We all have family. Parents, brother or sister, uncles or aunts, and cousins (even those you only see in funerals or weddings). I’m sure that many of you reading were taught to respect your family and to address them in a good manner. That’s where the word Bendición comes in. When I was a kid, my parents taught me that when I saw one of them or my uncles and aunts I had to ask for their blessing; that’s the meaning of Bendición. Usually after that “asking for a blessing” the answer we got was “Dios te bendiga” or “God bless you”. In my parents’ case, we were required to ask for that blessing in the morning, before we went to bed and, in case we were not together during the day, whenever we saw each other. In Puerto Rico, at least while I was growing, that was a normal thing. We did not see it as something that was forced into us, but as a way of respect towards or family.
I have always said Boricuas are unique, and no one can fight that argument (don’t you dare fighting that argument). When we speak of family there’s more to that word than your parents, their brothers and sister their children. Even your best friend’s parents are family, or that neighbor you’ve had for the past 20 years. That same neighbor that looked after you when your parents were out or working. I remember some friends asking me why do I have so many aunts. “She is not my aunt, just a neighbor”. To this day I have an aunt and an uncle just because when me and my brothers were kids we spent a lot of our time with their children, who are now (and have been for the last 20 years) our cousins. That aunt and uncle are even my kids’ (and we are not remotely related, they were just my neighbors). The same thing happens with my kids and my friends: Tio Flipe, tio Will, tio Jose, titi Noe, titi Jackie… just friends that are so close that they are family now. And my sons ask for La Bendición with the same respect they ask my parents. And I know all around the Island and with most Boricua families the story is the same. “That’s part of the blessing of living in this Island; the concept extended family has a whole new meaning”. Those are words from my extended family member Mari, who gave me the idea to write this post. Her father studied with mine, her older brother studied with mine, the one after that studied with me since kindergarten and he was born 2 days before I did…u get the point, we are family.
Also every Boricua, and I really mean EVERY, have at least a cousin either in New York, New Jersey or Florida (we are everywhere). Brooklyn, Bronx, Newark, Orlando, Tampa, just some of the cities in which our family members are. I even have family in Utah freezing their butts for 9 months of the year. All of us have family members in those cities and in some cases, we have not even met, but our parents say they are our family members and we just believe them.
Something else that even I find amazing is La Pinta (and I don’t mean Christopher Columbus’ ship). The town where I was raised in, Cidra, is not the metro area of the Island. Is a rural town and there was a time when my parents were growing up that pretty much every one in the town knew each other. Once when I was having lunch in some local place and this lady, around her 60’s, who I did not remember meeting before, walked up to me and asked if I was Juan’s son. I replied with a yes and she said: “te saqué por la pinta”. I just laughed with her, but I did not understand what she meant (I did not want to be disrespectful, you know). I mean, I did not know any pinta (Boricua for red haired with freckles). Later that day I learned that what the lady meant was that I look like my father, who she has not seen in a while, but he looks like his father (my grandpa). That’s the definition of “La Pinta”, that you and your father or mother, sometimes uncle or aunt, look alike. The definition of that saying may be new to some of you Boricuas reading, but in the towns in the center of the Island is a common thing to this day.
Now you know the importance of family for us. Is not the blessing of having parents and siblings; for us “familia” is a huge word that carries some degree of trust and, of course, love. And that also means love for our Island and our people no matter what part of the word we may be in. To my parents, Bendición. And to all of you, cójanlo suave!
If you have an idea for my next post, let me know. Remember to share this with your friends, family and colleagues, and to leave a comment if you like.