Category Archives: beliefs

Ethics and Morality – Lost in Translation

Quite on accident I stumbled upon photos from my blog which had been stolen. I was looking at the images in a Facebook album owned by a Salvadoran pride community only to see a photo that looked familiar – “Wait a minute,” I thought, “that’s my photo!”

I clicked to enlarge it and not only had it been used without permission, but my name and my blog were not mentioned at all. Looking through the album I found almost a dozen of my photos. Soon I would find my stolen photos in the Facebook photo albums of two other similar communities owned by people in El Salvador.

I accused one of the people of theft and left comments on every single one of my photos demanding that the photos be removed. This person removed the photos quickly and apologized saying the theft had been unintentional. (He claims that the photos were submitted to him and he didn’t know where they had come from. I accepted his apology and moved on.)

In the second case it was a very large community and the guy who owned it had the nerve to watermark my photos with his name and even made comments on the photos as if he had taken them. Angry, I decided to take care of things through the Facebook complaint form for copyright violations. It was a little tedious, but Facebook acted within hours and removed the photos without me having to engage the owner of the page in conversation.

In the third case, I determined that the owner of the Facebook community was a female and decided, out of some sort of sympathy and sisterhood, to give her a chance to remove the photos herself instead of reporting her to Facebook. I told her that the photos were mine and that I was giving her one hour to remove them. If she failed to remove the photos, I would be forced to report the violation to Facebook.

She did not respond well to my ultimatum and began to insult me. I explained to her that I was being kind in giving her this chance and that others in my position could potentially take her to court. Her response?

“tu estas loca hija aqui no vengas con pendejadas saves q me vale berda lo q tu quieras hacer”

Wow. I was a little shocked but I composed myself long enough to reply:

“Qué es ‘berda’? … La palabra es VERGA. Si vas a ser maleducada, por lo menos, aprenda a deletrear, cipota.”

In the end, I reported the copyright violation to Facebook and Facebook removed the photos from her album, but I was left wondering about a lot of things. I related this whole story to Carlos and he seemed unimpressed. The look on his face said to me, “What did you expect?”

“People in El Salvador don’t respect copyrights – you should know that,” he said.

And he was right, I should know that. In El Salvador, pirated DVDs and CDs are sold out in the open. Stores in the mall carry knock-off T-shirts printed with every cartoon character and American rock band imaginable. My suegra, who’s a seamstress, buys bags of clothing labels at the market – The clothing labels are for sewing onto the clothing she makes and sells. She sews in tags that say Polo Ralph Lauren, Calvin Klein, and Liz Claiborne.

And it isn’t just individuals who do this – Even businesses in El Salvador get in on the action. I’ve mentioned before, that one day we were traveling back from Chalatenango to the city and we were starving. We saw a sign for Wendy’s – exactly like the Wendy’s sign you all know and love with the same red background, same white lettering, same instantly recognizable font. We go inside the Wendy’s only to find out it’s a little comedor selling bistec y arroz, quesadilla, and all kinds of Salvadoran food. No burgers and fries were to be found – this was not a real Wendy’s.

I think that many (not all) people in El Salvador are so used to literally being surrounded by copyright violations on a daily basis that the concept of intellectual property becomes impossible to understand. In the minds of the people who stole my images, they feel they’ve done nothing wrong. When confronted by accusations of “theft”, in their minds I was being irrational, selfish, crazy. After all, they didn’t literally steal a physical object from me – I still have my photo, they just have it too. What’s the big deal?

As I dealt with the copyright violations, Carlos told me more than once that I was wasting my time. “That’s a losing battle,” he said, “they’ll do it again, and if not them, some other Salvadoran will.” Although I wasn’t able to be at peace with that for a few days, I do agree with him.

I want to be clear here – I don’t believe this difference in ethics is due to American culture, American belief systems or Americans themselves being any way superior to Salvadoran culture, Salvadoran belief systems or Salvadorans themselves. I don’t believe that Salvadorans are less moral, less civilized or less anything. What I do believe is that this difference in ethics is an example of ethical relativism in action – In other words, my “right and wrong” are not necessarily the same as your average Salvadoran’s “right and wrong.”

