Tag Archives: Mexico

Unwrapping Tamales For Christmas

Background: The informant is a 52 year old man. He was born in Tulare, California. He grew up with his four siblings and two parents, moving from location to location across California. He currently lives in Los Angeles, California. 

Context: The context as that when the informant was eating tamales, he was reminded of Christmas.


MD: “Well typically, uh, mexican families, they make, uh, tamales for Christmas, and, you know, it’s kind of like a seasonal food, and that’s considered traditional to make tamales for Christmas, and uh, the big joke about tamales and mexicans is that the reason why mexicans make tamales is so they can have something to unwrap for christmas. And so uh, I used to help my mom make ‘em, and we would kind of like interchange, like, you know, sometimes I would like, layout the leaves and spread the masa, which is like corn dough, on them, or other times she would do that, and she would allow me to put the meat inside of it. It’s like a meat sauce, and uh, she didn’t like me putting the meat with the sauce in the tamale because I would typically put too much and, uh, she’d kind of strive for balance between the masa and the meat, the problem though too is like when you steam them, if you, if you put too much meat inside them, they kind of overflow, and they, they break apart the tamale, you know? It is what it is.” 


Informant: He is very humorous and recalls both the joke and the tamales in good fun. He reminisces about his time with his mother and looks to it as a great bonding moment between the two of them each year.

Mine: First, the joke’s context is that Mexicans are considered poor in America and will not have the money to buy presents for their family. While on the surface, the joke seems like a laughable jab, it speaks to a much deeper social context, about how Mexican families are treated in the greater societal context of the US. Typically, they do not have higher paying jobs or may be supporting a larger family and much more. However, the joke is prevalent in Mexican communities in order to make light of their hardships. It shows how humor is consistently used to make a situation seem better and it’s a source of hope. Second, making tamales on Christmas is very widespread in Mexican culture. Given how the informant would always complete the task with his mother, it provided a way for the two of them to connect through their culture of making food. 

Easter Capirotada

Background: The informant is a 50 year old man. He was born in Tecate, Mexico, moving to California when he was young. He grew up with his four siblings and two parents, moving from location to location across California. He currently lives in Los Angeles, California. 

Context: The context was a few weeks before Easter, and the informant began sharing stories about what happens before Easter when walking in the mall past Easter decorations.


UI: “Around Easter, when I was a kid, we used to go to my grandmothers, in uh, Delano, which is a small town near Bakersfield, and, and what she used to do is that she would make this, hm, I don’t know how to explain it. It’s like a bread pudding and in Spanish it’s called capirotada. You know, I haven’t had it in so long because it takes like all day to make it. What you do is start off with about a week old bread, and then you put it in a tray with butter. And basically, it’s like traditional Mexican bread. It’s like a bread pudding type bread, and you typically make it before Easter and it’s like day old bread with raisins and butter and nuts, and it’s just like it all melts together with cinnamon and they sprinkle it with cheese on top and it all kind of like blends together into a weird pudding mixture, and that’s basically in preparation for Easter. I used to help my grandmother make it, because she would make trays and trays for everybody. The bread represents the body of Christ, the syrup is his blood, and the cloves are the nails of the cross, and the whole cinnamon sticks are the woods of the cross, and the melted cheese stands for the holy shroud. I guess it’s just like hidden meanings with the crucifixion of Jesus for Easter within the food.” 


Informant: He was very excited when sharing the story and appeared actually nostalgic for his childhood. Evidently, the time making food with his grandmother was a peaceful time of his life, and he loved the food.

Mine: Many of the foods around the holiday have hidden religious meanings behind them, having a dual cultural significance for both being a food to bring together family on holidays and for the religious context. The informant made the food with his grandmother, serving as time for the two of them to bond and for him to be taught the recipe of the Mexican dish. He was in the transition state from passively accepting the tradition when he began cooking with his grandmother. Then, the capirotada holds religious folklore, with each element not being randomly chosen, but rather chosen to represent an element of Christ. Given that the informantant still remembers the information after all these years, it is clear that the message imparted onto him by his grandmother held a deep value for him. It is our elders who are carrying on the traditions and they must be listened to in order to fully absorb it.

Danza del Venado (the deer dance)

–Informant Info–

Nationality: Mexcian

Age: 31

Occupation: Lawyer

Residence: Los Angeles, California

Date of Performance/Collection: 2022

Primary Language: English

Other Language(s): Spanish

(Notes-The informant will be referred to DA as and the interviewer as K)

Background info: DA was born in Mexico and moved to the United States when he was 15. He would go back to Mexico to visit family, and while there saw the deer dance performed by various members of his community. While telling me about the dance, he would occasionally perform small parts of it.

K: So what’s the dance called, and what’s the context of the performance? Like when or under, uh what circumstances was it performed.

