Author Archives: Megan Angulo

Native American Ring

The informant is a 75 year old Irish woman. The piece collected is a folk item, specifically a genuine turquoise ring set in silver. It was created and designed by a Navajo Native American and acquired by the informant in 1970.

Me: When did you acquire the ring?

Informant: “When I came out for a family funeral. My brother in-law knew some Native Americans who used to make jewelry and previously purchased other jewelry from them. After admiring the ring, my brother in law, Bill, gave it to me. He had probably acquired it a couple years prior. We were just talking about indian jewelry, earrings and necklaces… but I liked rings. The funeral was in Scottsdale, Arizona. When the person Bill was dealing with used to make the jewelry, he would engrave his signature in all the pieces, which in turn makes it more valuable today. At this same time, I also received another piece from him. It was a necklace, made on elastic with silver rings, and around the rings were little birds. The birds were made of Quartz, gold, yellow, white and pink. The necklace was not signed, but I received it at the same time as the ring.

Me: What do you think is the significance of the ring?

Informant:  Well it has feathers on it, which are typically used during certain ceremonies. It is important to their culture.

My interpretation: The ring is definitely handmade, and it does have a worn down signature engraved on the inside of it.  My thought is that the Native American that Bill bought it from probably makes a lot of these types of rings and sells them to Americans and tourists. The feathers, turquoise stone and general style definitely resemble what would be thought as “authentically” Native American. Whenever I go on vacation, to places like Montana, Wyoming, Texas and Alaska, I always see people selling jewelry of a similar style, which leads me to believe that while it may be handmade and one of a kind, it is part of a larger trend.

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The Princess Who Never Cried

The piece being performed is a story the informant first heard when she was a little girl, at 8 or 9 years old (~1948).  She said she thinks she heard it first at a little theatre group that used to put on plays.  She was adamant that it was definitely something told out loud and not read from a book.

Me: Can you retell the bedtime story about the princess who could not cry for me?

Informant: Sure, so once upon a time there was this beautiful princess in a kingdom far far away. She had everything you could possibly want. She had toys, servants waiting on her and beautiful clothes. She couldn’t possibly want for anything else. However there was something that really really bothered the king and queen… and that was the fact that the princess never cried. If she was sick, she never cried. If she fell and hurt herself,  she never cried. If any of her toys broke, she never cried. So the king puts out a proclamation. Anybody who could make the princess cry would receive a grand award. They could receive anything they want. So, they had court jesters who would come in and would do strange things. They would hit each other, be mean to each other, still the princess didn’t cry. Then they had some scary people come in with funny looking faces and scary costumes, and still the princess never cried. Then they had some people come in and start breaking up her dolls and toys. She still did not cry. And after all this, the king and the queen were so distraught. They were besides themselves. Remember, the proclamation said that anybody in the kingdom would could make the princess cry would receive  the award and have anything they want. So this one day, a little old lady, kind of dressed like a peasant, comes with a basket, covered by a towel. She approaches the palace gates and says, “I have come to make the princess cry.” The guards say, “get out of here you old lady, you couldn’t possibly a make the princes cry.” They were so loud that the king heard them, and he said “whats going on out here?” The guards said “this old lady thinks she can make the princess cry.” The king was so desperate, that he opened the gates and let the old lady come in. They get the princess and bring her to the old lady. The old lady takes the towel off the basket, and inside are a couple of onions.  So the old lady takes a knife and starts to cut and peel the onion. And with that, a tear wells up in her eyes, and the princess starts to cry. And everybody was so jubilant, finally the princess cried! And guess what, it only took that little old lady and a couple of onions to make the princess cry. Everyone was jubilant and lived happily ever after.

Me: What do you think is the significance of the story?

Informant: It is not a perfect world, you can live in a kingdom and be a princess and there can still be things wrong with your life. And eve though its a king and a queen, they were still concerned about their child, wanted her to be normal and they knew it was not normal for her to never cry/be emotionless.

My Interpretation: My grandma used to tell me this story before bed when I was a little girl.  I knew it by heart when I was younger, but I distinctly remember always asking her to tell it to me again.  I find it so compelling because the it does not have an obvious moral lesson as most short stories do.  My take away is to think outside the box.  There may be a simple solution to a problem that takes a little extra thinking to figure out.  When I was younger, I just used the story as an excuse to stay up past my bedtime and cuddle with my grandma.

Surf Culture

The informant went into great depth telling me about the surf culture he was surrounded by growing up.   I was unaware of this prior to speaking to him, but every surfing location has its own culture. Some of these cultures are more distinct than others, and there can be some overlap between them.  The informant is from Mission Beach, San Diego. Although he was not initially aware of it when he went out to surf for the first time, there is a distinct localism that governs the beach where he surfs. He first tried to go surfing at 8 years old. Upon entering the water, he said he was “basically chased and scared back to the beach” by the older surfers.  Over the next couple months, his next door neighbor guided him and showed him the ropes.  The neighbor served as a mentor. What the informant learned was that there was a set rotation that the surfers followed. In order to achieve a spot in this rotation, the informant had to earn the respect of the surfers who had been there for many years more than him.  There is a controlled line up for catching waves.

Here is transcribed some of what he had to say:

Informant: Take someone who has been surfing where I am surfing for 50 years.  I have only been there for 15.  Because they have been there for longer, they will rule the line up more than I would. There is a pecking order. We take turns getting waves because we have all put in our time and earned it. If someone that I do not know paddles out and paddles around me, I will personally get offended. They did not put in their time out there, so why should they get good waves. It is kinda funny actually, all of my best friends are 40 year olds because those are the guys I grew up surfing with.

