All Our Relations
Each friend represents a world in us, a world possibly not born until they arrive, and it is only by this meeting that a new world is born.
Everyone needs comadres and compadres. What are those? Well, Latinx* people have way more relatives than many other families. Most people attribute this to the fact that many Latinx* are Catholic and therefore frown on contraception, but this is only a partial truth. The rest of the story is that we are related to people that non-Spanish speakers are not.
In English, for example, your siblings aren’t related to your spouse’s siblings at all. They might see one another at large family gatherings, but your sister’s brother-in-law is hers and no relation to you. In Spanish, however, your sibling’s siblings-in-law are your concuñados /concuñadas.
Your child’s spouse’s parents, in English, are your child’s mother- or father-in-law. They relate to you mainly for the purposes of divvying up wedding expenses and holidays with the grandkids... and maybe, if you become good friends, some commiseration over your neglectful children. There’s a good deal of talk at weddings about “two families becoming one,” but these people will still always be your child’s in-laws and your grandchildren’s other grandparents. In Spanish, they're as related to you as your grandkids and called, in some dialects, your consuegros y consuegras and in others, your compadres y comadres.
I love the concept of compadres and comadres. Technically, it means “your child’s godparents” — but the words literally mean “co-father” and “co-mother.” Comadre and compadre are terms used liberally, beyond their technical or even literal meaning, and are even used between extremely close adult friends who may not have any children at all, as they are co-parenting, co-nurturing each other’s stages of life as much as anyone else’s.
These are the kinds of friends whose doors you don’t knock on and whose refrigerators are stocked for your free grazing. They will show up in a crisis and love you unconditionally. Years can pass without speaking and you pick right up where you left off. They see you beyond failed marriages and career achievements. They understand that you have helped to form them and they you. They are family as much as and sometimes more than blood relatives.
Everyone needs comadres and compadres.
I am ever grateful for the friends who are my family—who have pieced me together each time I’ve fallen apart; who laugh, cry, dream, and age happily by my side. May I strive to be as reliable, patient, and loving with them as they are with me. Amen.
*As our understanding of gender evolves, so does our language. Some people use "Latinx" (pronounced “La-THEEN-ex”; there is no hard "t" sound in Spanish) instead of "Latino" and "Latina" as a gender-inclusive way of referring to people of Latin American descent.