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Alien Sightings

Interviewer: Do you know any legends, or experienced any ghosts or aliens or things you didn’t know how to explain or whether they were true or not?


Informant: Well this definitely happened to me but I don’t know what it was. It was not conventional like I don’t know how to explain it.  We were out by Coyote Creek, south of where we lived and before they built it up.  And we were just kind of pulled over and I always used to look up.  It was really quiet and there were no really big buildings around. And I looked up and I was like “what is that light” and I just saw this light moving.  But it wasn’t moving in a straight line.  It was moving in really jagged and really weird angles and that’s when it caught my eye.  Like I couldn’t figure out what it was.  And that’s when I said to the person I was with, “look!” And I pointed and it was way up there and it started doing these jagged movements.  But the thing that was the coolest was that at one point it stopped and it broke up into three lights and split off into three different directions.  And I told the person I was with not to forget because in fifty years it might mean something


Interviewer: At the time did you know what it was or did someone tell you what they thought it was?


Informant: I didn’t know what it was but I thought maybe it was a UFO.


Interviewer: And did you tell anybody?


Informant: Just the person I was with and then you. But this was before I was into sci fi and I was only about 17 at the time.  But years later I remember a report on the news and the person recalled how they saw the same thing, a single objects moving in odd jagged angles that conventional planes couldn’t and then the splitting off of three different lights and then it just disappeared.


Background: Maria Juarez-Reyes is the mother of the interviewer and a firm believer in the supernatural or in sci fi as a genre. This was her first in person encounter with something she could not explain and it influenced her love of sci fi.  Culturally, aliens are not something that are traditionally believed in, but is greatly influenced by popular culture.

Context: This interview took place during a weekend at home with family.  The informant first experienced this episode when she was around 17 and with her boyfriend at the time.  They were on a date in San Jose, California and she recounts the experience more than once.

Analysis: This account is considered to be a legend based on the time the story takes place and the debate about whether it is actually true or if aliens actually exist. To those who believe, the story always has validity but varies according to belief. The performance also adds to the believe-ability and the informant also said to experience chills while telling the story which added to the truth of the account.  Maria Juarez-Reyes firmly believes that she saw something unexplainable that could have been aliens but it is unknown.



Mexican Boogieman

Interviewer: Do you have any legends or superstitions or stories of magic that you’ve been told or that runs in the family or any Mexican folklore?


Informant: So I’ve heard this story and variations of this story multiple times and from different people.  This one is the one I know best because it involves our family.  It is more of a story that exemplifies a belief of my great grandparents and some of the superstitions they had in Mexico before coming to the U.S. But basically it was told to me and my cousins to explain why my oldest aunt on my father’s side was not allowed to come around the family anymore. I think I was ten or eleven when I first heard it and my grandmother told it in Spanish but my dad would translate.  But it started back when my grandmother and grandfather lived in Brawley, Ca. which was close to the border in San Diego county.  And they lived in an old two story house and the boys would go to work with my grandfather and the girls would stay home.  But my oldest aunt was said to be very pretty and she wanted to leave home and was seeing this older man who was proposing to take her and run away together.  And my grandmother found out about him and her friends who had come from the same part of Mexico as her, told her that the man was from an old part of Mexico and they believed that this man was part of a family in which the devil came from. So my grandmother warned my aunt and told her to stay away from the man.  Until one day the boys and my grandfather had gotten home from work and my aunt was angry because my grandmother kept chasing off the man, and wouldn’t let my aunt see him. My grandmother kept calling him the Spanish equivalent of the boogieman or the devil, the “I Cucuy” but I forget the word now. But so my aunt went up to her room because she was angry and then a little bit later when they were getting ready for dinner they heard screaming and rustling in her room.  So my dad and my other aunt ran upstairs and my grandfather ran around the side of the house.  And when they got to the room my aunt was on the ground screaming and they looked on the window sill, the window was open, there were two hooves coming off of the sill.  My grandfather said there was a ladder on the outside of the house but no one there.  So after this happened the family left the house and they told my aunt that she couldn’t come with them because the bad energy or the bad magic would follow them.


Interviewer: So the hooves were said to belong to the devil?


Informant: There’s an old folk belief that the devil has a somewhat animal form and so it made sense that when my grandmother said the man was from a family associated with the devil that my father and aunt would see hooves.