Me: *Laughter*

Informant: We had an undercover cop who was supposed to infiltrate our line up. We never knew who it was. Maybe it was the guy who disappeared, who knows.

Me: Why? Because it was too aggressive?

Informant: It was too violent.

Me: No way.

Informant: The only way I know that is because I work for San Diego Life Guards, and one of the lieutenants knew that. Lifeguards in San Diego are also Peace Officers so they have to enforce the law. So I guess they were somehow involved in that. He told my parents, and they told me.

Me: Woah. Do people actually fight each other?

Informant: Yeah, look up the version of my spot in LA… Lunada Bay. Look up Lunada Bay violence or something. It is a really good wave.

– I take out my computer and search Lunada Bay Surf. What comes up is an article about localism protests –

Informant: there is a huge thing going on right now where they are protesting localism there. There is some whole… ugh {annoyed face}

Me: And that makes you mad?

Informant: Yeah, slightly. I tried to surf there, and I got chased out of the water, and I understood.

Me: Is that tricky though, because are they really good waves there that you can’t surf?

Informant: Yeah, I didn’t earn it out there, so they are not going to give me the time of day.

Me: Even though you are really good?

Informant: Yeah, and that’s how it goes. The thing is, I do know the system, so I know how to act there.

My analysis: The surf culture the informant grew up in completely shaped him as a person.  He values respect above all else, and has a tendency to snap at people when he feels disrespected. This localism that he grew up surrounded by is distinct to his area, but localism is something that does not just exist on the beach that he surfs. As demonstrated through the Lunada Bay search, localism is a characteristic of other surf cultures as well. There is no law book that surfers must abide by, yet there are certain practices common amongst them.  The logical thought would be that surfers ride waves based on their skill level, but that is entirely not the case.  Localism disregards much of the skill of the surfer and focuses on respect.  This is a great example of how folklore is passed along from generation to generation. The informant made it very clear in the interview that he would never bring friends to surf with him at home, and would get mad at anyone who tried to paddle around him. In doing this, he is continuing to spread the unspoken rules and beliefs of the surf culture he grew up in.

Hungarian Christmas

The informant is a 20 year old girl who grew up in Morristown, New Jersey. Her mother is Italian and her father is Hungarian.  When asked about any Hungarian customs she participates in, she told me about a family tradition at Christmastime.

Informant: Hungarians do christmas differently than we do here.  The tradition is that instead of geting all of your presents the day of, you get them all the night before.  Also, instead of Santa, baby jesus and his angels are the ones who fly around and give presents. Called Jesuska- little Jesus. He and his angels fly around, so what you have to do is going in the basement… I’m not sure if this is how all people do it, but for my family… we go in the basement and wait until we hear the bell ring and that means Jesuska has left and all the presents are under the tree.

Me: Why do you think Hungarians do this instead of Santa? Which do you think came first?

Informant: Santa is a Western thing.  It all came out of christianity, we know that, but this tradition definitely started before the whole commercialized thing.

Me: How long have you been doing this for?

Informant: My dad and grandparents all did it when they were young, and my brother and I have been doing it our whole lives

Me: Until what age did you believe that Jesuska was actually visiting your house?

Informant: Uhh, I stopped believing around 4th grade.  Same time as people stopped believing in Santa. Luke [little brother] still fully believes. He is all about it.

Me: Did you know about Santa too?

Informant: Yes, I also believed in Santa. I never put it together when I was younger that it was the same thing. It never conflicted. Jesuska is what all my family on my dad’s side talked about and Santa was what every else talked about. They were totally separate.

My analysis: There are dozens and dozens of different ways that people celebrate Christmas.   Because it is such a widespread holiday, it is as if different cultures needed to find a way to take some type of ownership over it and differentiate their celebrations from others. What is unique about the informant’s experience is that she simultaneously partook in two traditions from two different cultures and never felt any conflict between them. This is despite the fact that they essentially satisfied the same needs of getting presents under the tree. One tradition is not any more special or important than the other to the informant, they are simply different, representing different parts of her family. Great example of the way that traditions may be changed and modified for a future generation of people who are the children of marriages between parents from different nationalities.

Szent Gellért

The informant is a 20 year old girl who grew up in Morristown, New Jersey. Her mother is Italian and her father is Hungarian. Much of her family still lives in Budapest, Hungary, so she occasionally goes back to visit.  On one visit, she toured a place called Gellért Hill.

Informant: The hill was named after Szent Gellért (Saint Gerard).  He was a martyr in the middle ages. The first king of Hungary was Saint Stephen. Saint Stephen was great, and he brought Christianity to Hungary.  But after Saint Stephen passed away, people didn’t accept Christianity as much and tried to revolt against it.  Szent Gellért remained faithful.  Don’t remember who, but some guys put Szent Gellért in this wooden bucket with spikes in it and threw him down the hill.  So now there is this statue there to remember him. He is known as one of the Patron Saints in Hungary.

My analysis: This is one version of tens of legends with the same principle: someone stands up for a belief, gets killed for it, and then is worshipped/cannonized as a saint for it after the fact. Wherever there is a distinct belief, there is a story with a plot line similar to this one.  There are specifically Saint Gerard figures in other countries, such as Italy and Romania.