Opinion: Mexican Mother’s Day has a different date and flavor
Virchis is a professor emeritus at Southwestern College Department of Theater Arts and producing artistic director of Teatro Máscara Mágica. He lives in Chula Vista.
Mexican mothers have a day of their own.
It was in 1922, that journalist Rafael Alducin Bedoya from the Excélsior newspaper in Mexico City wrote an editorial about the importance of Mexican mothers as a cornerstone of the family. But it was in 1940 when the Mexican government officially recognized Mother’s Day as a national holiday and the second most important national festivity, behind only the Virgin of Guadalupe celebration. Mexican Mother’s Day is always commemorated on May 10, while the United States celebrates Mother’s Day on the second Sunday in May. In Mexico, Mother’s Day usually starts early in the morning, with musical serenades. While some pay to hire a Mariachi band, others grab guitars and improvise signingto moms.
Mother’s Day also includes grandmothers, abuelas. Flowers are very important on this holiday. This day pays tribute to mothers’ sacrifices, commitment and love of connection to family. Some cities have colorful parades, and music fills the day, while everyone focuses on pleasing mothers all day long.
Dinner is very important because all the family gathers to pay honor to a life of commitment to the family. Mexican American mothers are lucky because they have two days to celebrate. This duality is what makes this country special.
Every family has its stories, and the story I am going to write is about my assistant Isabel Leon’s mother. A person’s love not only is confined to an immediate family but to others who interact with and help one another, an extended family. Mary Helen or María Elena is a very special person. She has lived this duality in this country since her first child. She had a difficult and life-threatening experience with her third pregnancy which almost cost her and her baby their lives. She was told it would be too dangerous to have any more children, but her mom already had it in her mind to have just one more child, and this is how Isabel was born. María Elena’s father was born on a Native American reservation (Shoshone) with mixed blood, Welsh, Scottish and French, and her mother was born in Mazatlan, Mexico. Her parents knew the meaning of hard work.
In 1958, Maria Elena’s mother, who was battling lupus and diabetes, made her last request for her daughter to take care of Emily, Bertha and Louis Smutny. She shared a great friendship with them, and they had helped her family for over 20 years.
Isabel’s mother took care of her children and family members who would just drop by and talk for hours, sitting in the kitchen drinking coffee, eating and doing the ritual of a tight family. What is surprising in these humble settings is that there is enough food for everyone.
Isabel’s mother is such a blessing and comfort to all of her family and friends because she is always willing to help. She takes care of everyone, even stray animals that found their way to her house like injured birds, abandoned dogs, feral cats, lost parrots, cockatiels and lovebirds, two rabbits and hens. These animals became part of the household. Isabel’s mother is a humble woman who goes with the flow of what life deals her. She never questions why, just faces every day thinking “how do I help.”
Isabel tells me countless little things she remembers about her mom, like singing to them, showing her how to dance the Jitterbug, and telling her funny little jokes and sayings in English and Spanish. Her motherissuch an intellectual and intelligent mother who never finished the ninth grade because she had to take care of her mother. She instilled in Isabel and her children an interest in knowing about the stories of their ancestors and the world. Isabel’s family was exposed to all sorts of music, classical, opera and contemporary tunes. They would gather around their little television and watch together old movies and wonderful programming of the 1950s and 1960s.
There are countless acts of kindness that her mother has given her, like sweet little things, her warmth and funny things that made her laugh as a child, and to say thank you isn’t enough for the sacrifices and love she has given to her family and friends.
I feel that every day in my home we celebrate Mother’s Day. Isabel always thanks her mother for risking her life and bringing her into the world. We are all lucky because of her generosity, loyalty and unwavering love. Happy Mother’s Day and Feliz Día de las Madres.
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