Salvadoran Suerte

I’ve come to find that Salvadorans can be very superstitious. Over the years Suegra has warned me away from bad luck in various ways. For example, she’s told me repeatedly not to sweep the kitchen in the evenings because it will cause the household to lose money, (I continue to sweep each night after dinner, maybe that’s why we’re so poor?) She also consults with a palm reader, (who no doubt has told her many terrible things about a certain gringa.)

I’ve also told you before that despite being a strict Catholic who believes in “la voluntad de Dios”, Suegra wears her underwear inside-out (for luck), and carefully tends a “lucky plant”. She doesn’t see it as contradictory at all. When I asked her about how she can be both religious and superstitious, she just waves me off like I’m an annoying bug.

Well, while I’ve come to expect a certain amount of superstition from Suegra, usually my husband isn’t as susceptible to magical thinking – that’s why I was surprised by something I found by accident the other day.

I was cleaning the house during the day and we have this lamp near the front door that gets quite dusty.

Looks ordinary right? Well, when I went to dust around under the shade, something fell on the floor.

I wasn’t sure at first what it was. I decided it was a magnet and figured one of the kids stuck it there when they were playing around. I stuck it on the fridge, went back to dusting, and thought nothing more of it.

Later that afternoon, Carlos came home, kissed me as he came in the door, and went to put his lunch box in the kitchen.

“Hey, you moved my magnet,” he said, taking it off the fridge and returning it to the lamp.

“What in the world?” was pretty much all I could manage.

Carlos explained that it was a lucky magnet and he wanted to keep it there. I thought maybe he was pulling my leg because I had never heard of this in all the years we’ve been married. He insists that his mother always kept magnets around for good luck, and he’s seen other Salvadorans do it too.

Now, from an anthropological point of view, I’m wondering where this superstition came from. Maybe when indigenous people first encountered magnets they found it magical the way that they “attract” things, so maybe they believed it could attract even non-physical things, such as luck?

I’ve searched the internet to find out more and I’ve come up empty-handed, so that’s only my own personal theory. What do you think? Do you believe magnets are lucky or know someone who does? Are you superstitious? Which superstitions do you believe?

Posted on October 25, 2010, in beliefs, Culture, el macho, humor, Latinidad, Salvadoreños, suegra. Bookmark the permalink. 18 Comments.

  1. I’ve never heard of the magnet superstition. Interesting. I’m going to have to ask around to see if Mexicans do it too. :)

    As for the sweeping in the evening, it’s a big no-no around here too. But the result is much worse. If a woman sweeps in the evenings, she’ll be a widow SOON! I wrote a post about it somewhere on my blog.

  2. That’s really interesting! My grandma is very superstitious as well, but I’ve never heard anything about magnets.

    By the way, my Day of the Dead giveaway is up.. maybe that magnet will bring you luck ;)

    http://vivalavidabymj.blogspot.com/2010/10/dia-de-los-muertos-giveaway.html

    • @ MJ – Thanks for coming by to leave the link! I just took a peek at it. I will “tweet” it on Twitter for you. I’m sure a lot of people will be interested :) What a great giveaway!

      • Thanks for the Twitter!! I’ve been telling myself I’m going to start twitting, but I’m kind of scared to be honest… no se como funciona!!!

        I’m hoping more people sign up for the giveaway! Tell all your friends!!

      • @ MJ – If you decide to sign up for a Twitter account, E-mail me and I will walk you through your entire first day. I promise you’ll get the hang of it. I was scared at first too – but there’s nothing to fear. It’s a lot of fun and you meet new friends :) (I even have some friends that have things in common with you and I’ll introduce them to you. LOL.)

  3. Never heard of lucky magnets, but I like your theory. I’ve heard the no sweeping at night, but if you see the way my kids eat, it really should be done. I’m usually very tired by then, so I wait a few days before I do it. I hasn’t affected my luck though.

    • Great post. Here in Chile people have their own long list of ways to keep the world in order through magical thinking, but surprisingly, I’ve never heard about sweeping OR magnets, although lots of people wear copper bracelets with magnets for health purposes.
      The magnet idea makes sense in that they attract metal… so why not make that money-metal (although I’d rather have the paper kind).
      And here in Chile women are warned not to put their purses on the floor because the money will disappear.

      • @ Margaret – Good thinking on the magnets attracting “metal money” (coins) … maybe that is part of it?

        Some people in the United States wear the bracelets you’re talking about, but I think there is science to back up their use. (I tried some sort of bracelet for pregnancy nausea but it didn’t help!)

        My Salvadoran Suegra has also told me not to put my purse on the floor.

        Thanks for sharing!

    • @ Susan – I feel like I must sweep each evening. I like to have the kitchen in order before bed – it helps me sleep better. LOL.

      • I think the copper magnet bracelets are to prevent (or ease) arthritis.
        My theory on the no sweeping at night is that it was cooked up by weary housewives as a way of justifying that “that’s all for tonight”… It should probably apply to washing dishes too (just in case!) ;-)

      • @ Margaret – LOL!!!

  4. Dear Margaret,
    I laugh, and laugh, and laugh.
    Es muy raro, en la distancia de la latinidad o latinish, te das cuenta de lo que siempre ha estado ahi.
    Nosotros en Chile, teniamos la teoria del Huasoish way of life and also, the guachaca way of life.
    I’m Chilean, my husband is British. We lived in Chile for 2 years. He learnt about being Chilean. He creates quotations for a lot of Chilean Ways. I found very intelligent what you do…what you write. So it is so joyful opportunity to meet you (in the UK style).
    Me gusta lo que leo, hay “enjundia”.

    • @ Marcela – How great to meet another bicultural couple. El matrimonio nunca es aburrido, verdad? :)

      Thanks so much for your comment.

  5. Hmmm… Never heard the one about the magnet, but just yesterday when I got home from work and I ran to hug my 14-month-old son who’s learning how to walk, I dropped my purse on the floor by the front door and IMMEDIATELY my mom picked it up and put it on top of the sofa.
    “No pongas la cartera en el piso, se va la plata,” she said.
    To which I responded: “¿Cuál plata?” :)

    Also, while I was in Miami, a friend of mine dropped off one of those climbing plants (enredadera) as a gift for a particular area she had seen in my family room where she thought it would fit perfectly. When I came back from my trip, I found the plant sitting on my porch, even though it’s an inside plant.
    When I asked my mom, who took care of my kids while I was gone, what was up with the plant, she said:
    “Esas plantas traen muchos enredos en una casa. Mejor que se quede afuera.”
    Disclaimer: my mom is Catholic.

  6. interesting. I think most superstitions are grounded in good sense… but then get a bit carried away, and out of context. Don’t walk under a ladder… well of course not… something may fall on your head if someone is working up there! Black cat crossing your path is bad luck too…. if you happen to be on a horse that spooks from the sudden sight of a shadow darting in front of it! I think a purse on the floor is pretty obvious too… when you don’t know what kind of dirt or grime you may be picking up and carrying around on the bottom of your otherwise nice bag.
    The magnet is a good one though, it almost sounds more feng shui than superstition.

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