting. I also found it interesting that these folk stories can be generated from true events. The fact that a woman lost her hand in Lake Arrowhead was true, but for some reason, we as humans find it fascinating to add all of this superstition to scary events. Why is that?

Yaldā

Main Piece:

The following conversation is transcribed from a conversation between me (HS) and my co-worker/informant (MK).

HS: So can you tell me about Yaldā?

MK: So it’s the beginning of the winter. So in the winter, nights are going to be longer and days are going to be shorter. They say the night is longer by one minute, so in that one minute, Persians celebrate it like crazy. They get fruits, they get pomegranate, they gather together. Lots of craziness. But you basically stay up all night to enjoy the night getting one minute longer.

HS: So is it more of a family celebration or is it celebrated in a group setting with the surrounding community?

MK: You can celebrate with the surrounding community, but it’s more of a family-oriented tradition. If you look at the history of the tradition, it was often celebrated by families but times are changing so I’ve celebrated with friends, more distant relatives, anybody, really. Grand meals and amazing food are also a kind of foundation for the tradition.

Background:

My informant is a coworker from my job. She has the same role as me and so we spend a lot of time talking in-between customers. She immigrated to the United States from Tehran, the capital of Iran, when she was 16 years old and has a lot of family here that she enjoys continuing her traditions with. She has enjoyed telling me a lot about her culture and traditions in our time working together.

Context:

So we were just talking in-between customers when I became a little curious. I work in an area that has a large Persian population, and according to my coworker, the concentration of Persians in this area is second only to Los Angeles. So back in March about a week before Persian New Year, I noticed that a lot of her Persian clientele were coming in to buy new one-dollar, five-dollar, and ten-dollar bills. I was curious about why this was happening, and so I asked my coworker about it. After discussing the Persian New Year, we discussed other important traditions that she celebrates, such as Yaldā.

Thoughts: Similar to the traditions involved in the Persian New Year, I found it interesting that a lot of Persian traditions are derived from a completely unique religion/tradition that I had never heard of before. Yaldā night is another tradition that has its roots in Zoroastrianism. According to the sources that I read, Yaldā night was actually considered to be an unlucky day, as it was believed that this was the night that the presence of evil spirits was at its peak, which would make sense from a historical lense because evil spirits were associated with darkness and Yaldā night was the longest night of the year. To avoid the inauspiciousness of this night, families were given the recommendation to stay up all night and keep each other company. What I find most interesting is how similar the origins of Yaldā are to the origins of the western tradition of Halloween. Despite strikingly similar origin stories, these two days evolved in completely separate ways.

For an exploration into the rich culinary traditions of Yaldā, see:

“Iranian American Chef Discusses Role Of Food In Yalda Day Celebrations.(Broadcast Transcript).” Weekend Edition Sunday, National Public Radio, Inc. (NPR), 2020.

Did you see the camel? No you did not!

Context:

This is a proverb that is commonly used among the family and friends of my informant. My informant is a coworker from my job. She immigrated to the United States from Tehran, the capital of Iran, when she was 16 years old and has a lot of family here that she enjoys continuing her traditions with.

  • “šotor didi? nadidi,” or “شتر دیدی؟ ندیدی”
    • Transliterated proverb:
      • “Did you see the camel? No you did not!”
    • Full translation: This maxim is essentially indicating that if you see something that is obvious that you were not meant or supposed to see, then you should act as if you didn’t see it. Put in other words, its true meaning is along the lines of, “you see nothing, you hear nothing.”
    • Explanation by my coworker: “So lets say you’re trying to hide someone from knowing something that they see or hear. We use a camel in this maxim because it’s a large animal and easy to spot, obvious basically, just like something that you may have just seen or heard. So basically, you obviously saw or heard something that is as obvious as a camel, but you’re making the concious decision to hide that information.”

Thoughts: I thought it was really interesting that a camel was used as an obvious sight. It shines light on the regional uniqueness of the maxim and perhaps illustrates that the saying goes far back in history. In modernity, there a lot more large, obvious things that could be used to replace the role of the camel in the maxim, yet it persists because of its place in the history of the region.