It’s a controversial and complex philosophy, but it makes sense to me. What do you think? Are morals & ethics non-negotiable or are they dependent on one’s culture? What differences have you observed in ethics across cultures?

Related Reading:

Ethical Issues Across Cultures (PDF)
Ethical Relativism
Morality is a Culturally Conditioned Response
Tim’s El Salvador Blog – (the discussion in comments on this post about piracy is really interesting.)

Have you been whipped by the devil today?

El Día de Los Talcigüines

El Salvador is home to some traditions which can seem funny even to native Salvadorans. This week marks “Semana Santa” (Holy Week) in the Catholic faith, and so today is Lunes Santo, (Holy Monday.)

In a small town called Texistepeque in the department of Santa Ana, Lunes Santo means it is also “El Día de Los Talcigüines” – The word “talcigüines” means “deviled men” in the native language, Nahuatl. Like many traditions in El Salvador and throughout Latin America, the holiday is a result of the mixing of Catholic and indigenous beliefs; this occurred with the arrival of the Spanish and their desire to convert the native people to Catholicism by introducing their religion in ways that would seem familiar to the people.

On “El Día de Los Talcigüines” men dress as devil-like figures and whip people on the streets to absolve them of their sins.

Just make sure that if you ever visit Texistepeque on Holy Monday, you take measures to protect yourself…

whipping devil El Salvador

dónde cuenta.

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Read more: History of El Día de Los Talcigüines and how to take part on Official El Salvador Tourism site.

See more: Slideshow of El Día de Los Talcigüines – La Prensa Gráfica

Image source: Images are still frames taken from video by La Prensa Gráfica.

Feminine Strength vs. Machismo

Image source: Ray Larabie

In high school we would have one week of gym class that we spent in the weight lifting room. It was in a dark, windowless room down a forgotten hallway. Students were allowed access to it after school but it was often forgotten, except by the jocks. The girls stood in a corner talking, watching the boys, examining their nails and refusing to do anything other than a minute on the rowing machine – preferring to take a zero for the day. I, however, loved our week in the weight lifting room.

Already known for challenging boys to arm wrestling contests at lunch time, (and sometimes winning), my reputation was further sealed by my behavior in the weight lifting room. The boys gathered around to see how much I could bench press, taking bets that I wouldn’t be able to do it each time the peg was moved lower and the weight got heavier. I fed on their pessimism. I loved being underestimated. I took a deep breath, felt the muscles ripping but pushed, pushed, pushed, my lips closed tight, my nostrils flaring. I heard them say knowingly to each other, “She can’t lift it” – as I struggled. My arms shook and I pushed harder still until I would feel the weight give way and my arms straightened above me in victory.

I didn’t care that I wasn’t the kind of girl you ask to the prom, but instead the kind of girl you ask to help push the car when it breaks down. I come from a family of strong women. My mother is well-known for re-decorating while my father is at work – sometimes moving heavy furniture up and down two flights of stairs by herself.

I associated femininity with weakness and wanted no part of it, but I realized how simplistic this point of view was when I gave birth to my first child. Giving birth is an act that is simultaneously the height of femininity and strength. Now, as the mother of two boys, the lone female in a household full of males, I value my feminine side more than I did growing up. Being married to Carlos though, has made me examine my femininity from a cultural perspective. It hasn’t been easy to sort out.

I will try to open a jar of pickles. Carlos will offer to help, reach his hand out for the jar, and I’ll turn away with the jar, stubbornly determined to do it myself. This is when Carlos will tell me I’m like my mother or say, “Why do you have to be so American?!” … to which I’d reply, “Why is it an insult to your manhood for me to open the pickles myself?!”

Over the years, I’ve learned to (usually), hand over the jar of pickles. It makes Carlos feel good to do it for me. I never pretend I can’t do anything, but if it’s difficult, why not give him the satisfaction of feeling that he takes care of me?

