Author Archives: Lindsay Huerta

The Unlucky Loteria Tab

Informant: CS ; Interviewer’s best friend

“So when you play loteria, early on you start to pick your favorite tabla.”

Interviewer asks: “why do you think that is?”

“Oohh I’m not entirely sure. Like if I like had to take a guess, I think it’s because of um… repetition. Like you form a routine on one single playing card, so you begin to associate it with like good vibes.”

Interviewer asks: “can you elaborate?”

“Yeah so, there are certain like superstitions that go with playing loteria. The main one is that if you switch your playing card after losing, you’ll never win while you play that round. It’s only until you like, form a relationship with one of the 10 playing cards that you’ll win.”

Interviewer asks: “So what’s your lucky tab?”

“It’s 3.”

Interviewer asks: “Do you believe in that superstition?”

“I do! The saying we have in Spanish is ‘te salaste’. Loosely translated, it means ‘you salted yourself’. As in like, you cursed yourself for that round. Almost like you jinxed your own winning. It like gets serious when you’re like playing with older folk and they start betting on the game, like gambling almost. And like the unspoken rules are taken really seriously.”

interviewer asks: “do you think the unspoken rules are meant to be taken seriously?”

“I do. I think that when you switch your playing card to another, you’ll start pulling cards that match the one you switched out. Almost like the game is taunting you.”

my interpretation: This superstition runs deep. I remember the elders in my family yelling at me everything I even hinted at switching my playing card. They would often say that I would jinx myself. In hindsight, I think that the idea of having to stick with the same card could be a metaphor for monogamy. In theory, you build a relationship with this card and you start almost bonding and memorizing the playing card. If you “cheat” on the playing tab/card or toss that tab out, the cards that are pulled in the next round will almost always be matching your old playing tab. Almost as if the game reminds you of how good you could’ve had it if you stayed put.

Los Duendes

Informant:TH; Interviewer’s Sister

“Okay okay, I have one more you can write about. I know that duendes are like a thing in Mexico, but did you hear that my grandma pissed off a duende?”

Interviewer shakes their head.

“So according to my aunt, when they were crossing the river to get here [the United States], they like, found little rocks in a circle with stuff in it. And at first my grandma thought it was a campfire, so she started piling on like leaves and shrub and stuff. And they used it as a fire for the night. In the morning, my aunt was missing her lucky bracelet and her glasses. And my uncle couldn’t find his cross necklace. And so our tios have a theory that a duende’s belongings were in the little rock circle. And when my grandma used it as a fire all their belongings burned up.”

Interviewer asks: “Can you elaborate as to what that means? What is a duende and why is it taking things?”

“Yeah, so. Um, a duende is like…” *they take a moment* “how do I explain it? They’re like um, little elves or like creatures rather. And they can either be very nice or very mean. Kinda like how the witches on TikTok are always like “don’t piss off the fae or they’ll like curse you or whatever’.They’re essentially little guys that can either reward you or curse you. And so in the context of the story, the duende whose things were allegedly burned started stealing their little trinkets as retaliation.”

My interpretation: I don’t think this happened completely. I do think my uncle and aunt were scatterbrained trying to cross into a whole new country and they may have lost a few things, but the idea of my grandmother angering a mystical little being is the funniest thing I’ve ever been told. I think My uncle and aunt started telling the kids in our family this story as a way to build lore to their journey. I don’t necessarily think there needs to be a lesson to be taught here, I think it was more for embellishment.

Drop the Roach

Interviewee: ES; Interviewer’s Housemate

“So this is really common in stoner culture. The superstition is that if you drop the roach someone’s sleeping with your partner.”

interviewer asks: “Can you explain what a ‘roach is’?”

“Yeah so like-” *interviewee shuffles around on the bed for a second and pulls out an old mint tin from under their pillow*

“a roach is like the, um, the end of the joint? Kinda. It’s the part closest to the filter.” *interviewee pulls out a soot covered filter from their tin*

Interviewer asks: “so can you explain where the superstition come from?”

“Not entirely sure! When I first started smoking, I accidentally dropped the joint on the floor and my friend at the time was like, ‘yoooo someone’s fucking your bitch’. I genuinely-” *interviewee begins to laugh* “I really don’t know where that came from but apparently it’s a thing. Almost like a sign of bad luck?”

My interpretation: I think this is the funniest thing to come out of stoner culture. It feels synonymous to the Mexican saying “que te robaste?” when you get the hiccups. I think it’s just a way to point out someone’s anxiety or clumsiness when doing the activity. It’s treated more like an omen of bad luck. (I’ve never dropped the roach, is all I’m saying)

El CuCuy

Informant: TH; Interviewer’s Sister

“So our parents, uncles, aunts- the elders in our family I should say- they would often tell the younger kids: ‘El Cucuy te va llevar si no te portas bien’. I thought it was really funny to like see these kids freak the fuck out over an imaginary character.”

Interviewer asks: “Can you, in your own words, explain who the Cucuy is?”

“Yeah so in a nutshell, he’s like the LatinAmerican version of the boogie man. Legend has it that he waits in the closet of naughty children. Or even, like, under their beds, and he waits for children to misbehave so he can take them.”

Interviewer asks: “Where does he take them?”

“How should I know? He scared the shit outa me.” *interviewee lets out a chuckle*

Transliteration: “The Cucuy you is take is no you behave good”

Translation: “The Cucuy will take you is you misbehave”

My Interpretation: This was just a way to scare kids into behaving and staying away from trouble. My family used to tell my sisters and I all the time, and we sometimes still do to the younger ones. It’s funny, but it’s also a way to scare kids into behaving. The most productive manner? No. But it did the trick!

The Women in the Trees

Informant: TH; Interviewer’s Sister

“Dude, okay do u remember when-” *interviewee adjusts in their seat* “when we would go camping and our uncle [REDACTED] would tell us that story about the white trees?”

Interviewer, in fact, did not remember.

*interviewee gasps and smiles before cracking their knuckles*

“So this is how he would tell it:

There was a man and a boy alone in the woods, just sitting and waiting. The man was a drunk and the boy was his son. One night they get into a screaming match, right? And they, like, separate for a bit. The boy takes a walk and the man stays at the campsite- I think that’s what happens?”

*interviewee pauses to think*

“Yeah, anyway. They go their separate ways, and like the boy is walking and the man is drinking. The boy is on his merry little way when he gets stopped by a woman in a white dress. And like most people would assume, the boy thought she was lost. And so he leads her back to their campsite. Mind you, this lady hasn’t spoken a single word. She’s like just following him back.

And they get back to the man who is working on another handle. And he goes white as a ghost-” *interviewee uses their hands to rub their face*

“White. Pale. Anyway. The man says to the boy ‘Why do you have that poor woman?’ and the boy is like mad confused. He’s all like ‘I’m not tryna argue with you’ and so on. The man starts screaming going ‘let her go! let her go!’ and at this point the boy is mad and confused so he turns to look at the woman and her head is missing. As soon as he starts screaming, he lets go of the headless body, and like a shoe falls from the sky. The two look up and lo and behold: a bunch of women hanging by the neck in the trees. The man and the boy were never heard from again.”

My Interpretation:

I think it was another way to teach a family lesson. At the time our uncle said told this to my sister and I, we were constantly bickering and fighting. We are close in age, so we were constantly at each other’s neck. In my opinion, I think the story is essentially: treat your family right or you’ll die in bad standing. It’s a weird way to go about it but it worked!