Author Archives: Megan Angulo


The informant is a 20 year old girl.  She is Indian and was raised Hindu.  In this interview excerpt, she is talking about Diwali. She mentioned at the beginning that it is hard for her to distinguish sometimes what is Indian vs. Hindu.

Informant: There is this big book called the Ramayana. Basically it tells the story of this god, named Rama. The story of the Ramayana is very long. Like a lot of stories in Hinduism, it revolves around families and their kids and stuff and how the kids always do what the parents ask them to do. Because hinduism focuses around the idea, a couple main ideas, but one of them is that everyone has a duty and you are supposed to do it. So basically in the ramayana there are a lot of stories. There is like 4 brothers and their parents. And their parents are the king and queen. I guess the queen… I am pretty sure… was pretty evil. But basically, Rama was the oldest brother, the queen was like ‘okay, so because I said so, you have to be exiled to a forrest for 14 years.” and rama just did it. He was like “okay, well my mom said i should do this” so he just did it. There might have been another reason, but I am going off of what I learned in sunday school. and you know how much I paid attention in sunday school. So, I am sure if you googled quick synopsis of ramanyan… The general jist is that rama goes to the forest for 14 years, saves the world while he is in the forest and comes back.

Me: Go into as much detail as you can

Informant: Oh f**k, well I don’t really know that or have that for you. But basically while he is away he the forest he also kind of like takes down these demons because there is this bad guy named rabban, r-a-b-b-a-n, something like that. He tries to kidnap, cita, who is rama’s wife. He pretends to be a beggar and all this stuff and cita goes to give him a mango or something and she leaves this magic circle of safety that rama sets out for her. Just to feed this beggar because she is nice and everyone is nice. And he takes her and is like “muahaha now I have her” so rama has to go and save her. And also he goes to the forest with his younger brother, his second oldest brother, named luxxman, he is also a god. It is just like they are all stories of loyalty basically.  Anyways Diwali is celebrated because that is when Rama returns back after 14 years of exile. So basically the way you celebrate Diwali is like you put a bunch of lights out because that is what they did when he came back. Diwali is the festival of lights. SO everything you do revolves around candles. We have these candles called diya, which i think is spelled d-i-y-a. And you light a bunch of candles all around your house. You obviously pray and stuff like that. It is almost… I don’t want to say it is like Christmas… The only reason it is related to Christmas because it is all about lights and stuff like that. So that is why you celebrate Diwali, because it is a happy time when rama comes back. Also, all Hindu holidays go by the lunar calendar, so it is not like christmas which is always on the 25th, it is more like okay, when the indian people who run the world say when the holiday is judging by the moon, that is when we all get the memo that diwali will ahppen. usually it falls around november/december.

Me: Wait, how exactly do you figure out when it is?

Informant: Whoever figures out the lunar calendar tells us. It all goes by the moon. Maybe it is a full moon thing, I don’t even know, but everyone gets the memo

Me: Do your parents tell you, ‘oh wait today is Diwali?’

Informant: You can google it, easily. You can say, Diwali 2015, when it it? everyone knows. You don’t have to go outside with a moon-scope thing and figure out. that’s not our thing, there is someone who does it.

My analysis: The informant makes some insightful comments throughout her telling of the story.  Much of how I would analyze the festival, she already does. Growing up with the informant as my best friend, I have always been aware of the differences between Indian and American cultures. The informant always shows respect towards her elders. She has never truly taken all the gods and stories seriously, but rather takes them for what they truly are, which is means by which we are taught life lessons.

Peruvian Ceremony

The informant is a 21 year old girl raised in Lima, Peru. She moved to the states 3 years ago for college. Her first language was Spanish, and she learned English in the classroom. She never spoke it outside the classroom before coming to America.  She had a more stories about Peruvian culture than I realized was possible. This specific

Informant: Peru is very diverse. It has 3 different regions. It has the highland, the coast and the jungle. It is also very diverse in terms of its different economic statuses. There is a big difference between the very very poor and the very very wealthy, which is unique… not only to Peru… but to a lot of South American countries. There is a lot of tradition.

Me: Can you pick one thing to go in-depth into?

Informant: In the jungle, particually, there is a lot of tradition in using homeopathic medicine. It is like medicine from natural resources. Back in the day, when the Inca empire existed, the Incas gave a lot of value to the sun as their god. And also the motherland as their god. So there are still these traditions going on even now, in smaller, of course, less urban areas. For example, in the jungle we have what are called shamans. We also have them in the highlands, but they are really common in the jungle. They are basically… natural doctors… that heal. But they also do a very ceremonialhealing process in which they sing a song in their native dialect. Theydress up in very traditional clothing and also use natural plants for the healing process. So everything is completely natural. Everything is based on plants and different scents that they use to heal you. There is also this tradition, that I have actually done, in which people believe in plants having a supernatural power in which they can read your future. So when I went to Couzco, I went to this small little town in which there was a woman who claimed she could read the future through Coca leaves. She would literally throw them around sing in Quechua which is the natural dialect of the Incas. And would read your future.

Me: Was she right?

Informant: Yeah, she said that a big change was coming. And it was going to change me a lot and for the better and that I was not going to want to come back. I was going to leave to a place and not come back. And I was going to be really happy and find my passion. I never mentioned that I was moving to a new country. She said it all herself. The whole ceremony occurred in this small room. She had little stands and images of the virgin Mary, as well as a lot of coca leaves and a lot of traditional plants from the highlands. Everything was in Quechua. But she told me my future in Spanish because I don’t know Quechua. It was a very traditional.

Me: So you do believe that this all works?

Informant: I mean, I do believe that it may have some supernatural power. Coca leaves, especially in the highlands, coca leaves are just the most valuable thing in the world. Back in the day, when the Incas had to work in the highlands, they would eat coca leaves because they have high caloric power and would give them energy. It is also really good in tea. It helps with altitude sickness too. Everything in Peru, coca leaves.

At this point the informant began talking about a different ceremony using coca leaves.

My analysis: I found the informant’s account of these events as fascinating.  The way she was so passionate about all the different Peruvian cultures and traditions and could not seem to say enough about any of them was a different experience compared to some of the other people I spoke to. I am personally not sold on the supposedly psychic woman.  I felt as though her predications were similar to horoscopes in that they were overgeneralized. It would be impossible not to find something relatable in that description.  That being said though, 3 years later and the informant is still looking back on what the psychic told her and comparing how similar her life is to the prediction. There is clearly still a huge respect for and abidance by tradition and ritual in Peru.  I gather this is because of its rich history.  The connection to the land definitely comes from previous cultures, as well as the dependance that the people have on the land. When something plays such a large role in so many people’s lives, it is not surprising that it becomes sacred and revered.

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.

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.

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.