Interviewer: So they never returned to that area?


Informant: No, they moved north and tried to distance themselves from the area as much as they could. They all firmly believe that this was some dark spirit magic.


Background: The informant, Joe Reyes, is a Mexican American 2nd generation in America. His family immigrated from a rural part of Mexico and migrated with the crops through California.  His father was one of seven children with both brothers and sisters.  He learned much of his folklore from his father who learned it from his father and so on.  Joe Reyes has a brother and a sister who were also told some of this folklore passed it down to their own families.

Context: This interview took place during a weekend at home with the family.  Sitting in the living room on a Saturday night and asking about family history and folklore.  The informant first heard the narrative when he was around eleven or ten years old at a family gathering after he kept asking his father about his estranged aunt.  Upon starting the tale, other sisters of the informant’s father, had to leave because of the upsetting nature of the story.  The informant is not sure whether or not he believes it but his father’s family had the belief deeply engrained in them.

Analysis: This was the first time I had heard this story and I was deeply affected by it.  The story also was in line with much of the Mexican folklore surrounding the form and image of the devil. It was also interesting that my grandmother who was in the room understood the name of that was used to call the man and could recall it from stories and legends she had heard in her youth.  But this version is not a child’s tale and varies in structure as it pertains to my family.



Doctor Practical Jokes

Main Piece:

Interviewer: Did you have any jokes played on you while you were first being trained as a doctor?

Informant: Yeah, there was one that really stuck with me.  But when I was a resident and was on call, some of the more seasoned nurses and older doctors would page the interns with different codes.  Some are very serious like code blue, which is basically like a call for help for a more serious patient who may be dying.  But then there are other codes that are less serious, but interns have to respond to every call, so every page to them is important.

Interviewer: So what was the worst page you got?

Informant:  Well as a practical joke I was paged a “code brown”.  And of course, being an intern I rushed to the patient thinking that someone was dying or something really serious was going on.  But in reality a “code brown” was another way of saying a patient had pooped or needed their bed pans cleaned out.  So all the more seasoned doctors and nurses knew to avoid the code but paged interns with it as a joke.  So if you ever become a doctor, know your codes! And if you don’t know, ask before unless you want to have to clean up some unwanted waste.

Interviewer: Wow that’s actually really funny.  Were you mad about it when you found out?

Informant: I was annoyed when I found out, especially since I took it really seriously.  But after it happened and now looking back on it, I think it’s really funny and that’s why I wanted to share it. 


Background: The informant is now a full time practicing physician.  She knew about this piece of folklore because she experienced it in person and then passed it down to me.  To her it reflects one of the many hurdles she had to go through while being an intern and then a resident.  The practical joke was considered a rite of passage to her and now that she can pass it along, it’s even more meaningful.

Context: This interview took place over the phone while talking to my mom who referred me to a coworker who had told her this joke while they reminisced about internship.  Then I talked to the informant and she was able to share with me directly the story she had told my mother.

Analysis: This piece was really interesting to me because I have heard a lot about serious folklore for doctors and the things they go through but this one was pretty funny.  Even though this community is really rigorous and the process of becoming a doctor if often really hard, it shows that there is still jokes and folklore that is really meant to lighten the mood and poke fun at each other.

Ching Ming Festival

Interviewer: Do you have any traditions or ceremonies that you and your family perform or engage in? Any holidays that are unique to your culture that you celebrate.


Informant: The celebration is Ching Ming festival. And I have been doing it with my family since I was born.  And basically you go to the cemeteries in which your ancestors or your elders are buried, sometimes they aren’t directly related to you.  But there are specific days in Chinese culture when you go to the graves and do this, but my grandmother chooses a different day for our family because she doesn’t want to go when it’s too crowded. But we bring things for the grave, fake and real flowers, we normally do yellow rose and red roses and we have a system of who we see first.  We go to the grave and we clean it and replace the flowers and then you bow in front of the grave.  We start with my grandmother’s side first and then continue to my grandfather’s side.  And at the last grave, which is traditionally my grandfather’s parents, we have a meal.  Some families have their meal like in the car at the cemetery or in another location that isn’t the literal grave, but my family eats directly at the grave because it’s my family, my uncle’s family and my grandparents. And we usually have a little celebration and lay the food out and we bring a pot and put fake money in it and we burn the fake money and incense and then we have small firecrackers.  And then when you bow at this grave you say something to your elders or the people you are honoring.  And then we eat.  Usually it is a wide variety of dim sum including different dumplings and dishes that we order before and bring.  When we finish eating at the grave then we go out to lunch or early dinner and eat again.  The whole process takes the whole day.  And each year it is a different day and that day is somewhat mandatory, like you don’t not go.


