Author Archives: Jay Berajawala

Legend of Lost Gold in Mexican Cave

Informant Bio: Informant is a friend and fellow business major.  He is a junior at the University of Southern California Marshall School of Business.  His family is from Mexico but he has lived in Southern California for nearly all of his life.

 

Context: I was talking to Fabian about Mexican stories and folklore.  He originally learned this story at age 13 from his mother when he went hiking in mountains in which the specific cave is supposed to be located.  His uncle had previously gone exploring and looking for the gold in this area.  The tale is well known in the informant’s state of Michocoan.

 

Item: “So there’s this famous bandit, and, um, he like stole a lot of gold, but the thing is, he disappeared all of a sudden along with all his gold.  They never found his body or his gold.  People think that he buried it in some tunnels in the mountains.  The legend around the gold is that you can only find it if you are looking for it by unselfish means.  People who have been looking to get rich have never found the gold, but, people who have explored the cave for fun have randomly stumbled upon gold coins.  And then at night, sometimes you will the bandit’s spirit running on his horse”.

 

Informant Analysis: Ghost riders are an extremely common phenomena in Mexican legends and tales.  Unlike in the U.S. where ghosts and dead spirits are seen to be creepy, dead spirits are common in Mexican tales.

 

Analysis: Many Mexican tales seem to have an emphasis on intentions and values.  The bit about only the unselfish/non-evil searchers being able to find the gold out of virtue seems to be a common thread in other cultures across the world.  Mexicans are highly religious in general and also place great importance on familial duty, honest work, and honor.  If you perform honest work then no one criticizes you while you can be ostracized for doing dis-honorable, illegal or morally question deeds.  This tale seems to celebrate the fact that if you have good intentions and live purely, that you will indeed sew good luck and receive benefits in the end.

Christmas in Kentucky

Informant Bio: Informant is my mother.  She was born in West Virginia and spent her childhood moving around the country, eventually settling in Massachusetts.  She was exposed to many different traditions as she moved around the country as a child and still carries some with her to this day.

 

Context: I was interviewing my mother about traditions, stories and rituals she remembers from her childhood.

 

Item: “Our family was spread out across the US and Christmas was the one time that everybody went back home to be together, back in the Kentucky hills.  As a child I loved being with my many cousins.  It was a fantastic time.  We generally stayed with my paternal grandparents.    My grandmother woke up early Christmas morning and started preparations for the large Christmas breakfast.  Always consisting of biscuits, gravy, fried potatoes, eggs, sausage, fried apples and for the kids, my favorite – hot molasses and peanut butter sopped up with a biscuit!  After breakfast, the children opened presents.  Then my grandmother began the Christmas dinner.  They had a huge table; yet, the kids ate in the kitchen.  Actually, you were allowed to eat at the grown up table after you turned 13.  It was sad for me, when my older cousins left the kitchen table!  Dinner was incredibly good.  My grandmother and mom were terrific cooks.  After dinner in the afternoon, the kids got to play with the toys.  Then we began visiting other families in the community”.

 

Analysis: The Christmas breakfast was the first moment that all of the family members got to be together for; it was a celebration of the family being back together again.  The informant remembered the food the most vividly, maybe because the meals proved to be the most memorable times (when everyone was gathered around tables seated next to each other).

 

The fact that the children had to sit at a separate table until they were thirteen shows how, in the U.S., society truly separates childhood from adulthood.  With different schools, laws, and expectations, children do not get to have the privilege of a full life experience until they are old enough.  Thirteen years old seems a little young for the transition when compared to the voting age of 18, drinking age of 21 and other “marking” periods that occur much later in ones life, but, thirteen does represent a time in which most people have at least begun to hit puberty (and thus moved on from being a true child).

 

Christmas seemed to be a period of time that was sacrosanct.  Nobody missed it and it was a time when everyone came together.  The children were the ones who exchanged gifts while the adults merely treasured it as a time to be around their loved ones and catch up.  Despite the religious nature of the holiday, Church/religion does not seem to play a significant role in the informant’s celebration.

