Learn Spanish with Free Daily
Audio and Video Lessons!
Start Your Free Trial 6 FREE Features

Mal de Ojo

Before coming to Mexico, I learned that it is not polite to look at babies and children without touching them. As an American accustomed to the large amounts of personal space we need, I always preferred to comment on how lovely the baby is but not to touch her. Here I learned that if I complimented a baby without touching her, it could lead to the baby receiving “mal de ojo,” or evil eye. I needed to touch the baby on the head or the arm. This contact assured that she wouldn’t suffer any negative effects due to one’s admiration. The idea is that if someone admires something so much that she wishes it were hers or feels envy, this negative energy is transferred to the baby, however well intended it may be.

In every market in Veracruz, you can find a seed called “ojo de venado,” or deer’s eye, attached to a small, beaded bracelet. Sometimes this seed has an image of the Virgin of Guadalupe or a saint superimposed, but not always. These are used to protect little babies from strangers and the vibes they may carry. My mother-in-law explained to me that many mothers in past generations placed an open pair of scissors, in the form of a cross, beneath the baby’s pillow as a form of protection. You can also wear anything red or attach a red string to the baby’s wrist. These beliefs are limitless, and many have changed over time.

My son has worn the “ojo de venado” he was given and we’ve picked out red socks for him on more than one occasion. I no longer get nervous when strangers go out of their way to touch him on the head. What’s more, I’ve learned to do the same.