I thought that over the years, Carlos and I had mostly ironed out this one cultural wrinkle. We both have made compromises. I let him open jars of pickles that are difficult for me to open, (damn you, carpal tunnel) – and he doesn’t expect me to act completely helpless – fair enough… but at the grocery store while I was unloading the cart at the cash register, I retrieved the case of bottled water from the bottom of the cart and hefted it up and onto the conveyor belt. I thought nothing of it but Carlos whispered through clenched teeth, “Hey, you should have asked me to do it. You’re embarrassing me.”

Embarrassing Carlos was not my intention or even something I had considered – I just wanted to get the groceries checked out so we could go home, (and for the record, the cashier seemed completely unaware of the battle going on right in front of her.) I guess the lesson here is that Carlos and I will always have cultural issues to work on – nothing is ever resolved so completely that it won’t pop up again, so ingrained are the traits we bring from our two different backgrounds.


What is your take and your experiences on the topic of feminine strength vs. machismo?

Virgen de Guadalupe wallpaper

Feliz Día de la Virgen de Guadalupe. Happy Virgin de Guadalupe Day.

In celebration, I created two desktop wallpapers of la Virgencita to choose from. They are completely free to download.

Directions:

Select the wallpaper you like and click to enlarge.
Right click and select “Set as Desktop Background.

Virgen de Guadalupe - Blue/White theme

Virgen de Guadalupe - bandera mexicana theme

When you’re done, you can check out my post about the Virgin of Guadalupe from last year or go to the website of the Basílica de Santa María de Guadalupe in Mexico to send a prayer to the Virgen de Guadalupe. All petitions sent through the website will be placed at the feet de Nuestra Señora in the temple that she asked to be built on Tepeyac. At mass each morning, the petitions are prayed for by clergy.

Que la Virgen morena les cuide, hermanos.

Plastic bag of water: Latin American superstition or science?

[Don't speak Spanish? No problem! Scroll down for the English translation!]

En un viaje reciente a una panadería mexicana, me di cuenta que habia una bolsa de agua con unos centavitos adentro colgada de la puerta. Al principio pensé que alguien estaba haciendo una broma y que el agua va a caer, pero cuando abrí la puerta, era obvio que la bolsa estaba atada muy segura. Mi segunda sospecha era que la bolsa de agua era resultado de una creencia popular de América Latina o de México – que era una superstición que tienen que ver con la prosperidad o la suerte.

Al salir de la tienda con una bolsa llena de conchas, marranitos y otros panes en la mano, le pregunté a Carlos si sabía algo al respecto. Carlos no estaba seguro, pero también sospechaba que era una creencia popular.

Una vez en casa, investigue para encontrar la respuesta. La repuesta – Esto en realidad no es una superstición cultural, sino cientifica! Resulta que la bolsa de plástico de agua colgada en una puerta es un repelente de moscas. Hay desacuerdo sobre cómo funciona realmente, pero muchos juran que funciona. No he visto ninguna mosca en la panadería mexicana, entonces vale la pena intentarlo. Tal vez ahora nuestras chanclas no tienen que usarse como matamoscas.

A plastic bag of water hangs from the top of a door at a Mexican bakery.

ENGLISH TRANSLATION

On a recent trip to a Mexican bakery, I noticed a bag of water with a few pennies in it hanging from the door. At first I thought someone was trying to play a practical joke and the water would spill, but when we opened the door, it was obvious that it was tied very securely. My next suspicion was that the bag of water was actually a Latin American or Mexican folk belief or superstition having to do with prosperity or luck.

Leaving the store with a bag full of conchas, marranitos, and other panes in hand, I asked Carlos if he knew anything about it. Carlos wasn’t sure but also suspected it was a folk belief.

Once home, I researched to find the answer. This is actually not cultural superstition, but science! It turns out the plastic bag of water hung on a door is a fly repellent. There is disagreement over how this actually works, but many swear that it does work. I didn’t see any flies at the Mexican bakery, so it’s worth giving a try. Maybe now our chanclas don’t have to double as fly swatters.

