13 Things Guatemalans Believe

Since I arrived in Guatemala, I have been bombarded with new ideas and culture, but nothing prepared me for having kids in another country, where the traditions and beliefs are very strange! Their beliefs are so different and mixed with a lot of superstition, even educated Guatemalans often believe these bizarre things. So, here are thirteen of the weird beliefs I have heard around here.

1. If you leave the baby?s clothes on the line at night, the Devil will play with them and your baby will get sick and die. Irving?s grandmother used to take in Dorian?s clothes right after I hung them because of this belief, resulting in damp, musty clothing all the time!

2. Your breastmilk will get ?cold? if you don?t wear a heavy sweater, even in the heat of summer, and make your baby sick.

3. Any chronic aches and pains can be healed by a pregnant woman massaging them. (I was asked to massage a few very nasty feet when I was pregnant!)

4. Babies don?t feel the heat, they are always cold. Hence the piling of dozens of wool blankets on them, even when the mother is sweating in a tank top! I?m pretty sure this contributes to the infant mortality rate around here.

5. Wind makes children sick. I have no idea why they think this, but children up to their teens are supposed to be protected from the wind so they won?t die. When Dorian would get a sniffle or something, everyone would tell me that it was because he had been exposed to the wind!

6. Jealous or drunk people can give a baby the evil eye. I have no actual proof that this one isn?t true, but it was new to me. The reason I am not as sceptical is that there were times when Dorian would be crying and screaming for hours on end and they would pass an egg and a herb over him while praying (mixture of Mayan and Catholic there!) and then break the egg into a glass of water. Apparently the number of strings that reach the top is the number of people who have ?eyed? the baby and sometimes the egg makes the shape of the person who did it. Almost always, after these sessions, Dorian would be calm again. Maybe he liked the attention, maybe he had the evil eye. Who knows?

7. Some foods are considered to be ?cold? others ?hot?. It has nothing to do with temperature and depending on the state of the weather and the time of day, either one can do you harm. For example, if you are suffering from tummy problems, it must be because you ate avocado, which was too cold for your stomach. Oh, and ?cold? foods must never be eaten at night, or you will get sick. It took me a while to learn what all the ?cold? foods were!

8. If you stand a baby up on your lap (don?t we all?), he will have bowed legs.

9. If you put a baby upright on your shoulder to burp him, his soft spot will fall in and he will die. Half of that is true, but they don?t realize the real causes of a soft spot being sunken. They mistakenly think that any time a baby is put in the upright position, he is in terrible danger.

10. Children shouldn?t be put on the floor and NEVER allowed to crawl. Kids here don?t walk until they are nearly two because everyone is terrified of them falling down! They are kept lying down on the bed or strapped to their mother?s back until then.

11. If a child bumps his head and gets a goose egg, it will cause cancer or he will have the bump for the rest of his life. They use a coin to rub the bump hard and force it down. Dorian has had about 4 goose bumps in the last couple of weeks and I did nothing. Gasp! They are gone now. And to the best of my knowledge, he is cancer-free.

12. When a baby is born with a problem, it is because his mother did something wrong in the past. Who hasn?t done something wrong in the past? I hated that everyone here told me I was such a sinner because Dorian was born with problems.

13. A child?s personality is determined by the pregnancy. If his mother was happy, he will be happy. If she was angry and moody, he will be too. I don´t know a single pregnant woman who hasn´t been grumpy at some point!

As you can imagine, I am considered to be a very bad mother, constantly risking the lives of my children because I let them wear just onesies, don?t smother them with woollen blankets on hot days, and, horror of horrors, burp them on my shoulder. Oh, and don?t forget that I let them learn how to crawl before they walk, a true sin.

3 thoughts on “13 Things Guatemalans Believe

  1. you forgot to put that they think their soft spot is a sign of illness, so they put a finger inside the babys mouth and “lift their soft spot”. to me this is the worst and most disturbing

  2. Yes La Mollera Caida is scary business… So to prevent Mal De Ojo do they use the little red “Ojo De Venado” there?

    I know in parts of Mexico, instead of the egg they will throw a handful brown sugar, the thick Mexican kind on a hot grill and then when it smokes they will hold the baby over it and pass the baby through the wafting sugar smoke.

    Also do they worry about the “Empache/Empacho”. You’ll know when they rub the stinky pig grease on the baby’s abdomen and back and then do a weird massage that looks like they are stretching the skin.

    If you really want a disturbing one ask the locals if they have heard of la Vibora Alecante. I know plenty of “normal” adult Mexicans that totally believe this myth. The Milk snake that supposedly will come around when there is a nursing mother to drink her milk at night…. And so the baby does not wake up it supposedly sticks it’s tail in the baby’s mouth like a pacifier!
    ‘Not Kidding… I don’t bring this one up anymore because I don’t want to make people feel bad when I pee myself laughing or shake my head in disbelief.

    Oh and then there are the home-made Ear Candles para sacar el “aire”… hahaha When I had an ear-ache my wife’s brothers helped hold me down while they had this huge paper cone made from a brown shopping bag. That thing was a torch! with sparks landing all around my head! haha And every time the flame would lick higher they would say…O ves – tiene aire…

    • They use red bead bracelets for babies to ward off the Evil Eye.
      Yes, kids (and grownups) can be empachado. I’m not sure what the treatment is though.

      That’s also interesting about the ear candles. I always thought those were for cleaning the wax out of your ears, lol.

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