Monday, July 5, 2010

9 Mexican Wive's Tales

This weekend I visited my family in L.A and was bombarded with explosions, smoke, and the stench of sulfur. I stayed inside. While inside my mother's home, we began discussing some of the beliefs held by many in the Mexican community. Now here is the thing, I grew up in a pretty traditional Mexican household but my mom is a teacher so we shunned anything that ran counter to science and common sense. However, I still amazed how many friends,family members, and other aquintances still believe some of the superstitions in contemporary America. My sister and girfriend are in the public health field so many of their clients are expecting mothers. They related to me some of the beliefs and I just started cracking up. I though it was funny. My sister warned me to not publish them as it may show that I am not "sensitive" to cultural differences. This is my stance. Sometimes silly beliefs are just that- harmless and insignificant. Othertimes, beliefs can have adverse reaction if acted upon, especially when a more sound, scientific alternative is available. Plus, it's healthy to call bullshit bullshit. If the emperor has no clothes, he has no clothes. I hope you find these tales as entertaining as me.

#1- During pregnancy and if there is an eclipse, the expecting mother needs to wear something metallic on her person or the baby may be born with a cleft lip.

#2 if a pregnant mother gets heartburn often, the baby will be born hairy.

#3- Strings or bracelets are worn to avoid getting "ojo" (evil eye).

#4- There is a belief that there is a condition known as "empacho" that occurs when food gets stuck inside an intestine. A "sobadora" (masseuse) must then rub it out. (see illustration above) or

#5 "Mollera Caida" is a folk illness that is the term for a sunken fontanelle on a baby's skull. They will insert a thumb inside the roof of the mouth so as to "pop" the head into place. I'm told that it is more likelly caused by dehydration.

#6 After pregnancy a mother will engage in a "Cuarentena" where she will not leave the house for 40 days to help her recover. She is to avoid exposure to air because this may get her baby sick and may even dry out her breast milk. Some will also avoid bathing as water can make you sick during this period.

#7 If you have an earache, you are to place a newspaper funnel to your ear and the news paper is lit on the other end. The smoke is supposed to clear out the infection.

#8- If a pregnant mother has a visitor and the visitor "sees" the baby, she must touch the baby as it may be possible to give the baby "ojo" (evil eye) even unintentionally.

#9- If a babies hair is complemented, the complimenting party must touch the babie's hair for the logic described in #8.


  1. cool. my nephew spent to years in Mexcico on a religious mission. he returned believing in duendes, la llorona, and the power of curanderas. i don't know who converted who. what ever the ajic of Mexico is, it's a powerful thing.
    ever read BLESS ME ULTIMA by Rudlpho Anaya?

  2. I have seen many a lighted newspaper in people's ears. Some people swear by it but I won't be doing the funnel of fire when I get an ear ache.

  3. Isn't that odd, some of these: the wearing of amulets, the sequestering of the mother after birth, are popular beliefs in Africa too!

  4. "#7 If you have an earache, you are to place a newspaper funnel to your ear and the news paper is lit on the other end. The smoke is supposed to clear out the infection."
    I have seen this done and it worked because the bug that had crawled into the ear crawled back out due to the smoke that the man blew into the ear by holding his pipe backwards in his mouth.

  5. I've heard of the that title but never read it. of course I've heard of la llorona and curanderas but I'm not sure that duendes are believed by the majority of people in Mexico. Interestingly enough, in the Phillipines, they also believe in duendes to a higher degree than in Mexico. One Filipino friend of mine said that it's not even a good idea to talk about duendes because you may attract them. They even have anti duendes to ward them off.