One thing I deeply appreciate about living in different places is being able to observe cultural differences, both extreme and subtle. One of the differences to which I’m a new observer is the practice of strangers touching babies. In the 6 months of new mom life in Hawaii, only one stranger ever touched my baby. But in the 1 month I’ve been back in my homeland of deep South Texas? I wouldn’t even be able to count. What I find interesting is that I was much more disturbed by that one stranger in Hawaii than any of the strangers in Texas combined. Why? The answer is complicated, but anyone who grew up in South Texas would understand. The answer is “Ojo.”
“Mal de ojo” or simply “ojo” is what’s known as evil eye. When you look at someone or something in the possession of someone with any bit of envy (consciously or subconsciously), you transfer your negative energy to it and curse it. For example, if you give someone’s long, luxurious hair ojo it just might fall out or get fried by a shitty hairstylist. You can give someone ojo without even knowing you’re doing it. The only way to “take back” the ojo is by touching whatever you looked at. Babies and children are one of the most common recipients of ojo, so they are most often touched. A child who receives ojo might later suffer from colic or illness (supposedly). I can remember friends of my grandparents and strangers in the grocery store firmly rubbing their hands from the top of my forehead to the bottom of my chin when I was a kid. I don’t think this generation “touches” like the old generation, but a quick touch is still required.
Like many things, I don’t know if I believe in ojo, but I don’t not believe in it. Who knows what kind of energy we can create with our thoughts and emotions. So when strangers here come up to my baby in grocery stores, I usually let them touch. And unlike the baby in this article, my baby loves the attention.
I’m always reading articles and notes in books about how horrible and annoying it is when people touch your baby. I get it. There are germs and diseases and general grossness on strangers’ hands. But I guess since I survived childhood with excessive amounts of ojo-reversal touching, I don’t really get too worked up about it.