Tag Archives: peru

The Origin of the Echo

Context: S is a Peruvian man in his early 60s. S spent around the first 13 years living inside of Peru before moving to Germany where he lived until his late 20s when he moved to California. Although having lived in California for most of his life now, he still has a close connection to Peru and Germany through his family. 

S: “While I can’t think of much Peruvian folklore, there is one story that comes to mind about the story of the echo.” 

Intv: “Okay, I don’t think I know this story.” 

S: “Okay, well it goes something like this, There was this Prince, who was always lying. He was always getting in trouble, and lying to everyone until one day the King died. So this Prince becomes the new King. As he became King his behavior just got worse, he would send people away on jobs and when they would come back he would act confused and say he never sent them to do such a thing. But what could the people do? He was the King. Until one day, the King calls upon the high priest. This high priest knew he was going to be set up by the King, so before speaking with him, the priest went to pray to the gods, and the god of the jungle came and asked him about his problem. The jungle god then directs the high priest to a very specific tree deep in the heart of the jungle, and the high priest will cut the tree down and use the wood to make a very special box. After the priest made the box the jungle god told him ‘when you speak to the King, make sure you hold the box open the whole time. And make sure when the order is given to you and when you return it is a huge event in which everyone will be there. So the priest goes to the King, and holds open the box while he receives his mission. Then he was off. When he returned, the high priest gathered the whole town before alerting the King of his return. When the King came to see the commotion he asked ‘what’s going on?’ The high priest responded by telling him about the job that the King sent him on. The King replied saying ‘I never said any such thing, I never told you to go and do such a thing.’ Then the high priest opens the box and the King’s order comes back in the exact same words and in his exact voice. In a fit of rage the King grabbed the box and ran out to the mountains where he threw the box out. When the box landed it splintered in hundreds of directions all across the world and wherever you hear an echo, supposedly that’s where a piece of the box resides.”

Intv: “Oh wow! That’s a great story! Was this told somewhere specifically? Or all across Peru?”

S: “This is a tale from the Amazonians, so it’s probably from Colombia.”

Analysis: A wonderful legend that perhaps originated as an explanation for something that at the time we couldn’t originally understand or fathom. In these moments it’s fascinating to see how for hundreds potentially thousands of years people used folklore as a pseudoscience of sorts. Legends being used to explain earthly phenomena can be seen across different cultures around the world. Another example of one of these that I particularly enjoy is the Origin of the Earthquake from Norse mythology. See All the Mountains Shake: Seismic and Volcanic Imagery in the Old Norse Literature of Þórr. Scripta Islandica, Pg 102-110. For more information on the origin of the earthquake in Norse mythology. Taggart, Declan. “All the mountains shake: Seismic and volcanic imagery in the Old Norse literature of Þórr.” Scripta Islandica: Isländska Sällskapets Årsbok 68 (2017): 102-110.

Howling Dogs

Main Content:

M: Me, I: Informant

I: When I was younger, growing up my mother would say if you heard a dog howling at night, it was the soul of someone who was about to pass away or die or crossing to the next world. So, howling dogs at night used to scare me

M: Oh it used to scare you. Ok

I: Yes because it meant that someone was going to died and you didn’t know who

M: Oh gotcha, gotcha, gotcha. So you believed it to be true?

I: Well yeah I was little, like 7 or 8.

M: Do you believe it to be true today?

I: No, but there things in our family from Peru because we’re from you know that more of the rural areas, that there’s the belief in signs

Context: This was taught to my informant and the rest of her siblings when she was a small child. They all believed in this and even believe their mother had a ‘sense’ about these things. Her mother heard a basketball bouncing in the middle of the night (a symbol connected to the neighbors) and a dog howling and she claimed that someone in that household would die. Soon after the mother of the neighbors died of a surprise brain aneurysm. Seeing the folklore working in real time help to solidify in their belief of the howling dog as a premonition for a soon approaching death.

Analysis: In Peruvian culture especially in the more rural areas, there is a large focus and trust in omens. The belief is that the dogs have a sense about death and illness that humans don’t and thus they know when death is coming sooner than humans do. I think that allowing animals, dogs in this case, to have the power to sense what is coming allows for humans to conceptualize these deaths as a part of nature, a part of the life cycle, and that this was what was in the plans. It makes it easier to attribute to nature’s timing when ‘nature,’ aka dogs, is involved and know what is coming in advance- there is nothing to do but allow for life to take its course. Additionally, ‘seeing’ this work in real life with their neighbors, help to cement this belief in my informant when she was growing up, even if she doesn’t believe it as much now, possibly because she is in a much more science-valued country(the US).

Sitting at the Corner of the Table

Main Content:

M: Me, I: Informant

Corner of the Table 

I: Never sit in the corner of a table if the table is square because um because if you are in the corner you won’t get married, things like that.

