Informant: My informant is my Mexican mother, who grew up in Puebla, Mexico. While she stayed with her mom for about 16 years before coming to the U.S, she grew up with many superstitions that derived either from her mom or from her grandmother.
Main Piece: “Esto lo escuche de mi mama en mi niñez. Ella siempre decía, que si sobraban tortillas era importante de intentar de no tirarlas a la basura porque si no uno se hacía más pobre y era mala suerte. Era muy importante que las agarres y las quiebres en pedazos más pequeños y dárselos a cualquier animal que encuentres en la calle como un perro. O si tenias puerquitos dárselos ellos”
Translation: “I heard this from my mom when I was a child. She always said that if there were leftover tortillas it was important to try not to throw them in the trash because if you didn’t you would become poorer and it would be bad luck. It was very important that you grab them and break them into smaller pieces and try to give them to any animal that you would find on the street like a dog. Or if you had little pigs, give it to them”
Context: My mom stated that she grew up hearing this superstition for as long as she could remember when she lived with her mom back in her town. She still performs it up to this day because it’s not that she believes that something bad will happen out of throwing out a tortilla, but because she states that this superstition has taught her to value even the simplest of foods. Growing up poor, she stated that sometimes the only thing her mom could provide for her was a tortilla with some salt or green pepper. Whenever there were one or two tortillas left and they had been overheated too many times and were too bland/hard to eat anymore her mom would break them into pieces and offer them as an offering to the animals. Again, throwing them away was a big NO NO because God would punish them.
Analysis: I agree with my mom’s analysis of this superstition. My mom grew up in very difficult circumstances and I am sure that she was not the only one in that town who had to go through this. I also don’t believe that merely throwing a tortilla into the trash will necessarily make you any poorer is true. However, I do see where my grandma and great-great grandma/others who believe in this superstition come from. The tortilla in Mexico is a very sacred item, a symbolic perspective, and a pride-inspiring symbol of the nation and its people. Therefore, if this sacred item is thrown away it symbolizes not being grateful for the food that was created by previous ancestors, and ultimately when thrown away it’s a sign of ungratefulness. Not only do I believe that this custom has to do with culture and heritage itself, but also with religion. Throwing away a tortilla might also be considered rude in the Catholic religion because it refers back to Jesus’s last meal where he broke bread for his disciples. I’m assuming that this custom has transcended throughout generation to do the same with the idea of not wasting food or sharing to those less fortunate.