Culture

From El Cuco to Vicks VapoRub, Here Are 15 Myths Our Latino Parents Told Us That Still Freak Us Out to This Day

If you grew up Latino, there are probably a few things about your childhood experience that seem actually insane today.

Like having to wake up every Saturday before 8:00 a.m. to Elvis Crespo’s “Suavemente” as your mom cleaned the kitchen, yelling at you to get moving as she side-stepped with the mop. Or eating some kind of animal protein everyday because vegetarian dishes weren’t considered “real food” (even if all we were eating were struggle foods like eggs and canned salchichas). And let’s not even mention walking barefoot.

Plus, all those tías and tíos at family parties? Usually just neighbors or your grandparents’ friends. Yeah, growing up Latino might have been just a bit confusing (thanks mami y papi!) but our parents’ myths were actually low-key the best and looking back, we have to admit they’re actually hilarious. Ahead, find the top 15 Latino parent myths that we may or may not still believe.

1. Getting sick from walking around with wet hair or barefoot.

Almost every Latino parent we’ve ever come into contact with has said this myth in one shape or another, warning kids to immediately dry their hair after showering or getting rained on. In our culture, wet hair equals getting sick, so there’s no way you’re just walking around your probably very cold, air-conditioned house with soaking locks. Another add-on to this myth? Walking barefoot isn’t just dangerous (think of all the possible shards of glass around the house!) but will also get you sick somehow, too. 

2. Getting a traffic ticket if you leave the indoor car light on.

We would just like to know what parent council meeting occurred where every single Latino parent in existence agreed to tell their kids this. Who else can remember nonchalantly turning on the indoor car light, just to get hammered on how the police would give you guys a ticket if they caught you? Turns out, having your indoor car light on isn’t illegal, so yeah, we want answers!

3. Tampons or Pap smears take away your virginity. 

Ah, the age-old myth that a tampon or gynecologist Pap smear test could take away your virginity: we hate this one just as much as you do. Rooted in patriarchal ideals about purity and remaining “untouched,” so many of us can remember having to use pads at a young age instead of just using tampons. Getting your period meant staying out of the pool or beach, or wearing those annoying shorts instead of swimsuit bottoms. Plus, while women should start their Pap smears at 21-years-old, this myth can even put some in danger who refuse to go through the standard procedure.

4. Vicks VapoRub cures everything.

Now, one for our abuelita and all our tías who love nothing more than rubbing Vicks VapoRub on their nostrils, neck, and chest just before going to sleep. As one Twitter user says, this is “something that’s not latino but feels Latino” to all of us, coined “vi va po ru” by our ancestors from years past. Legend says that rubbing on some Vicks will cure any sickness, especially when combined with a soda (we don’t really get the science behind that, either). As per our parents, Vicks can give you a sudden surge of happiness, helps your concentration, makes pimples smaller, and is the key to a well-rounded life. Got it!

5. Swallowing seeds will make fruits grow inside your stomach.

The classic adage that haunted our childhood more than we would like to admit: “don’t swallow watermelon seeds unless you want one to grow inside your belly.” Same thing went for apple seeds, orange seeds, grape seeds… and let’s not even get started on that whole myth about chewing gum staying in your stomach for years. This lie had us picking out watermelon seeds with surgeon-style meticulousness, and we might have had one or two nightmares about a whole tree growing inside of us. 

6. “Hay comida en la casa” and it’s always healthier than restaurant food.

This one has us completely divided: while we won’t take any carne asada or tortilla slander in this household, we have to say that home-cooked food isn’t always healthier than ordering in. Our parents had us believing that a cheesy quesadilla with pieces of chorizo inside (okay, our mouths are already watering) was way healthier than a restaurant-bought garden chickpea salad, and that’s definitely not true. We still feel like we’re rompiendo la dieta everytime we eat out, but who cares as long as we have sandwichitos de pernil at home? Okay, this myth is kind of a win.

7. If you misbehave, La Llorona, El Cuco, or La Chupacabra is going to get you.

In the latest episode of “were our Latino parents trying to traumatize us?”, let us present to you the mythological figures of La Llorona, El Cuco, and La Chupacabra. Each showing up in different countries of Latinoamérica, these beastly, ghostly, let’s-just-say terrifying figures were meant to keep us in line, behaving perfectly unless we wanted one of them to take us at night. But was it strictly necessary? The Mexican-centric La Llorona is a ghosts mother who cries around rivers mourning the children she drowned, while the very-Caribeño El Cuco is a boogeyman-type figure that literally makes kids disappear. Excuse us while we turn on our night-lights now.