________________

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Statues + Boundaries

“Someone wants to come stay with you,” Suegra teased us weeks ago, knowing that Carlos has sworn off allowing family to come visit after some not-so-good experiences.

“What are you talking about,” Carlos demanded.

Suegra smiled, enjoying the game.

“Someone very special is coming to stay here at the house. She wants to live here.”

“Well, you better tell her she can’t come… Who is it?” Carlos said.

“It’s a surprise,” she said.

“¡Mamá!” Carlos said losing patience, “I told you that you can’t keep inviting people here.”

Suegra giggled, which had a maddening effect on Carlos. How could she think this was funny? Had she seriously lost her mind? This is our house and she has no right to invite anyone without our permission. We don’t even have an extra bed! Last time she invited cousins to live with us temporarily and they ended up sleeping on the floor.

“¡Mamá!” Carlos said, now obviously angry, “You better tell whoever it is that they can’t come. I’m serious.”

Suegra finally confessed that the “guest” that wanted to come live with us was the Virgin of Guadalupe – more specifically, a statue she had been secretly making payments on. She explained that she was buying the statue “for the household” and that she had only one payment left before she could take her home.

Finding out it was a statue and not a person did not make me or Carlos any happier. Not only has Suegra been warned about not inviting people to visit, she has been warned about re-decorating our home. Gifting this statue “to the household” is her sneaky way of adding something to the general living area that quite frankly, we really don’t want.

This isn’t about religion, this is about boundaries. Suegra has once again crossed a line and knowingly, purposefully, broken rules, despite all of the compromises we’ve made to allow her to live with us. If she wanted to buy a statue that would fit in her bedroom – that’s her business – we turned a blind eye to her destruction of our third bedroom with her junk collecting – but the rest of the house – that’s where we draw the line. She has her own living room in El Salvador, which she is free to decorate as she chooses – this living room is ours.

Carlos assured me he would “take care of it.”

Days later, Suegra asked Carlos to take her to the store to make the final payment and pick it up. At the store they discovered the statue was broken because the person who delivered it hadn’t been careful with the box. Carlos breathed a sigh of relief, thinking the problem had taken care of itself. The merchant collected the pieces that had shattered into a bag and offered to sell it to Suegra half price – Suegra likes a good deal. She still wanted to bring the broken statue home.

An hour later I heard Suegra and Carlos struggling to bring it in the front door.

I put my head in my hands and took deep breaths to calm myself before coming out to see it.

The statue stood almost as tall as my 9 year old. As I could have guessed, Suegra didn’t get a simple, tasteful statue – but one with added touches, like two angels crowning the Virgin… Y con todo el respeto, it looks like something you’d buy at a dollar store.

La Virgen doesn’t look right to me. The original image has her looking down and to her right, a neutral expression on her face. This statue has her smiling silly, like the Mona Lisa. The apparent rush paint job has the Virgin and the angel holding her up, looking a little cross-eyed. Instead of a simple base, the statue stands atop a mound of puffy, white clouds.

Even after an earnest attempt to glue back whatever I could, there are still many pieces missing. The statue is overly-big, broken, faux-fancy in a way that makes it look cheap, and inaccurate.

I do not like the statue, at all, but I rearranged furniture in silence, biting my tongue, to make room for the Virgin – trusting that Carlos would take care of it.

The next day, Suegra invited friends to our living room to visit the statue. The day after that she invited more friends. She brought them before it and bragged about what a fantastic statue it is and how she generously gifted it to the household. All of this seemed very wrong. You don’t brag about the Virgin of Guadalupe. It isn’t for showing off.

On the third day, Carlos and I went out together and temporarily left the boys in Suegra’s care. While we were out, our older son texted me, “She’s being really weird. She’s making us watch her sing songs to the statue and then she was dancing around ringing bells. She won’t leave us alone. We’re just trying to watch TV and she’s ringing bells in our ears!”

That’s when I decided enough was enough.

“The statue can’t stay. Please, you need to take care of this. She needs to find space for it in her room or donate it to a church or something,” I told Carlos, feeling guilty for the position he was in, but angry for the position I had been put in as well.

