Nicaraguan Superstitions


“What we don’t understand we can make mean anything.” ― Chuck Palahniuk

Isn’t that the truth? You probably have a few of your own superstitions. I know I have many. I’ve skirted around the ladder propped up in our backyard when our workers were on our roof. I always find pennies or cordobas on the road. If they are heads-up, I take them because they are good luck.  If they are heads-down, I ignore them.

Yet, why do we behave this way? We learn superstitious behaviors through a simple reinforcement process. If a certain action appears to lead to a desired outcome, we do it over and over again. And why do we repeat these actions? Because we like to have some semblance of control over uncertainty in our lives. If we are unsure about an outcome, we try to find a way to control it. Thus superstitions are born.

Nicaraguans have many superstitions, too.

Our friends visited us with their newborn. He was wearing a bracelet with a red band and two seeds on the bracelet. I’ve seen these before on newborns, so I asked about the significance. Apparently, one of the maladies parents must watch out for is called calor de vista. Babies get feverish and sick when people who have been drinking alcohol gaze at the baby. The new Papa explained to me that even families and friends who drink too much can pass on their oncoming hangover instantly to the baby. The bracelet is protection for the baby against drunks.

OH NO! A drunk must be nearby! Quick, hold up your bracelet!


I went to the elementary school last week for the Grand Opening of the new preschool building. Although, I had been quarantined due to my recent eye operation and an outbreak of pink eye on Ometepe, I thought the epidemic was over. Yikes! The director had a bad case of pink eye!

When she saw me, she ran away from me because she knew my doctor said NOT to be around people with pink eye. I explained to her that I was fine, as long as I didn’t touch her or put my hand to my face. She shouted to me from a distance. “Don’t worry. If you get pink eye, I will find some breast milk for you.” Apparently, this is common practice for eye infections. A little drop of breast milk in each eye and you are good to go. I thanked her, but said that probably wouldn’t be necessary, as I repeatedly sprayed antibacterial gel on my hands.

Many superstitions revolve around water.
Drinking:
We sweat a lot in the tropics. As a result, nothing is more refreshing than a big ole glass of cold, cold water. However, our workers won’t touch cold water. They believe that drinking cold water after sweating will harm the body and make them sick. Instead, they drink tepid water right from our hose! Although this post is about superstitions, really, they need to stop drinking water from a hose! That will most definitely make them sick. If they have a cold or cough, they will only drink hot beverages. Cold beverages make them sicker.

Bathing:
We only have cold water showers in our house. Most of the time, I find them wonderful, especially after I have been outside working on a hot day. But, the locals refuse to bathe after exercising or working hard in the hot sun. They say it makes them sick. When I asked them about it, they said it had something to do with open pores from the sweat, and soap gets in the pores and goes through the body contaminating it with soap.

Bathing at night makes you sick, too. Bathing should only be done in the morning. You should not bathe after you eat, either. It makes you vomit.

Superstition is a cultural ingredient that goes into some Nicaraguan foods, too. Grapefruit trees are abundant here. Yet, seldom do we see Nicaraguans eating them. The men believe that grapefruits are the opposite of an aphrodisiac. Eating a grapefruit does not enhance their sexual prowess. On the other hand, turtle eggs are a delicacy and an aphrodisiac.

Nicaragua’s Easter Iguana soup is a cherished and hoped for aphrodisiac. Although Nicaragua banned hunting Iguanas, it still goes largely ignored. Usually, they are cooked in a rice and vegetable soup called sopa de garrobo. 

And finally, a tragic story of when superstitious religious rituals go horribly wrong.
Nicaraguan woman dies after being thrown into fire in exorcism ritual

What superstitions do you practice regularly? 

 

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14 thoughts on “Nicaraguan Superstitions

  1. I kinda agree with Sarah that breast milk to treat pinkeye, ear infections, etc., is not mere superstition–it actually does work amazingly well, according to my midwife friends and friends who are mothers. By the way, the guy who was our guide and driver when we came to Ometepe from my Spanish school, was amazing when he showed us around Chaco Verde–he knew the medicinal uses of most of the trees and plants there and could describe how they were prepared to treat the specific condition they could cure. Superstition? Or genuine traditional medicine? I even wonder about those bead baby bracelets–are the seeds unusually absorbent of fumes (like alcohol?) So much of western medicine was originally derived from plants and trees that I wonder how much “superstition” is founded in fact, and how much has gone way beyond into fantasy? I read a book about the traditional Tibetan way of birth, and it is remarkably evidence-based, until they get to nursing the baby, when they insist on not feeding the baby colostrum and throwing it away!

    • Claire, I do agree that there are many natural medicines that are better and more effective than modern medicines in curing infections, and other ailments. As far as breast milk for curing pink eye, when I was at the doctor’s office, I asked him about using breast milk to cure pink eye. Although he uses many natural medicines in his treatments, he said that breast milk has no effect on viral pink eye. Instead, he recommended a towel soaked in camomile to put over the closed eyes to soothe them. Several friends of mine tried breast milk for pink eye, and it had no effect on the length or intensity of the pink eye. Basically, with viral pink eye, there is not much you can do but wait it out.
      Another time when I was at the doctor’s office during the solar eclipse, he got a call from a frantic pregnant woman who asked if she could go outside during the eclipse. She was afraid it would harm her baby. He laughed after the phone call, which he had on speaker phone and said there are many superstitions Nicaraguans have. Oh, he also told me pregnant women call him when there is a death in their families and want to know if it is harmful for the baby if they go to the cemetery for the burial. I can see how some of these superstitions got started, especially with the plague or a fast moving epidemic that can kill people if they come into contact with a recently deceased person.
      Superstitions are fascinating and like you I wonder how many are based on fact. Probably all superstitions are originally based on fact, like someone who walked under a ladder once and a brick or coconut fell on his head and killed him. Thanks for your thoughts. It sure is an interesting discussion. 🙂

