Mexicans are definitely a very superstitious bunch with a superstition or myth (mito) for every occasion. Perhaps the combination of Mesoamerican traditions and Catholicism have made this the case, but whatever the root, it is clear to see in everyday life. The local corner store hangs basil or other herbs at the entrance to ward off bad spirits, you see many people wearing red strings around their wrist for protection, there are tons of shops where you can buy every potion and incense and candle to rid you of evil spirits or bring you good ones and shock or “susto” is considered a serious matter that must be cured so as not to manifest itself as a physical illness such as diabetes.
I remember an old colleague telling me, “I’m not religious, I don’t believe in any of that rubbish, but don’t mess with Santa Muerte (the Saint of Death), because death is powerful.” This to me was a wonderful example of how superstition and belief in higher powers holds strong in Mexico even in many who claim not to believe.
The idea for this blog came about, when my boyfriend’s mum told me not to eat anything sweet after the shock of the earthquake a few weeks ago in Mexico City (apparently I was as white as the t-shirt I was wearing). She was so sure that we should not eat anything sugary, but that instead we should eat bread. Intrigued I looked this up on the internet in English and I found nothing. Switching into Spanish however, pages and pages of results came up. This got us talking, and it turns out there are plenty of other ‘mitos’ followed by Mexican families all over the country and many are things that you shouldn’t do for fear of something bad happening. When I probed people about where their beliefs in certain mitos came from, they nearly always said they knew someone to which the said bad outcome of doing something had happened, therefore they ‘knew’ it to be true.
Here are some of the most intriguing mitos that I have heard! There seem to be so many that are baby related:
- If a women craves a certain food a lot when she is pregnant and she eats a lot of it, her baby will look like her craving. Thanks to Brenda at LaVitaminT for this gem! I also heard someone tell me the opposite, if, in fact, you don’t give in to the craving your baby will look like the unsatisfied craving.
- If you iron clothes and then go and wash your hands afterwards, you will get arthritis
- Going outside into sudden cold can turn you blind
- If you go outside after eating to much you can get facial paralysis
- Don’t sweep dirt out of your front door as you will sweep out good fortune with it
- If you cut a baby’s fingernails before they reach their first birthday, they will have impaired eyesight
- If a pregnant women goes out during a full moon the moon will eat her baby’s face resulting in the baby being born with a cleft palate
- You must shave a baby’s head or they will have speech problems when they grow up
- Eat chocolate if you get stung by a scorpion
- A baby being admired too much but not touched will get the evil eye (mal de ojo). This can only be cured by the admirer touching them or by taking the baby to have a lympia (traditional cleanse).
I know that this is just the tip of the iceberg, please please send me all the ones you have heard or that your family have told you, I just love hearing them!
NB: I am not making comment on whether or not these are true, just simply fascinated by things I have never heard before. I would love to hear info and stories explaining them.
Susannah Rigg is a freelance writer and Mexico specialist. Her work has been featured in Condé Nast Traveler, CNN Travel, BBC Travel, The Independent UK, Afar and The New Worlder among others. Check out her portfolio here. Contact Susannah by email, info [at] mexicoretold [dot] com and join her on Facebook and Twitter and Instagram.