Interviewer: Did your grandmother do this when she was young?


Informant: My mom used to do it when she was little and then my grandparents immigrated from China so I’m not sure if the process is the same in China but this is our version.


Interviewer: So what does it mean to you?


Informant: Well I haven’t met all of the relatives or elders that we visit, but you bow anyway as a sign of honor.  So it’s more about respecting and honoring the dead because they are a part of you and watching over you. And my great-grandmother recently died and now when we do this ceremony we include her in the graves that we visit.


Background: Amanda Fornataro is a Junior studying at USC and is my roommate.  Her grandparents immigrated from China and brought many traditions with them.  She consulted with her mother and grandmother when giving the account since it wasn’t possible to see the ceremony live. This ceremony is very meaningful and she is usually home to experience it with her family and flew home in February to celebrate.  It is an important belief and cornerstone of Chinese culture to honor your ancestors.

Context: I interviewed Amanda during the week after hearing about the ceremony in previous conversation.  She first started the ceremony when she was small and has carried it on to today and even as her older relatives pass on, they too become part of the tradition. It has traveled from her grandmother to her mother to her.

Analysis: hearing about the ceremony was very interesting.  I have seen and heard about variations of the tradition before but it was great to hear about it from someone who actually performs the ceremony. It also exemplified a belief in the importance of generational traditions and how the variations make more unique to each family.  Like how there are designated days for this ceremony but that Amanda’s grandmother likes to go when it is less quiet is something that makes the tradition even more special to her own family.

Thanksgiving Celebrations

Interviewer: Do you have any holiday celebrations or traditions that have been passed down to you or throughout your family?


Informant: Thanksgiving has always been a culturally confusing holiday for my family.


Interviewer: Why is that?


Informant: The majority of my family is Mexican and in Mexico and culturally, Thanksgiving is not something that we really celebrate.  It is often seen as an American holiday rather than a global holiday.


Interviewer: So how do you celebrate Thanksgiving?


Informant: Growing up, my family always made pozole and tamales for Thanksgiving. I loved it, so good. But us, cousins, the younger generation in our family, were confused when we were younger because at school, kids always talked about turkey and mashed potatoes. Eventually the adults in our family found out about our little culture confusion and there was a point where we started having pozole and tamales but also turkey and mash potatoes. The recipes have been passed down to us cousin as were older, and though we don’t cook them alone (it takes village, trust me), we’ve learned how to help cook all these dishes.


Interviewer: So your holiday traditions adapted as you started to mix one culture with another?


Informant: Yeah, it was also like a generational difference that caused others in my family to think about how the celebrating of a holiday in a specific way, affected the younger generation.  Now we do both and in a way it acknowledges the new and the old and works together.


Interviewer: I didn’t know that other families have pozole on Thanksgiving, in my family we have on Christmas as well as tamales.


Informant: Yeah the tradition definitely varies.


Background: The informant is a student in college studying Political Science.  She is half Mexican and often shares holidays like these with her family on her Mother’s side who still use traditional recipes to cook holiday meals.


Context: This interview took place when at home for a weekend.  The holiday celebrations discussed here were first celebrated when the informant was little and then changed around the age of 6 or 7.  From then on her family has adapted the tradition to include both kinds of food as a mixing of cultures and histories.


Analysis:  I really related to this piece because I have similar traditions with my own family.  It was also important for me to understand the reason why the celebration was adapted and to realize that outside forces and experiences have a lot of influence over our cultural productions and folklore.  When I was younger, I would not have shared that my family made tamales or other traditional meals because it was different from what everyone around me was doing.  But as I have gotten older and through interviews like these, it is important to note that through sharing we often build a much larger community than we started out with and produces more of a widespread network.