Last night I watched a Sam Raimi film called Drag Me to Hell. A loan officer refuses to help a woman keep her home and is then cursed by the woman.  Watching this movie I started to think of curses and how heavy superstition can weigh in some Hispanic families.  The stories all involved jealousies, el mal ojo.  Something as benign as a two second long desire for what someone else had was enough to cause turmoil, unless you humbled yourself to the fact that you are jealous and touch the head of the envied one or article of clothing and voice that you don't want to give them the evil eye. I have grown up hearing stories of people who have been cursed and those that have the power to throw a curse and the ones who can remove the curse. These stories have never been filled with the supernatural but take on a more insidious and practical nature.

One I remember hearing quite well because I was sitting in a living room as the adults drank coffee and spoke about Mr Trujillo's nephew. He lost a job and a wife because he lost his leg in a car accident. This misfortune was the result of having had too much. He had a great job, brand new car and married a woman who was so beautiful that many men wished to possess her. It occurred to me rather quickly she wasn't worth having, beautiful or not, if she ran out on her man when he needed her the most. I then thought he was lucky to be alive.  But I also remember being so afraid of cursing or being cursed that I was willing to spin any story in such a way that curses were not involved.

Then there was another story about breaking a curse.  Stories about breaking curses were easier to hear. A doll had to be taken from Texas to a  curandero in New Mexico. The trip took several days because the man's truck continued to break down over and over. He then rented a car and the same thing happened but he eventually hitched rides the last few miles and arrived at the curandero's house. The doll was used in a ritual to remove the curse and then burned. When I heard that story as a child I imagined a valuable and ancient doll that had its own very interesting story and one I wanted to know more about. How sad it was burned and only described as an old doll by this friend of my Grandparents. I wanted to ask more questions but clearly that was not the point of the story. I didn't want to focus on the idea that an old doll could be cursed. After all,  I had a few old dolls I picked up at garage sales with my Grandmother.

I was told that jealousy is a powerful emotion that can create problems for the envious and the envied. It was best to not show off or say too much to even family members and to appreciate the things one had in their lives. At some point in childhood I reasoned that a person could not take only one single  aspect of another person's life to envy. That  would be out of context somehow and not logical. I decided that to envy a person one had to envy all that person was and everything they had and the way they lived. That meant everything about them and around them good or bad. So as a result to envy seemed like cursing myself every time.  I never wanted everything a person had in their life. There was still the problem of being envied. I found that not being able to show off or share great news every now and then made me feel not so happy. My solution was just to issue a verbal disclaimer: "Well you know, finally something cool is happening to me...after {insert number of years of shitty luck here} years" and that was enough to satisfy my superstitious thoughts.  I do not wear ojo de venado or a nazar.

The evil eye takes one form or another in many cultures but I do wonder if it would do less damage to have a more healthy view of jealousy.  To live superstitiously is such a burden. Wouldn't it be better to view jealousy in a more controlled way? Not one that involved curses. The Apache believed that jealousy was normal and an accepted emotion that should be expressed.  Not all tribes shared this view.  This meant if a spouse was caught with a lover it was perfectly natural and understood when both were killed.


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