  2. Ah, that little issue of control! It is fascinating the things we’ll do to try and nudge our lives in a direction where fortune will smile on us! I remember seeing the bracelets with the seeds on them on a couple of very young babies while we were in Nicaragua but I’m glad we didn’t run into any pink eye. Although, come to think of it, looking for babies with bracelets might have helped us solve the other illness too! Anita

    • Haha! When we lived in the states, we would go on gambling junkets often. Although we never gambled more than our budgeted amounts, it was fun to see all the rituals people had when playing craps or pulling on the slot machines. Some people would kiss the dice, others would wind up like a star baseball pitcher before pulling the lever on the slot machines. Life is a game of chance and anything we can do to increase the odds in our favor, as long as it is legal, is worth the ritual, right?

  3. I don’t really have any superstitions., but I found these interesting. My husband loves cold water, but I prefer mine not too cold, although when it’s hot, I do sometimes like it right from the fridge.

    janet

  4. I’m also a penny-picker-upper and a ladder avoider. A compulsive knock-on-wooder and a finger-crosser. I find it neat that the school principal recommended breast milk for pink eye as it is something that was recommended in all my baby books as a treatment for infant goopy eyes! Pink-eye went through our workers while they were building the pool and they cut coconuts down and poured the water from them in their eyes throughout the days. Finally, I think our Canadian proclivity for cold water wore off on both our Soma staff and workers: the girls now all keep a bottle of water each in the fridge to sip from all day, and the workers fill 3-liter pop bottles with water and freeze them in the the deep-freezer overnight for icy cold water to drink all day. Perhaps we are a bad influence on culture??

    • Interesting, Sarah. I think coconut water must have been soothing for their eyes. When we first moved here, our workers told us that coconut water runs through their veins like blood. They even said that the IVs in the hospital contain coconut water. There is some truth to the soothing and healing properties of coconut water, like most natural medicines, although I don’t think I want it shot through my veins. lol And there has to be some truth to the healing properties of breast milk. It has so many natural antibodies in it. But, when we are dealing with a viral infection like pink eye, I don’t think there is anything that will cure it…soothe it, yes.
      And NO! We aren’t a bad influence on the culture. haha. Cold water, tepid water, all water is good! 🙂

  5. HMMMM…. MUY INTERESANTE….. HOW BOUT THIS ONE …?

    I went to the beach very early in the AM.. about 5 years ago , in Sarasota Fl,, like 6;30 am .. it was summer, hot out already…… and I’m an avid early riser …

    I was praying alot about a concern regarding where I should invest some money , and if I should hang onto it and do it myself or give it to this investor dude ,,,

    reputable but … I was iffy … too

    therefore really praying about it ,,

    the beach is named Lldo Beach ,,not a soul was around ..

    a few early am pelicans ,
    it was quiet and lovely ,,when out of literally no where ….a huge black crow / raven …. (that I never see at the beach )
    landed right in FRONT OF ME AT MY FEET…

    ,I was like WOW……

    .. whats up.. and looked down at him in shock…as he had money …in his beak..!!!!!!!

    in a flash he dropped the cash , and flew up….in the air ..

    as I STOOD IN A SMALL SHOCK,,

    I BENT DOWN TO GET THE MONEY ; still in a …what the heck……feel….

    THERE laying on the sand where he drooped the crinkled up money….. WAS A
    10.00 BILL AND A 5.00 BILL..!!!!!!!!

    I PICKED EM UP AND LOOKED IN THE DIRECTION OF THE CROW ,,WHOM WAS NOW UP IN A WIRE NEAR THE TREES, NOT TOO FAR ..

    I yelled …THANK U MR. CROW….

    AND HE DID THAT ….CAWWW CAWW NOISE.. …AND FLEW AWAY ..

    I still have that 15.00 and take it with me wherever life takes me …. AN OMEN???

    U BET ……. SUPERSTIOUS… NOPE…..

    I UNDERSTOOD THIS TO BE … A SIGN…

    KEEP YOUR MONEY…

    WHICH I DID,,

    AND IT SURE WAS THE RIGHT ON CHOICE …WAYYYYYYYY THE RIGHT CHOICE

    THANK YOU GOD FOR SENDING ME ….. A CROW / RAVEN …..

    I will always remember this…..
    and from this occurrence and to this day , I always pay attention to

    LOOK WITH WONDER AT A CROW…..

    AND I ALWAYS THANK HIM TOO!!!!!!

    WONDEROUS . AND A GREAT BIG BLESSING.

    • Wow! What a story! Incredible, Heidi. It definitely was a sign. I would not be superstitious about that at all. I want to write a post about signs and include your story if I may. I have had some really bizarre and strange signs delivered to me, too. I always say, if you put your needs out there, they always come back to you. But, you must be aware that they may not return in ways that you expect. I have an odd story to tell about a powerful shaman in Peru that summoned me and gave me a necklace that he made before I hiked the Inca Trail…crazy, unbelievable story.

    • Me, too! Lake Nicaragua was full of bull sharks at one time and the Japanese fished them all out for the shark fins because they believed they were powerful aphrodisiacs, too. An organization in Nicaragua that protects the Olive Ridley turtles came up with a unique way to stop the poachers from taking the turtle eggs. They hired the poachers to protect the eggs during the season when the turtles come ashore to lay their eggs. Then, when the season is over, they pay them and give them a small amount of eggs to sell. It has drastically reduced the number of poachers and eggs lost.

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