Mal de Ojo (Evil Eye) and Other Superstitions

     Superstitions can be found in every culture around the world, and Puerto Rico is no exception. Evil Eye is one such belief. Essentially, it attributes the ability to harm others or cause illness or death simply by a stare.
     My introduction to this belief came with a conversation that I had with an elderly family member some fifty years ago. She was telling me about her little daughter that had died as a tot. She had been a beautiful child with abundant curly hair, but she got sick and died quite suddenly. When I asked about the cause of death, the woman firmly declared that her daughter had received the evil eye from a jealous neighbor woman.
    This subject comes up in Luisa, Chapter 6:

     As more people arrived, baby Mina was passed around from one willing set of arms to another, 
exclaimed over and blessed many times. It was customary to add, “Dios la bendiga—God bless her,” 
after any compliment as superstition was common among them. If someone said, “Ay, que linda,” 
referring to how cute the infant was, without adding, “Dios la bendiga,” people thought that the baby 
might be getting what they called “Mal de ojo”—evil eye. They believed that it could cause some harm 
to the infant in the form of sickness or even death.

 Another superstitious belief crops up in Chapter 17, when Chenta declared that she was not going to move Mina out of the crib until the new baby arrived and they knew that it was healthy and strong. Luisa's reaction to this was to set her coffee cup down slowly and look at Chenta in surprise.

     "Are you afraid that moving Mina out of your room before you deliver could somehow jinx the 
wellbeing of the new baby?” she asked.
     Chenta shrugged her shoulders, and murmured, “Well, you never know. Things like that happen 
     Luisa was hard put to find the words to respond to that, but she finally said, “You know, for a 
woman of faith, you have a lot of superstitions.”
     Chenta gave a sheepish half smile. “I know,” she admitted. “Sometimes the ideas that were
passed down from my mother and grandmother are hard to shake. I do trust God and respect His will, 
but…I will still wait until after the baby is born to move Mina to the other room.”

     I, too, am a woman of faith and trust in a sovereign God, but agree with Chenta that some habits are hard to break. If you post a picture of your baby or grandchild on Facebook, I will say, "So cute!" or "Adorable," followed by "God bless him/her,"...just in case!