Valley clings to folklore, traditions

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RIO GRANDE VALLEY, Texas _ One of the predominant aspects of the Rio Grande Valley is the rich South Texas folklore brought to the area by the Indians, Spanish and Mexicans.

Some of these traditions are practiced not only in some migrant families, but in Hispanic communities throughout the country.

The most obvious practice _ probably because it can be seen from the highways along the Valley _ is the placing of funeral wreaths or decorative crosses where loved ones have died.

If someone was killed in a car or train accident, a wreath, cross or some other symbol is placed on the exact location to let others know where the person was when his soul left his body.

These death sites, usually found where there is heavy traffic, dangerous intersections or near railroad crossings, are cleaned and freshly decorated year-round.

All along the highway to LaGrulla, such wreaths and crosses can be seen. When driving past one, Maria Elena Martinez or other family members will reminisce about who died and when.

Folk medicine is also common. Popular among Mexicans and Hispanics alike is the medicinal uses of �MDUL�hierba buena�MDNM�, the ``good herb.'' It is commonly used for colds. �MDUL�Hierba buena�MDNM� is said to flourish only in the gardens of wives who dominate their households.

The �MDUL�manzanilla�MDNM�, whose leaves are widely used to brew tea as a remedy for stomach ailments, is said to grow and produce its red berries only in the gardens where the husbands are the undisputed head of the house.

In the labor camps in Walla Walla or Milton-Freewater, it is not uncommon to see people knocking on their neighbor's door asking for �MDUL�manzanilla�MDNM� or �MDUL�heirba buena�MDNM�. In many cases, such teas were recommended and highly preferred over a visit to the doctor.

Some illnesses, however, cannot be cured simply by drinking a cup a tea.

An illness or misfortune brought on by �MDUL�mal puesto�MDNM� or �MDUL�ojo�MDNM� (the Evil Eye) is a different matter, requiring different treatment. The evil may not be intentional. An admiring glance, unless accompanied by a friendly touch, may bring on something evil in the form of an illness.

Mild cases could be cured by simply placing a bottle of water on the pillow to absorb the evil. An egg, broken in a saucer and placed under the victim's bed, might lump together as the fever goes down, effecting a cure.

�MDUL�Susto�MDNM� is a mental state brought on by some shock or misfortune. �MDUL�Curanderos�MDNM�, people who have special powers to heal, use various methods to restore mental health. Prayers are a common treatment, often accompanied by sweeping motions of a broom while the patient lays outstretched upon a cross of ashes.

These are a few of the common traditions that keeps Hispanic families bonded together no matter how far away from home.(

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