By Helena Rodriguez: Local Columnist
My daughter Laura has a new set of godparents, or a new madrina and padrino, as we call them. And in the process, I guess I’ve got myself a new set of compadres.
Last Sunday, my uncle and aunt, Manny and Matilda Ortega, drove from Hobbs to serve as sponsors for Laura as she was confirmed at St. Helen’s Catholic Church in Portales. My dad, Julio, was the padrino for my niece, Crystal Diaz.
Sponsorship is actually an understatement for this important role in a child’s life. Manny and Matilda are godparents, or Laura’s madrina and padrino. In the Hispanic culture, padrinos (which refer to both godmother and godfather) are considered family.
In this case, they really are family, but even when padrinos are not blood relatives they are considered no less than family. This is just one example of how the concept of family is inclusive in the world I was raised.
These days, many kids think of padrinos as the people who greet them with big abrazos (hugs). Padrinos are the people who sneak you folded up dollar bills under the table just because, and they buy you birthday and Christmas gifts. They come to your family barbecues and sometimes join your parents for drinks. But I think padrinos can, should and are obligated to be more than that to their ahijados (godchildren), just as the role of godparents in any culture should be.
Padrinos should be spiritual advisors — an extra set of helping hands to support a child throughout their spiritual journey in life. I trust that Manny and Matilda will do this, after all, they were there for me during a critical time in my life. My mom, Katie, practically raised my daughter Laura during her first years. I was working night and day at the Portales News-Tribune at the time.
When I ventured out on my own for the first time and moved to Hobbs in 1995 to work for the Daily News-Sun, it was tough without family there. As a matter of fact, I was ready to quit my job one night and move back to Portales. But that night Aunt Matilda called and said they were moving to Hobbs. Matilda then became my second mom and watched Laura while I worked.
I looked up the term “compadre” and “comadre” (the feminine form of compadre) on the Internet. One Web site referred to these figures as “comothers “and “cofathers.” That would describe Matilda and Manny. Now I got a little off track, but that’s what compadres are — not just the back-slapping pals that they joke about in old Western movies.
I’m a madrina myself. I was proud when my sister Julie and my brother-in-law Manuel asked me to be the godmother for my niece Stephanie Franco. It’s funny now because sometimes when Stephanie needs or wants something that her mom can’t give her, Julie tells Stephanie to ask her “nina.” And when we see Stephanie, she’s gotten into hugging Laura and calling Laura her “godsister.” As for Stephanie, she is my ahijada (godchild) and I hope to give her more than just movie and swimming money. I hope to play a big role in her spiritual journey too.
As if many of our families weren’t big enough, people can become your padrinos or compadres in other ways, too. When I was a teen, we couldn’t walk into the old Food Town (now La Tienda in Portales) without Mom running into one of her comadres. And I forever remember Dad always saying Compadre Henry this or Compadre Henry that.
Compadres can include a child’s godparents at baptism. They are also the people who are a part of your child’s quinceañera or wedding party. When we lived in Hobbs, Laura even had padrinos for her First Communion, Julie and Manuel. I suppose next time Laura asks me for something that I can’t give her, I’ll use the old Julie trick and refer her to her “nina.”
Helena Rodriguez is a columnist for Freedom Newspapers of New Mexico. She can be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org