Carlos wanted to avoid drama and tried to find a solution that would create the least amount, (because at least some would be inevitable.) Compromising yet again, I agreed we could move the statue to the garden outside. Suegra narrowed her eyes at me as we prepared the spot in the fenced-in backyard on the side of the house where no one, including myself, will see it. She didn’t dare say anything to my face, but the next day during an unrelated argument with Carlos behind the closed door of her bedroom, she spit the words out, making sure to say it loud enough that it would reach my ears.

“¡Sacaste la Virgen y entró el diablo!”

This was followed by other random attempts to induce guilt in Carlos – to manipulate him into doing what she wants. When guilt didn’t work, she tried her other favorite psychological warfare weapon, religious fear: “God will punish you for treating your mother this way!”

These tactics used to have their desired effect, but Carlos has grown a lot this past year. Carlos has come out of denial and admitted to himself that she is emotionally abusive, mentally unstable – that she is selfish – that she isn’t a very good mother. He isn’t afraid anymore that God will punish him for admitting this truth. He knows it isn’t his fault though she would have him believe it. Things have changed. Her words can’t hurt or control him like they once did. She’s like a cat that has been de-clawed – her swipes at him are harmless soft-padded paws, failing to dig deep and bring blood to the surface.

The statue stays outside. Suegra stays locked in her bedroom, praying that God will punish us.

My Salvadoran Crocodile Dundee

[Today is Spanish Friday but I won't be translating my entire post to Spanish today. Instead I will offer some vocabulary and phrase translations of the Spanish that appears within the dialogue at the end of the post.]

“Is that a snake?”

It was too late to be going anywhere, but Carlos and I were in the car, pulling out of the driveway. The plan was to sneak out and get ice cream without the kids or Suegra tagging along. The headlights lit up something black and twisted by the side of the road near our mailbox.

“Nene, that’s just trash or something.”
“No.” He put the car in park and opened the door, “that’s a snake.”

I got out too, rolling my eyes. That big, black, twisted thing was just a trash bag or something. Where did he think we lived? The Amazon Rainforest? As if a snake that big would just be hanging out near our mailbox.

We walked up to the object. I carelessly walked closer to it than Carlos. The “piece of trash” slithered.

“Oh my God,” I said, backing up and standing behind Carlos, “it’s a snake!”
“I know,” he said, “I need a flashlight, I can’t see it well.” He started back towards the house, leaving me and the snake to entertain each other.

The snake started to move towards our house. I picked up a big rock and threw it in his path, but missed. I threw another rock which landed right in front of his nose. The snake reared back and opened his little mouth. I stood my ground, armed with another rock, freaked out but determined not to let it anywhere near the house, until Carlos returned with a flashlight and a broom, the kids and Suegra trailing behind.

Carlos uncoiled the snake with the broom and it became clear that it was at least 4 feet long and, venomous or not, aggressive. The original plan was to carry the snake on the broom over to the nearby woods but the snake did not cooperate, and instead made every attempt to come at us or go towards our house.

Suegra kept telling Carlos to throw it in the road so the passing cars could run over it.
“Ay! Dejala, hijo,” she pleaded, “Las culebras pueden tirar veneno a tus ojos y vas a quedar ciego!” (She must have seen an episode about spitting cobras on National Geographic en español.)

“I’m going to have to kill it,” Carlos said to me. We didn’t want to, especially not knowing if it was even dangerous, but we didn’t want to take the chance of it getting into our house and hurting the kids.

“Traigame algo por matarla,” Carlos said to no one in particular.

Suegra and our youngest son ran off for the house.

Suegra returned first… with a weed whacker.

“Mamá,” Carlos said, exasperated. “Cómo voy a matarla con eso?”

Our youngest son, an animal lover, came out of the house with the white bucket that Suegra uses for washing her chones.

“Can we just capture it?” he asked, holding out the bucket.
“Cipote!” she said, grabbing it from him, “No! Con mi cumbo, no!”

“Get the machete,” Carlos said. I went to our closet and got the machete.