8. Food doesn’t go bad if it’s in the fridge.

Another classic saying we’ll never forget from childhood? “La comida no está mala, está en la nevera.” And let’s not even try to tell our parents we should throw away leftovers instead of keeping them. Yeah, that’s a battle we’re never down for. While fridges won’t keep food fresh forever, we have to say that this myth made us learn a lot about not letting food go to waste, and getting all the possible bang for buck when it comes to mealtime. So this is a good myth: gracias, papás!

9. “It’s already 7:30 a.m.”… even when it’s still 7:10.

Why did our parents insist on lying to us every morning about the time when it came to waking up for school? Imagine our parents actually telling us the real time, letting us know exactly how many minutes we had left to get ready and eat our arepa, quesadilla, or Frosted Flay’, no – that would’ve been too easy. Instead, we were served with “it’s 7:30 already so you have 2 minutes to be in the car,” sending us on a stampede to brush hair, put on our hoodie backwards and stuff dry cereal down our throat. Reality? We still have 15 minutes left, and we’re not sure how we fall for this every single day.

10. If guests are coming over, your room needs to be perfect because they will know.

In other “why are Latino parents like this” news, we have the belief that guests will always know if a room is disorganized — even if they never go in. Having guests over meant your mami going into drill sergeant mode, watching over as you folded and hung up all your clothes, put away your toys, and left your room downright-spotless. Were the guests going to tour your room? No, but they would just know if it was messy. Worst part? We still do it today.

11. Meat has to be cooked well-done, always. 

While you might have thought this was just a personal family myth, this seems to actually be a standard Latino and Caribbean trope. Anything but extremely well-done, scorched meat was something that could make you sick, so if you liked tender, pink carne? Yeah, that wasn’t going to happen. As one Twitter user puts it, “latino families think if meat is not cooked well done you’re going to get food [poisoning]” with another replying, “mi abuela simply won’t stop cooking till that s**t is gray in the middle.” With Redditors trying to get down to the reasoning, it might just be because certain cuts of meat used in traditional dishes like carne asada are best cooked well-done because of the fat content.

12. You need to get to the airport at least 4 hours before departure time (or make it 2 weeks).

This is a myth we never stopped arguing with our parents about, even though we now catch ourselves heading to the airport 4.5 hours before even on solo flights — and we’re not even talking about international travel. Why is this a thing? Hispanic parents will always stress out about flights, and probably feel most comfortable arriving at least 2 weeks before. There’s just one hitch when it comes to this costumbre: as one Twitter user puts it, “Latino parent[s] will be 3 hours late to social events but 5 hours early to take a flight smh.” Very true — and just to add to that, who else can remember the classic “ya nos vamos de la fiesta,” followed by waiting on the couch just around 2 more hours give or take? 

13. La policía and Santa Clo’ are always a phone call away.

As if La Llorona and El Cuco weren’t enough, sometimes our parents had to go for extra reinforcements when we were being really bad. While we can’t really blame them, especially when messing with our siblings and pulling pranks imperdonables, did we really have to get la policía and Santa Claus into the mix? We have scarily-perfect recollections of our parents “calling” the police and Santa Clo’ to tell them we were being bad, either saying they could take us now (savage!) or in Santa’s case, saying he didn’t have to bring us presents anymore. Of course, lots of crying ensued, but we don’t think we ever pulled pranks again.

14. If you don’t eat enough, you will get sick.

Just like getting caught in the rain, having wet hair, and going barefoot will 100% get you sick no matter what, let’s add one more to the mix: not eating enough. We still remember our parents telling us, “te vas a enfermar” every time we left too much arroz con habichuelas on the plate, even if they had served us enough food to feed a whole village. Even if they didn’t tell us we were going to get sick, they sometimes used the whole “you’re never going to grow” myth on us, too.

15. And even if you’re really full, there’s no such thing as eating too much.

Lastly, in a similar vein to the previous myth, Latino parents always taught us there is no such thing as eating too much. For many of them, eating equals health, so there’s no point in portion control — plus, if you don’t eat enough, you will get sick and who wants that? Honestly, we kind of love this one, and don’t feel bad about applying it in our daily lives. Want another taco al pastor? The world is your oyster.

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