DA: Its called Danza del Venado, or the deer dance in English. There’s a few different reasons why it would be performed. After Catholicism mixed with Mexico, it was performed around Lent or Easter. When my people still hunted, it was performed before hunting to ensure success, or as a welcome to spring.

K: Ok, so whenever you’re uh…ready to tell me about it go ahead

DA: I already mentioned when it’s performed but I forget to say that it’s now, along with the easter practices, a means to communicate with the spirit world, in which deers’ spirit resides. The dance is simple; it consists of a few men who are dressed in a cloth wrapped around them like a skirt, held up with a belt made of deer hooves. He has more hooves tied to his ankles and holds dried uh…calabaza (gourds) filled with beans or rice to make large rattling sounds. They would also have deer skulls attached to their heads with red uh…Cintas (ribbon) tied around the horns. All of this is meant to sort of thank the deer and celebrate how hard it fought and ran not to be hunted. All the noise from the hooves and calabaza is like it running and us chasing, while the cinta is meant to represent flowers actually, like rebirth and growth from spring. The entire dance is a thank you to earth.

This was the first folklore I had collected specifically on a dance and it was so interesting to read about. The change in the dance from how it originally was, it being dedicated to the hunt and directly to spring, to the version it became after Catholicism was introduced, with the dance now being dedicated to easter, was so interesting to hear. DA also showed me a video he had taken of his family performing the dance, so I got to see it actually be performed. It’s a beautiful dance full of color and culture. What DA did not mention is how much audience participation there is. In the video I was shown, the entire audience was chanting and singing along with the dancers, and young children were even at the front of the room dancing alongside them. People in the audience were also dressed in ribbons and a few even have a hoove or two with them.

The Little Ghost Boy

Informant: My informant is a very good friend of mine. She and I met in my sophomore year of high school. She is currently an undergraduate at Cal State Dominguez Hills. The following transcript is a retelling of a ghost story that she heard from her mom and that has been passed down by the family due to the erie circumstances and she is now telling it to me. 

Context: My informant states that after hearing this story from her mom. At the age that she heard it she was terribly scared of it. However, now that she has grown up, she’s not that scared, but still has a strong belief in this story. In fact, she has stated that now rather than fear for this little ghost boy she feels empathy for it. She can not imagine how lonely or how much this child must have been through that they are not able to let themselves go. 

Story:  So, this is my mom’s ghost story. It was around the 1980’s. At this time my mom was living at Jalisco, Mexico. She was in her friend’s house and was in the kitchen. She looks over towards the restroom and the bedrooms and from a distance, she sees a small child. He was dressed in a small white suit and no older than 5 years old. She saw him walk from the restroom into one of the bedrooms, then he just disappeared. When my mom’s friend came back to the kitchen my mom asked about it. The friends said, “Oh yeah. This is normal. When I clean, I can always hear a little kid laughing. 

Analysis: Based on the details of the story, I’m awestruck as to how my informant is not scared of this ghost story but rather how she experiences empathy and some sort of pity for this ghost child. By seeing my friend’s reaction toward this story, one is able to see a glimpse of how younger generation are slowly becoming more intrigued and fascinated by these stories. Rather than ghost inflicting fear, Americans have now become succumbed to the idea of suspension vs. if we go back in time America used to be terribly afraid of anything out of the supernatural.

Lady in the Alley

Informant: The informant is a very good friend of mine. She and I met in my sophomore year of high school. She is currently an undergraduate at Cal State Dominguez Hills. 

Context: The following transcript is a retelling of a ghost story that she heard from her aunt. Her aunt experienced this in early 1980s in Puebla, Mexico. My informant states that she believes it because this has not been the first time that her aunt has experiences something like this.

Story:This story was told by my aunt to me, and it was experienced by her in Jalisco, Mexico when she was very young. It occurred one day when she had stayed late with a friend out of school. By the time they left and were walking home, it was dark. She was walking with her friend, and they saw a woman walk into this dark alley. They were confused as to what this lady was going to do because it was a dead-end ally. Curious to see whether the woman might be lost, they approached the valley carefully, but to their surprise there was no one there!”

Analysis: Although, this encounter might seem like a huge misunderstanding, to my surprise I actually believe this ghost story. Although, Mexico is a beautiful place, it is also full of a lot of violence. Most of the violence is experienced by women. Therefore, when hearing this story, I believe it might be the spirit of a woman who is restless and looking for vengeance or peace. I think this is the reason why I believe in this. In today’s lore there are so many more legends that seem to be similar to what my informant’s aunt experienced all around the world.

To read another version of a woman in alley, which might be suspected to be restless ghost refer to the following: S.E Schlosser, 2007, “Spooky Canada: Tales of Hauntings, Strange Happenings, And Other Local Lore”, pp. 117