Carlos chops the head off

Doing away with the body, which was still moving

Head of the snake on the tip of the machete

All of the commotion attracted a crowd of gringo kids who had been playing flashlight tag or something in the neighbor’s yard.

“Dude, what’s going on?” one of the gringo kids said to my older son, seeing Carlos with the machete, looking like some sort of Salvadoran Crocodile Dundee.

“My Dad killed a snake,” my older son answered, his voice calm, as if this was a normal activity for our family.

I really wanted Carlos to ask me if I was alright after the whole snake thing went down so I could be silly and use a line from the movie, but he was too busy putting everything back in the shed that Suegra had thrown all over the yard when she had pulled out the weed whacker.

…but since it’s my blog, I’m going to pretend that he turned to me as he re-sheathed the machete.

“You alright?”
“I’m always alright when I’m with you, Carlos.”

—Vocabulary for this post—

Nene – baby (term of endearment, from woman to man.)
Machete – A big ass knife
Suegra – mother-in-law
Culebra – Snake
Chones – Underwear
Ay! Dejala, hijo – Ay! Leave it, son
Las culebras pueden tirar veneno a tus ojos y vas a quedar ciego – Snakes can spit venom in your eyes and you’ll be left blind
Traigame algo por matarla – Bring me something to kill it
Mamá, Cómo voy a matarla con eso? – Mama, how am I going to kill it with this?
Cipote – kid/male child (Salvadoran slang)
No! Con mi cumbo, no! – No, not with my bucket! (“Cumbo” means container or bucket. Salvadoran slang.)

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Lucky Soap, Chicken Bones & more

The most recent superstitious thing Suegra has brought into the house is this soap. She got this in El Salvador for Carlos.

The soap is supposed to bring you luck in whatever you need luck in, (in our case, dinero.) Carlos said he wasn’t sure he believed in it but proceeded to lather up anyway.

When I laughed at him, Carlos tried rubbing it on me.

“Hey, you better watch where you rub that,” I said.
“Why?”
“Well, I don’t know how it works but what if whichever body part you rub it on is the one that brings in money?” I said.

Carlos stopped rubbing the lucky soap on me after that.

Usually, I try not to laugh at things like this – I try to be respectful of other people’s beliefs, but some of them seem very strange and even silly, (though Suegra and Carlos think I have equally weird beliefs sometimes.)

Here are just a few of the beliefs I’ve encountered over the years while living with two Salvadorans.

Voodoo?

I actually prefer the “silly” beliefs because the alternative is disturbing ones like the time I believe she tried to put a curse on me. I will never forget the time Suegra angrily moved out of our house. During that year that we were “disowned” I was cleaning the house and happened upon something which quite frankly kind of freaked me out.

When I dusted the top of the doorbell box high on the wall, I knocked something down. Whatever it was, it clattered to the floor. I reached down to pick it up and knew immediately that Suegra had something to do with it. It was a chicken bone and I really don’t know why she put it there. She may have put it there as a blessing on the house when we were on good terms – or, more likely, she may have put it there as a curse when she left. I still haven’t asked because I don’t want to stir up anything with her.

The reason I suspect Suegra is the one who put the chicken bone up there is because it’s just too strange for there to be any other explanation. After all, I already know some of her other beliefs, and this wouldn’t even be the strangest. For example, I know that there was a woman Carlos was involved with before he came to the United States. Suegra hated this woman and she told Carlos to stay away from her, but he wouldn’t. This is when Suegra became convinced that this woman had cast a spell on him by putting his photo in her underwear.

Luck & Wealth

Speaking of underwear, I mentioned before that she wears her own underwear inside out for luck.

When one of the children accidentally puts their shirt on inside out, Suegra announces that it’s “Día de San Antonio” and this is also good luck.

Rue plants likewise bring good luck.

A lot of her superstitions revolve around attracting good luck/money and discouraging bad luck/loss of money. She chides me for sweeping in the evening, (the household will lose money.)

Magnets, on the other hand, attract luck/money.

