Put it on your Head!   2 comments

Girl selling bread in the afternoon, Guazapa, El Salvador, 2012.

When I first came to El Salvador, this was such a novelty for me, and I was rubbernecking every time I saw a woman walking down the street with some other item I’d never seen propped on a head before.  Since I’m a simple kind of person, not too hard to entertain, the fascination remains. I have taken numerous photos of women throughout El Salvador ‘puttin’ it on their head’. Initially I was shy, so had many shots of their backs. In recent months I’ve gotten braver and asked women I don’t even know if they would allow me to take a picture of them carrying what they have on their head. They never say no!

The practical reasons to carry something on your head are endless, but the obvious are to shift the weight burden off of the back and shoulders, as well as giving one another free hand to carry something else. For busy salvadoran mothers, this is essential. There will be no wearing of the fancy-pant hats they sport in England, ladies here need that real estate for other things.

One good use for your head is to carry firewood home (“traer leña hasta la casa”). Another practical use is to carry laundry to and from the river (“llevando ropa al rio”)

That looks mighty cumbersome, doesn’t it?

Much better! Lita, a girl from the ‘hood’ in Jicaron.

My husband’s cousin in Jicaron, toting the “ropa” back home

You head has important commercial use – you can sell things off of it.

June 2012, Agua Caliente. Put a RUG on your head.

This picture has a funny story. I asked this woman if I could take her picture, and offered to buy the canasta (basket) you see in her left hand, so as not to be a freeloadin’ photographer.    Her compañera / companion walked up, and started in: “Why don’t you buy one of MY baskets, come on, buy one from Me!”

“I already bought one from your friend here,” I said. “Come on, buy a basket from ME!  Buy from ME!” and she kept butting in.  She killed my photo-op,  and I ended up with a  half-smile from this first vendor lady, and left it at that.  Darn heckler vendor lady.  Now if  SHE was carrying something on her head, SHE’D have been in the picture instead!   Doesn’t she know that’s the trick?

Jaripeo / Rodeo – Agua Caliente, Marzo / March, 2010

San Francisco de Gotera, market/mercado, 2011

Fiesta Patronal (patron saint festival), Panchimalco, El Salvador, 2011

Some more fun vendor shots I just can’t hold back on sharing with you:

one of the coolest of all the items sold off one’s head. Popsicles! May 2012, in Aguilares, El Salvador.

Firecracker, anyone? Cuetes, Cuetes, Cuetes! Usulutan, 2011.

Struttin’ through el mercado central (market) with a sexy saunter, this woman’s got what it takes to put it on yo head and look good doing it. 2012, San Salvador.

This picture is so telling.   It was a quick shot I took in traffic, while driving, from behind the windshield.   Later, while adjusting the contrast I noticed the real “Contrast” in this picture.

There’s the poor woman on the left, selling snacks or what have you at the bus stop.   Maybe she’s done selling for the day, and catching the bus, too.  Right next to her, but in a whole different world are these kids – they look like University kids – Universitarios – chatting and gabbing away and smiling.    I like how the sign-post physically divides them in the photograph, reinforcing the separation between her world and their carefree one.    I was only grabbing this shot quickly at the stop light and ended up with a powerful image depicting the contrasts of existence here in El Salvador.

Oh, a very IMPORTANT thing to put on your head and carry – the MASA!  What is masa, you’re wondering?  Masa is the cornmeal used to make the tortillas.  Women every day, all over El Salvador, and Latin America, cook the maize, wash it, and put it into a guacal to bring to the molino (grinder) in their neighborhood.  If your household is large, you might do this every day, otherwise it’s every couple or few days.  It’s one of the most common sites seen every day, often mornings, women walking to and from el molino.

I was taking a walk right after the Christmas holidays on this road to Panchimalco, and two different women passed me by on the way to “el molino” to grind their Maize into Masa. Here is one, with a child in tow. Los Planes de Renderos / Panchimalco, El Salvador, 2011

This is cute. Same road to Panchimalco, and the girl is yakking on the phone with one hand so has to steady the guacal (bucket) with her other hand.

Get out the house and start watching people, and you can turn your TV off almost forever. Getting checked out while putting it on your head.

Doubletake – put it on your head, and bring a friend! In front of Variedades Genesis used clothing and housewares store, Bulevar constitucion, San Salvador, El Salvador, May 2012.

Some people just don’t get it.  This guy, all hunched over with the big guacal on his shoulder, full of stinky, heavy fish.  Probably has constant neck, shoulder and back pain, because “men can’t carry things on top like women can,” I was told.  I challenge that statement.

The gentleman from the market needs to meet this guy and learn to carry things on your head while riding a motorcycle.

Another two bloggers, also making note of putting things on ones head, in Africa, here, and here.

This seems to be a worldwide phenomenon, and almost exclusive to the poorer classes.  Rich people and ‘developed’ countries need to get with the program.  This is so smart, let’s all do it!  There can even be a cross-market set of products like the small towels use to place on your head to help balance buckets better, and special buckets and bags especially made for this, labeled with “balanced for head travel.”  Start a trend in your neighborhood today, and put it on your head!

2 responses to “Put it on your Head!

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  1. yes!, carrying things on the head is a very special costumbre in my country El Salvador. I really din’t like it, refuse to do it.

    • Esperancita, I have never heard from a Salvadoran who did not like to carry things on their head, so that is funny. Did you ever get into trouble with your mother for not carrying something on your head, I’m curious? What part of El Salvador are you from?

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