Funerals in Mexico

Informant Bio: Informant is a friend and fellow business major.  He is a sophomore at the University of Southern California Marshall School of Business.  His family is from Mexico.  He has moved around both Mexico and the U.S., spending significant time in Illinois.  He currently lives in Southern California.

 

Context: I was interviewing Stan about folk beliefs and traditions that he has been exposed to.  He shared with me the characteristics of Mexican funerals.

 

Item: “Um, funerals really depend and vary from person to person and family to family.  The range of emotion is very great.  Everything is acceptable.  Hispanic people are very expressive with feelings: wailing, yelling, screaming, and, pounding on the casket (in Colombia) are all acceptable ways of expressing yourself.  There’s no real, like, ‘you have to act in a certain way,’ as long as you have respect for the dead.  One can grieve however they see fit.  Most of the time, there is a casket and subsequent burial.  Husbands get buried next to their wives, and, wealthier people sometimes have mausoleums.

 

People who leave Mexico like to come back to be buried there.  Like, there was this famous Mexican song about this whole thing: Mexico my beloved, if I happen to die away from you, let them tell everyone that I am just sleeping till I come back”.

 

Informant Analysis: The family unit is really important in Mexico.  Religion is also important.  People always get anointed on the death bed as holy rituals are extremely important.  Your final moments and this tradition are important for the person to pass away with a clear conscience and be ready for final judgment.

 

Analysis: Death in Mexico is treated a little bit differently than here in the U.S.  Mexico has more of a tradition of being more open with the topic and treatment of death, seen with the Day of the Dead ritual, in which people celebrate the lives of their ancestors instead of grieving about their passing.  This is shown in the relative openness of grieving behaviors and emotions as compared to the accepted morbid mood that is expressed at U.S. funerals.

 

The significance of the song is that Mexican people have strong national and ethnic pride.  Even if they have left their native land, they still feel a strong connection to their true “home” and never forget their roots and heritage.  This is shown in their desire to have their final resting place be in the land of Mexico, being buried next to their family and closest partner.

No Sea Voyage on Tuesdays

Informant Bio: Informant is a friend and fellow business major.  He is a sophomore at the University of Southern California Marshall School of Business.  His family is from Mexico.  He has moved around both Mexico and the U.S., spending significant time in Illinois.  He currently lives in Southern California.

 

Context: I was interviewing Stan about folk beliefs and traditions that he has been exposed to.  He shared with me the following folk belief common among the people in Mexico.

 

Item: “El martes no te cases ni te embarcues” – never embark on a voyage on a Tuesday.  If you do, your ship will sink.  Even if you don’t believe it, people still don’t “test” it.”

 

Informant Analysis: Not sure about why Tuesday is bad, but people in his town heed this rule.

 

Analysis: Although the specific day of Tuesday might be related to some distant family member or someone in the village experiencing bad sailing luck on a Tuesday, the superstition has stuck around and pervaded in the town of the informant.  Most likely, empirical evidence would show no merit to the claim, but the people in this town must subscribe to the idea that the day of the week inherently has virtues or characteristics that are associated with it.

Little House Elves

Informant Bio: Informant is a friend and fellow business major.  He is a junior at the University of Southern California Marshall School of Business.  His family is from Mexico but he has lived in Southern California for nearly all of his life.

 

Context: I was talking to Fabian about Mexican stories and folklore.  He shared with me the following folk belief common among the people in Michocoan.

 

Item: “There’s, um, little house elves, um, they are mischievous and moves things in your sleep.  If you wake up in the middle of the night you’ll find milk outside the fridge, your shoes or socks out in random places.  The people who do that are these mischievous little house elves.  People, um try and stay up and try to see if they can catch them”.

 

Analysis: It is a way of explaining how things seemingly disappear or how random things move.  The elf part is similar to the cobbler elves in the U.S., where they come out and do things but you never end up seeing them.