Health

Beliefs that don’t fall into the luck/money category, usually fall into the health category. She avoids quick changes in temperature. If she has been using her sewing machine she says her muscles are “hot” and so she won’t reach into the freezer to retrieve anything – (she has me do it instead.)

Carlos is also this way to some degree though he never explained it. When we first got married he’d come home from work and though he loves to be clean, he would always wait awhile before taking a shower – saying he wanted to rest first. Later I realized that this was part of that same belief. And now that I think about it, I wonder if when Carlos’s Mexican co-workers advised him not to have sex with the ceiling fan on, perhaps the hot/cold thinking is also why they believe that.

Other medical issues – “Empacho” is a gastrointestinal problem which Suegra believes can lead to death. She gets very worried about feeling bloated and will do everything from massaging her stomach to brewing various concoctions to cure it.

Sometimes Suegra also complains of having air trapped in the body. I don’t know if this has scientific merit or not. I don’t know if it has a specific name but she’ll say “Tengo aire” before pounding a fist against her back in an attempt to clear it out.

Other oddities

Suegra believes that if you point at a rainbow, you’ll make it disappear. Also, you should not watch a dog relieving itself or it will cause a sty on your eye.

Have you heard of “Tapa Boca” candles, or “Shut up” candles? If someone is gossiping about you, you light it and by the time it burns out, the person will be forced to stop talking about you. There are dozens of other similar candles for every imaginable problem as well.

In the end, living with Carlos and Suegra all these years has caused some of their creencías to rub off on me.

If the palm of my hand becomes itchy, my first thought is that I will soon come into money. And, if my ears are ringing, I assume someone is talking about me so I bite the tip of my tongue.

No matter how angry I get at someone though, I will not hide a chicken bone in their house.

Links:

A blog post about hot/cold beliefs

Empacho

Lately Suegra has been suffering from “empacho” … This illness has always confused and amused me – And Suegra is equally confused as to how it’s possible that gringos don’t believe in it, and usually have never even heard of it.

“Empacho” is a gastrointestinal illness that many people in El Salvador and other parts of Latin America believe can kill you. I decided to interview her about it for anthropological reasons because it doesn’t seem well documented.

Interview below, (in Spanish.)

Note: The use of the word “chibolitas” in Salvadoran Caliche means “little round objects” or “little balls.” (The word has other meanings in other parts of Latin America.)

(If interested in a translation to English, let me know in comments and I’ll see about transcribing it.)

How The Robin Got A Red Chest – According to Suegra

(English translation in comments)

A cute plump little Robin perched on the backyard fence. I watched him out the kitchen window as I washed breakfast plates off in the sink. Suegra appeared next to me.

“Ay, qué lindo, vá?” she said.
I nodded, turning off the water and drying my hands.
“¿Cómo se llaman esos pajaros de la garganta roja?” she asked.
“Robins,” I responded, accepting the loss of my quiet bird watching moment.
“Hay una historia de esos Robins,” she said, “No la conoces?”
I shook my head.
Suegra smiled, for she had a story to tell, and there are few things in the world that make her as happy as story telling.
“Bueno,” she began, “Cuándo Jesús se murio en la cruz, tenía bastante sangre, cómo los soldados estaban apuñalandolo…” she pauses to make sure I understand. I nod and she continues.
“Jesús tenía sangre por todos lados, y aquí en el pecho,” she says putting her hand slightly above her heart.
“Venía ese pajaro…el Robin, me dijiste, vá?… bueno, pero antes de este tiempo estaba sólo cafecito el pajaro. El Robin voló por el pecho de Jesús y posó allí…”

I smile because this is a sweet folktale…At this point I have assumed that the bird came to comfort Jesus, and for that, the blood colored his feathers red… but Suegra isn’t finished.

“Se posó en el pecho, y empezo a picar a Jesús—”

“Picar?!” I interrupt, “Pero yo pensé que este cuento sería algo más bonito… picar?! Qué feo salio el cuento…”

Suegra shrugs and walks away. When I look out the window, the cute little Robin has flown away.

Image: Elee Kirk

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