As is the case for most cultures, Mexican folklore is an integral part of the Mexican national identity. Weaving their way through the common psyche of the Mexican people, stories, legends, superstitions, proverbs and customs all form part of Mexican folklore. According to Richard Goodman on the University of Texas in Austin website, folklore is the foundation where common values and morals are spread and reaffirmed in a society. Studying Mexican folklore is like the unofficial guidebook to becoming Mexican. Study its secrets, stories and understand its proverbs and you will go a long way to understanding more about the culture and its people too.
Mexican Folklore at a Glance
Stories and Legends of Mexican Folklore
There are many stories and legends related to Mexican folklore, although perhaps the most famous is that of La Llorona (the Crying Woman), who continues to feature in songs, art, literature and movies, having become an iconic figure. La Llorona is a legend about a woman who appears as an apparition, or simply the sound of her cries, as she seeks her lost child. According to Mexican folklore, she usually makes her presence felt around midnight on deserted streets or by river beds. There is no consensus about what happen to her child; some legends say that she killed her child, others that the child was kidnapped, while others claim she committed suicide after her child was taken from her.
Superstitions and notions about how to protect yourself from witchcraft and curses is also a common feature of Mexican Folklore. There are so many Mexican superstitions to choose from that it would take too long here. They can range from benign superstitions such as if you see a dog sleeping on its back with its mouth open, you are about to receive a visitor or that you will get indigestion if you shave immediately after dining, to more sinister superstitions such as if you cut a baby’s nails before his or her first birthday, the baby will go blind or a bird that flies into your house means a death in the family.
In response to Mexico’s love of superstition, there are many remedies available in Mexico to appease the effect of exposure to bad luck or a curses. One such “cure” is the gifting of milagros, which are folk charms for healing and good luck in the form of a variety of shapes and sizes from suns, moons, hearts, birds and more. These objects can be flat, three dimensional, to hang on your wall, keep in your purse or next to your bed.
Common saying or “dichos” in Spanish also contribute to Mexican folklore. Here are some fun examples:
1. “La casa no descansa en la tierra sino en la mujer”
Simply put: “The house doesn’t rest on the earth but on a woman”
That the woman is foundation for the household.
2. “Al mal tiempo, buena cara”
Translated as: ”Towards bad times, give a good face”
Meaning always give a smile or put a positive face to any bad situation
3. “Camarón que se duerme se lo lleva la corriente”
In translation, this means: “The Shrimp that sleeps gets carried by the tide”
In other words, if you snooze, you lose.
The Mexican Lottery
Many of the characters from Mexican folklore feature in the traditional game of the Mexican lottery which is a lot like bingo/lotto except that the numbers are substituted for images. These images are things like a cockerel, mermaid, lobster, the sun, the moon and other images that related to popular Mexican folklore.
Mexican Folklore is so rich and colorful, it will take you 10 lifetimes of vacations to Mexico to grow bored of the Mexican culture.