M: Oh no, that’s really good! How come? What was the background of that? How come?

I: Oh, I don’t know

M: you can’t sit on the corner of a table

I: Yeah I don’t know what the background was, that’s just what they always told us.

M: Is it only for unmarried girls or is it for unmarried boys too?

I: It was just, well it was only told to us girls. I don’t remember it being told to the boys

M: Gotcha. Did you believe that? Did you believe that one?

I: Um.. you know because we were growing up in the United States, not so much, and at that age I really wasn’t interested in getting married. *Laughs*So. But I remember her saying it

Context: She was taught this by her Peruvian family, but she had immigrated to the U.S. so she didn’t really believe this one as her new environment affected her beliefs.

Analysis: While she herself may have not believed it, others in her family did. This is reflective of the views of marriage and gender. This was geared towards girls as back then much value came from being married and thus the fear of not getting married was prevalent, which is why some of the people in her family didn’t sit in the corners of tables, ‘just in case.’ Additionally, there may be some phallic reference (protrusion of the table) here as marriage and loss of virginity are often very linked and that’s possibly a consideration as to why this was only geared towards girls. With the phallic imagery, this folklore could also be a result of the culture’s importance of virginity; if the corner of the table was the phallic symbol and represented a deflowering prior to marriage, that would be the reason why she won’t get married later.

Peruvian New Years Tradition: Run the Suitcase Around the Block

AS is a USC game design major who’s family hails from Peru, she enjoys spreadsheets, Dungeons and Dragons, and spreadsheets about Dungeons and Dragons. AS grew up in Texas after her family moved there from Peru.
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AS: My family had a lot of traditions for New Years, I’ve heard a lot of people do this one though

AS: We fill like a like a suitcase of some sort and we run it around the block and that’s supposed to represent like good luck in traveling and like safe travels and all that stuff.

AS: So my mom makes me do it every year cuz you yeah gotta have that good luck

MW: Do you have any particular attachment to this?

AS: I mean I would still do it if I didn’t live in South Central LA and that’s dangerous

AS: I guess it’s it’s it’s kind of just like a superstitious thing to me

AS: Or it’s just like it’s a cute tradition that makes New Year’s feel different than what like normal people celebrate even it doesn’t have like a very deep impact I guess it also fills me with nostalgia for things you did as a kid so you feel like you should do it anyways.
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Analysis:
The symbolism of running around the block mimics the cyclical nature of the calendar year and separates it from the idea of linear time. The suitcase is also filled, meaning that the carrier takes home with them when they travel and provides a direct connection to home and family life. Likewise, the fact that you run around the block and return to the starting point sort of carries the message that no matter where you go you can always return home, this centers the importance of home even in a tradition that’s all about travel. The desire for safety also reveals anxieties about leaving the home. Travel to new places is scary, a journey into the unknown thus the hope for good luck works in combination with the carrying of the known with you and the promise of a safe return to that known space.

Peruvian New Years Tradition: 8 Grapes on Years

AS is a USC game design major who’s family hails from Peru, she enjoys spreadsheets, Dungeons and Dragons, and spreadsheets about Dungeons and Dragons.
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Interviewer(MW): So you mentioned earlier that in Peru some holidays are celebrated differently?
AS: okay so I guess I’ll start off with New Year’s so there’s like two weird holidays that occur on New Year’s for Peruvians for some reason

AS: We do the normal thing where it’s like you used to stand by you wait until you know the countdown starts and you drink the champagne you do all that jazz.

AS: But the things that you do is after you drink the champagne you down like 12 grapes in the champagne each one’s supposed to be a wish so down your champagne you eat individual grapes as quickly as possible

MW: I’ve spent New Years in Lima, I know they have some interesting New Years Practices, so are there things that do you have any particular set things that you associate with the grapes like there’s some things that you’re supposed to wish for?

AS: There isn’t anything you’re supposed to wish for I think, like generally it’s stigmatized in Latin Society for good health to be a thing or like wish your family good health like general well-being.

AS: I guess would be something that people would would generally stick towards at least want to do one or two wishes to be around there

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Analysis:
The use of champagne as a marker of the new year exists across culture but using fruit as a conduit for wishes ties the sweetness of the fruit to the hope for a sweet new year, this invokes a similar tradition to the Jewish Rosh Hashanah practice of dipping apples in honey for a happy new year. The wish too carries meaning, like a birthday the new year is full of promise and marks a transition and making a wish is a way to codify that promise in a fun and festive way. Likewise AS’s note that there’s a focus on well-being represent anxieties about that transition, the bitterness of the alcohol in the wine might invoke this anxiety, tinging the sweetness of the grapes with a fear of the unknown and the challenges that the new year will bring.

There are 12 wishes as well, this factors into the cyclical nature of the tradition as well as each grape likely represents a month of the year thus the wishes are meant to carry the participants through the entire year.