Mother’s Day in El Salvador

Why were Adam and Eve so happy in the Garden of Eden?  Adam didn’t have a mother-in-law.

But seriously, folks, May 8th is Mother’s Day in the U.S.  It’s always the second Sunday in May.  Here in El Salvador, Día de las Madres is fixed at May 10th.  While Americans have one day to honor the women who bore and raised them, Latins have a lot more time.  Perhaps they even take their mother’s more seriously than some of us from up north do.

Salvadorans are more likely to be raised by a mother in the absence of the father.  That might be because he has left to find work far from home, because he was an irresponsible pr*** and took off leaving a girl friend pregnant, or papa as a common womanizer with families here and there and there and there.  Mothers walk the kids to school until they turn fifteen.  Mothers work and take their babies and children with them until they come of school age.  Mothers are with their children every step of the way until they die.  The generations are welded together by the mothers, grandmothers, and great-grandmothers.

Here we have no soccer moms, career oriented moms, alimony moms, or travelling moms.  Mom is the rock-hard foundation of the family.  Mom is not only there to pick you up when you fall and attend the periodic school meetings, but she’ll come to the jail or prison regularly with food, clothing, and spending cash as well as walk the picket line protesting your harsh conditions of incarceration.  Mom is special in El Salvador.

Mother’s Day in the U.S. was legislated by the government and you don’t get time off from work to celebrate her.  It means a mandatory visit to your mother and your mother-in-law if you want to keep the peace. Maybe you take her out to dinner, bring her flowers and chocolates, and wear a carnation in your lapel (does anyone wear clothes with lapels anymore?) to tell others if she’s alive or dead. If it’s the latter, you might visit her grave and put some flowers on it.

In Latin countries Día de las Madres may be designated for the 10th of May but you are given the day before and day after off in case visiting mom involves extensive travel.  My first experience with the ‘long week-end’ Día de las Madres took place in La Pimienta, Chinandega in Nicaragua during our “Week in Hell” mission trip.  The school kids suddenly were home.  We’d noticed our two teachers walking out of our remote village on the long road to civilization.  When we asked where they were going, we were told they were going home for three days to visit their mothers.

El Refugio is not at all remote.  But I learned today that our kids will have days off from school next Monday and Tuesday as their teachers will not be working.  I believe she said they’d have to attend one or two Saturdays to make up for it.  Still, our church pre-school and the CDI program have been preparing art work and cards for the kids’ mothers.  I’m sure my kids will bring something home for Margarita next week.  Since this is my first Día de las Madres with Margarita and her first with me, I’m not exactly sure what my role is.  Do I bring her a plate of frijolito y crema in bed?  I don’t want tortilla crumbs on the sheets.  Would she like to stay in bed all day and relax?  I can’t see Adriana letting that happen.  It’s a cultural dilemma.  It’s different here.

My late mom, Bertha Brown, with two of my beautiful daughters, Karen and Lorene.


4 responses to “Mother’s Day in El Salvador

  1. Hi I think you are absolutely right about the whole “Salvadorans are more likely to be raised by a mother in the absence of the father.” thing my mom is from El Salvador and since I can remember she’s the one thats been there for everything and i mean everything. And it truly sucks that we have to go thru life with out a father for whatever reason. It’s true that in the U.S it’s not as special as it is to the Latin families here in the U.S.

    • Emily, It’s not always easy for me to comment on the culture I have entered. As an American coming to El Salvador later in life, I haven’t had the opportunity to grow up here and take for granted the way things are. We tend to compare personal experiences and cultural phenomena with a slight bias. Especially Americans who truly believe their way is the best and only way.
      But I hope my comments are with a somewhat open mind and not as judgmental as they might be. Still, I can’t help but feel anger at fathers who make babies and abandon them leaving the mother to assume not only the role as nurturer but provider. I also have to admire the mothers whose super-responsibility it becomes to be father as well. Kids seem to grow up with or without dads. They succeed or fail by local cultural standards and life goes on. Mothers seem to grow old too quickly in these situations.
      I had a dad until his passing when I was 18 and not only lost his love but his wisdom and counsel. I can’t imagine what my life would have been like had he not been a presence in my life for the eighteen years I had him.
      Thank you for your comment.

  2. Pingback: Feliz dia de las Madres (Mexican Mother’s Day) « Training Up My Boys

  3. Definitely there is such a difference between the American and Latin American mothers. You say it well with “rock-hard foundation”. Latin American mothers are more revered by their children, especially their male children, from what I’ve seen, than the American way of interacting and feeling about mothers, but they also tow the line more than the American mothers who (usually, not all) have it much easier. Since this is still a very machista society, women do pretty much everything, and their children recognize this when they grow up, and cherish them so much. This bond with mothers is one of the positive things in El Salvador that would be nice to see more of back home.

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