Author Archives: Olivia Garcia

Folk Belief –

“If a fly lands on you while you’re making a silly face then your face will freeze that way forever.”

Demi remembers hearing this from her mom at a young age and even her older sister would tell it to her. Even though she does not seriously believe the saying she still tells it to people when they intentionally make strange faces. She has a few classmates who I have heard the saying before and almost everyone in her extended family is also familiar with it.

This is an example of a cautionary saying to prevent children from doing something that adults do not like. It seems like an arbitrary combination of an event that could possibly happen (a fly landing on someone) but the chances of it happening are slim (while they are making a funny face). The sole purpose of this phrase is to scare children into not making strange faces although it possibly has an opposite effect and makes them more curious.

Customs – Swedish

My informant’s mother is Swedish and her father is black. To keep in touch with her mother’s culture she learned Swedish as a child and visits her family members in Sweden every summer.  Her grandmother lives in the countryside in Sweden and traditionally whenever my informant would go visit they would go to the forest to pick svamps, which is the Swedish word for mushrooms.

Picking mushrooms in the forest is a common activity in Sweden presumably because Mushroom’s are often used in Swedish cooking. In modern times, it probably reminds people of the time when their ancestors were alive and they picked and gathered all of the food they ate rather than buying it. Mushrooms are also a food that reflects the lush and moist terrain of Sweden.

My informant sees this activity as a fun pastime that reminds her of her Swedish heritage and bonding time with her Grandmother.

Folk belief – Narrative

My informant shared a story in heard from his babysitter while he lived in Puerto Rico. His babysitter was a black woman from St. Croix and she was a strong believer of mythical creatures, mystical occurrences, legends, witchcraft and magic. My informant does not remember extreme details of the story but he does remember her legitimate belief in it.

This is the story as he remembers it: One time late at night she heard footprints walking behind her but every time she turned around to look, no one was there. She then got in her care and drove home. Even when she got out of her car and walked up toward her house she continued to hear the footprints. When she got up on her porch and to her door she turned around as fast as she could and at the bottom of her porch she saw what she described as a hoofed man. Startled, she went into her house and nothing else happened. The next morning in the dirt along her drive she saw hoof prints leading up to her porch. She also said that a similar incident had happened to her cousin in St. Croix.

My informant said his babysitter was telling his this story to share her experience and not to scare him as it would seem based on the story content. The informant’s babysitter took a folklore creature and added him to a real life experience that she believed in. The creature she described is similar to pan or satyrs in Greek mythology or a faun in Roman mythology. These half goat half man creatures are also present in African mythology which is where my informants babysitter most likely got her belief from. There are also many accepted folk beliefs, myths and legends in Puerto Rico and the discussion of them is more widely accepted than in the United States.


Gnomes live in mushrooms that grow in our backyard.

Kim’s grandmother told her this when she spotted some mushrooms that had grown in their grass when she was young. Every time Kim would spot some mushrooms in the grass she would tell her grandmother and her grandmother would tell her a new fact about gnomes and their lives in the little mushrooms.

Kim’s grandmother is of African-American and white descent. Kim believes that her grandmother learned this story from her white side of the family since gnomes are an European folkloric creature. In this situation, the story was simply used to awe and entertain a young child. Even though her grandmother did not actually believe that gnomes lived in mushrooms she saw it as an interesting and imaginative story to share with her granddaughter.

Humor – Joke


There were three men on an airplane; a white man, an Asian man and a Mexican man. They each had with them some cargo from their country. The white man had a bunch of hamburgers, the Asian man had tons of rice and the Mexican man had loads of tacos. The plane was too heavy so the captain told them ‘You’re going to have to throw out some of your cargo.’ The Asian man dumped the rice and said, “I have enough of these in my country,” as he threw out some rice. The Mexican man threw out some tacos and said, “I have enough of these in my country”. Then the white man threw the Mexican man out of the plane and said, “I have enough of these in my country.”

The joke is an example of blason populaire because it makes fun of one specific ethnic group. A white classmate told my informant this joke in elementary school. My informant went to a fairly conservative private elementary school and the boy who told him the joke was most likely repeating what he had heard from an adult or older person with a developed political opinion. He remembers being offended by the joke but thought it was funny at the same time. The joke definitely made an impact on my informant because he remembers the joke approximately ten years after he was first told it.  The joke reflects the sentiments of many (white) Americans regarding immigration of Mexican people to the United States. People often use jokes as a way to lightheartedly and inappropriately share their prejudices.