Context: My informant is a 29 year-old man who is of Cuban descent. He grew up in San Diego and still lives there. He described a common saying for Cubans that his family taught him growing up. He likes this saying because it has led him to be more attentive and focused at many parts of his life.
“‘El ojo del alma el gordo el caballo’ is a popular Cuban saying. In english it translates to the eye of the soul fattens your horse. It basically means if you care about something and you want it to grow, you have to um… keep your eyes on it and pay attention. I remember my parents telling me this when I was growing up and it has always been something that has stuck with me. I um… definitely wanna teach it to my children some day,”
This saying resonated with me as I am also a Cuban person. This was definitely a message implemented by my family throughout the years as it shaped a lot of how I thought about work and things that I care about in general. It is the culmination of hearing phrases like this that helped me to understand the world around me. This type of oral tradition is extremely impactful, especially to children, as they are so malleable.
This is the type of phrase that the informant will pass on to his kids and so on forever as these types of sayings are very important to the culture and beliefs. Many other cultures have sayings along this message which helps explain why it is such an important message to hold. Using the horse as a reference is very interesting and also mentioning the idea of a soul as these things illuminate that these ideas might be more common for Cuban people to understand than others.
Main Piece: “If your horse isn’t cool, don’t be a fool… leave your helmet on.”
Background: GR grew up with a long history of horse riding, and that is one of her most favorite things to do when she has the free time and is able to make it to the barn. GR says that this proverb is incredibly important in terms of rider safety, especially when she was younger, the rhyming nature of it helped her to remember it very vividly. Essentially, GR says that this means that you are never supposed to take care of yourself and start getting ready to finish unless your horse is okay. Sometimes if its the end of a ride and you are getting ready to leave and pack things up, there are times when the horse may either be spooked or acting strange, and its important to never take off your gear and helmet before the horse is okay. GR said not only is it a respect thing for the horse, to make sure that the animal is okay and that you help to calm them down if something is wrong, but it is also a safety concern for the rider. If the horse does something out of character or unexpected, and it hits you or knocks you off and you are not wearing a helmet, you could get seriously injured. GR also said that its important to look out for the horse first too because throughout the event or the training you are asking a lot of the horse, and if you are not listening to it and ignoring its needs, it may also be less responsive the next time you go to ride the horse.
Context of the Performance: GR told me this custom, while we were talking about the things we would do in our free time, and what types of hobbies we like to do. Since GR is from an area where horse riding is far more popular than in California, GR was able to inform me about some of the expectancies that come with riding horses.
Analysis: Seeing as how it would appear that horse riding is something that people in this community generally tend to learn from a young age, it makes total sense that this proverb would exist as a way to help remind people of the dangers of working with these animals. Horses are incredibly powerful creatures, and the ramifications of being unsafe while riding them could be very severe and I believe that this serves to function as a cautionary reminder to these riders. Additionally, it seems that another main part of this is the respect factor that is involved with the horses. GR mentioned that a huge part of this saying is to serve as a reminder to respect your horse, and make sure that they are okay.The horse riding community puts a huge emphasis on respecting your animal, and it is interesting to see this as I feel generally in American culture there is certainly less of an importance placed on the well being of animals. We generally tend to see them as less important, and so in parts of the country that do not usually interact with animals besides house pets, there is far less importance placed on their well being.