Tag Archives: el salvador

August vacation, El Salvador

This custom was collected from a friend, who was born and raised in San Salvador, El Salvador and is 21 years old.

 

She told me that during the first week of August, all companies, schools, and pretty much every single business is closed to commemorate Jesus Christ’s transfiguration. She says that about 90% of the country is Catholic, and everyone does it even if they are not religious. She says a lot of people go to the lake during does days, including her, and she gets to spend time with family and friends.

 

I think this is really interesting; we don’t have anything like that where I grew up, probably because there is a lot more of a variety in terms of religion.

Salvadoran joke, El Salvador

This joke was collected from a friend, who was born and raised in San Salvador, El Salvador and is 21 years old. It goes like this:

 

A German, a Frenchman, an Englishman and a Salvadoran, comment on a picture of Adam and Eve in Paradise. The German says, “look at the perfection of bodies; she, slender and spiky; he, with that athletic body and profiled muscles. They must be German!” The French man immediately responds, “I do not believe it. The eroticism that emerges from both figures is clear. She, so feminine; he, so masculine; they know that temptation will soon come. They must be French!” Shaking his head no, the Englishman comments, “not at all. Notice the serenity of their faces, the gracefulness of the pose, the sobriety of the gesture. They can only be English!” After a few more seconds of contemplation, the Salvadoran exclaims, “I do not agree, Look carefully: they do not have any clothes, they do not have shoes, they do not have a house, they only have a sad apple to eat, they do not protest and they still think they are in Paradise. Those idiots can only be Salvadorans!” My friend told me this was a very popular joke that she heard many times, the first one being from her dad, and she genuinely finds it very funny.

 

I find it really interesting that religion is even incorporated into the humor of El Salvador, but not surprisingly since most of the population is Catholic. I also thought the punchline speaks to how classist Latin America and be, and how politically incorrect our jokes are in comparison to American ones.

La Siguanaba

She was a woman that went out every night to wash by the river. Everyone would hear her washing. But no one would go outside. They would see a woman that had long hair that would drag on the floor. She seduced the men. The story is often told to children to scare them into not misbehaving.

My tia Estella did not listen to my grandmother and went out at night. She was using the bathroom outside and she saw a tall women standing there. The woman had long black hair. And she was washing. My tia thought it was one of the neighbors washing. She approached the lady and when the lady turned to her she was a skeleton. My tia became mute and ran away from the women.

My informant is a service coordinator. She likes to help people. She also migrated from El Salvador to the United States. Most of her stories are from her mother or personal experiences.

I talked to my informant over coffee in our house.

The interesting part of this piece is the similarities between this and the Llorona of Mexico. It is also interesting because my own aunt experienced it. This story is a classic tale Salvadoran parents use to keep them from misbehaving.

 

El Cipitillo

My informant is a service coordinator. She likes to help people. She also migrated from El Salvador to the United States. Most of her stories are from her mother or personal experiences.

I talked to my informant over coffee in our house.

El Cipitillo is a boy that wears a large charra or sombrero. He has a little belly. He eats the ashes from leftover fires. The people that make tortilla over the fire would find footprints all over the ashes. He also likes children. If he touched you then you are left retarded.

The story of el cipitillo is often told to scare children from misbehaving. He is said to visit misbehaving children.

It is interesting to see at what lengths Salvadoran moms would go to keep their children safe. I grew up with these stories believing the to be true

Pupusas

EM is a 45 year old Salvadoran man who moved from El Salvador to the United States. He now lives in Los Angeles, a city with a strong Salvadoran presence. EM shared with me the significance of a traditional food from El Salvador, the pupusa:

“Ok, so, this is what people consider the national dish in El Salvador. It’s called pupusas. It’s a corn tortilla stuffed with different things. It could be pork, it could be cheese, it could be beans…now, people even have hot dogs as part of it! That’s something I haven’t experienced since I don’t live there anymore, but it’s happening- people are trying out new things. American pupusas even have stuff like spinach or mushrooms added to them to appeal to people who may not have tried them before.

It is pretty much everywhere. I would say that it is a very humble, simple dish. Anyone can make it and eat it. There is no right or wrong time to eat it, so you can eat for breakfast, lunch, and dinner, ot anywhere in between. In school, when I was growing up, we would have it at recess, for example. It’s also shared in the sense that you get many of them at a time and eat it all together with a group/

Something we eat alongside it is “curtido”, which is almost like a type of sauerkraut. Usually, the places where they have pupusas will have a place where you can get extra curtido, carrots, onions, all sorts of things that have been pickled in vinegar. It’s not necessarily pickled in the way things are pickled here, it’s not very sour, but it has gone through a pickling process. The repollo– cabbage- doesn’t take so long to ferment.

It’s everywhere, so you can find it in school. Around your neighborhood, there may be three or so places where you can go and buy them. They’re not that expensive. At least, when I was growing up, each pupusa was just a couple of cents. Now, it’s about 60 cents, compared to here where they’re three dollars per pupusa! But you could find them anywhere. There are restaurants in El Salvador where that is all they do. There are regions in El Salvador where you can find specific pupusas, like ones that use rice instead of corn for the dough- the masa. There are different types of stuffings such as squash, close to the coast you can find seafood, like shrimp. People sell them at street corners, local markets- it doesn’t have to be a specific place. Like here in L.A., you’ll even find them in places like the Piñata District. So things vary, and there are specific places in El Salvador that are known for the pupusas. The buses will even stop in the outskirts of those towns and someone will come with pupusas to sell on the bus. This was back when bus trips were six or so hours and people needed a meal- it was always pupusas. They’re less commonly done at home since you can buy them everywhere.”

Pupusa Stand at the USC Farmer's Market

Pupusa Stand at the USC Farmer’s Market

Close-up of pupusas with a popular side of plantains

Close-up of pupusas with a popular side of plantains

My thoughts: Thinking about Appadurai and the idea of high cuisine, it’s clear that El Salvador doesn’t distinguish between high cuisine and low cuisine- the food that is the national dish is described as “humble” and “peasant food”. This ties into other Salvadoran folklore that reflects national pride because they often focus on the working class. Also, in relation to globalization, we can see how pupusas have now become popular in other areas of the world, such as Los Angeles, were they may be altered to fit the tastes of Americans. Here at USC, the pupusa stand at the Farmer’s Market have spinach and mushroom pupusas that are reminiscent of pizza, but don’t actually resemble any Salvadoran recipes.