Author Archives: monje

Help Your Fellow Neighbor

Context: TC is a 58 year old man from Barcelona, Spain. He is a close friend of my father. He came to visit my dad and I took the opportunity to ask him about any folklore he knew. He remembers a story he was told as a child regarding a proverb about helping your fellow neighbor. We sat on the poarch while we all drank beer and listened. 

TC: In a barn there was once a mouse who was looking for help. The poor mouse had realized that the farmer had brought in traps to catch him. He was scared and uhh he went to the chicken and told her, “ chicken the farmer has brought a mouse trap, I’m scared I’ll get trapped”, and the chicken replied “ so ? What do I have to do in this ? go away.” The mouse left saddened at the fact the chicken wouldn’t do anything to help. He then went to the lamb and said, “lamb can you help get rid of this mouse trap the farmer has brought?” and the lamb replied, “ I don’t have time for this, leave now.” The mouse left and went to the cow and said, “ hey cow uhh I’m scared the farmer bought a trap and I don’t know what to do,” the cow replied “ I could care less.” So the mouse left to his little home… sad that no one would help. Later that night, while the farmer and his wife were sleeping, they heard the mouse trap go off. The farmer told his wife, “you hear that woman something has landed in the trap, go on and see what it is.” The farmer’s wife got up and went to see. When she gets close to see….. it was a snake that had landed the trap. As the snake moved like crazy trying to free itself it somehow reached the lady and bit her. So then the farmer realizes his wife isn’t back and gets up to look for her…. And finds her on the floor and says, “ oh my god, it was a snake and it has biting my wife… What will I do ?! I don’t have much money to take her to the doctor” He then thinks and remembers he has heard that chicken soup is good to counter venom snakes…. He then rushes  to the barn and gets the chicken and makes soup out of her. 

YM: Wooow and bye bye chicken hahahah

TC: Yeah ! hahaha anyways he gave his wife the soup but she didn’t get better… so then he thinks, “ I have to take her to the doctor but I have no money.. Alright I will take the lamb and sell it on the way so I have money to pay the doctor.” However, his wife didn’t make it, it was too late, and the venom had done its job. Now that his wife was dead he didn’t have any money for the funeral. He goes on to say, “ I will sell my cow to a slaughter house to give my wife a proper tomb.” The cow dies and he buries his wife.

YM: oh my god!

TC: YUP! And the mouse who was asking everyone for help remained alive. That is why you should  help your fellow neighbor when in need…. Because if you don’t, everyone could end up losing… if there’s one, two, four, six people here, and something goes bad for one, something goes bad for everyone. That’s why the proverb goes “ Cuando ayudas a los demás, te ayudas a ti mismo.” 

Main piece:  “Cuando ayudas a los demás, te ayudas a ti mismo” 

Translation:  When you help others, you help yourself

Background info: TC heard this story from his uncle growing up. He thinks the story is a great representation of what happens when you don’t help your fellow neighbor or those in need. The story stuck with him throughout the years and now tells it to his children. 

Analysis: This was a great story to explain this proverb. I agree with TC and this proverb when it comes to helping your fellow neighbor. I do believe that helping others can create good karma that will later come back and help you in some form. Or that when you care for someone and you help them you also help yourself. For example, parents who help their kids go to college and get a degree to have brighter futures so that maybe one day their kids can look after them when they’re old. Not only that but when you help others, it makes you a better person, opening your heart to be more empathetic and compassionate. There’s even a study that was done, when you help someone you get the “helper’s high.” This happens because when you help others your brain secretes and releases “feel good” chemicals such as serotonin, dopamine and oxytocin. This proverb definitely shaped TC’s life and it taught him to have good morals. Proverbs are meant to give us advice on what is right and what is wrong and how we should behave or do things. 

Legend of El Serro de la Campana ( The Hill of the Bell)

 Context: AB is a 49 year old mexican woman that works in the auxiliary department for the USC payroll. I met her with her twice when I applied for on campus jobs. I asked if I could have coffee so she could tell me about known legends from her hometown. 

YM: So can you tell me about some interesting stories you know about 

AB:  Oh my god, yes ! There’s a lot of stories i know about ghosts and stuff, but I have a favorite one in which I had a personal experience 

YM: wow that’s awesome ! tell me more 

AB: Alright so it has nothing to do with ghosts but it is about an enchanted hill. So in San Miguel Tilapa, there had always been rumors and stories that ranchers from outside town would see strange things on this hill on their way to Puebla. It wasn’t specific when these strange things happened but that there were times at night when people would pass by this hill named El Cerro de la Campana, la campana because it was shaped like a bell. And…t is said that this hill would open up because it was enchanted. That the person that had the luck or had the vision could see this hill open up. 

YM: So it was selective ? meaning it only happened to some ? not everyone ?

AB: Yes! not just anybody, because that hill was enchanted. I guess it was for people that I guess the hill wanted to bless. 

AB:They would see the hill open. They would look and would see a store with a lot of beautiful things. So when people would see this they would become enthusiastic and would you know think “ wow what a beautiful store, I’m going in.” The story goes that the person who would enter the store or the hill and do it quickly and come right back out before the hill closes… And a lot of people know this… people that would go in quickly and come back out with an item they grabbed from the store… that item would turn into gold.

AB: But some people at the sight of these beautiful things would get excited and lose track of time and stay in there. They would stay in there for years. For them it seems like a moment that they were in there. And when the hill opens up again, and the person comes out he dies when the air hits him. 

YM: and that’s because they were in there for a song long that the air sort of kills them ? 

AB: aha right.. That is why they have to go in quickly and come right back out as soon as possible. You know people were found dead there and no one knew what had happened to them. The people would then remember that they had disappeared long ago

YM: wow and people knew of people that had come out?

AB: yes and this people would say that the item they had grabbed had turned into gold… and something actually happened to me and my sister on that same hill when I was 13 years old. I remember when I told my dad about what we’d seen he got super mad at us because during that time there were no crops of any kind. You couldn’t even seed any plant and on that hill we saw a plant with two HUGE tomatoes… I mean HUGE, out of the normal kind. And me and my sister were surprised to see this, my sister being the older one said we shouldn’t go up and pluck them since… sometimes there were snakes around. So we went our way… on our way back the plant wasn’t there anymore! When we got home I told my dad what we’d seen and he exclaimed “ why didn’t you guys pluck them ! it was money!” so the enchantment was the tomato plant. Had we plucked them they would have turned into gold. At the time I didn’t know about this, if I had I would have snatched those babies hahaha 

YM: hahaha oh my god… so the enchantment wasn’t just a store? 

AB: no, there were all kinds of enchantments that people saw that were strange but the most common one was the store

YM: that’s so interesting 

AB: And years after around 1994, people dug up part of the hill to plant cane and underground they discovered gold ! the government even came to claim the gold. It’s true… I guess the hill would bring out its gold in a magical way to the people it thought were deserving of

YM: What ! that is crazy! Amazing. So you believe this ? 

AB: Yes 100%, I think there are parts of the world or land that are more magical than we think they are

YM: Beautiful 

Background info: AB was born in Tilapa, Puebla. As a child she would often pass this hill and it wasn’t until her strange encounter with the hill that she learned about this legend. Years would pass by and never again did she see a strange thing . 

Analysis: This legend includes a memorate: personal experience explained by traditional narrative. This experience reinforced the belief that this hill is enchanted for AB. It also seems to have localized history inside the contemporary realm. However this history is unofficial. You can tell this legend was also reinforced by FOAF (friend of a friend) telling. Meaning these strange occurrences that happened to people were passed along from people to people. The legend is liminal, in between or right on the line between the real world and a supernatural world.