OPINION

Madre Hispana is a Verb

CHICAGO, IL - MARCH 21: Five-year-old Juan Carlos Ordonez gets a hug from his mother as she meets him  after school at the Jean De Lafayette Elementary School where he attends the low incidence special education program on March 21, 2013 in Chicago, Illinois. Low incidence special education Programs are educational programs for students with Autism or severe and profound disabilities. About 170 of Lafayette's 480 students are in the low incidence program. The school is one of 50 schools slated to be closed by the city. The school district says it needs to close under-enrolled schools to address a looming $1 billion budget deficit. Opponents of the closings are accusing the city of targeting schools primarily in minority neighborhoods. The student population at Lafayette is around 60 percent Hispanic and 35 percent black.  (Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images)

CHICAGO, IL - MARCH 21: Five-year-old Juan Carlos Ordonez gets a hug from his mother as she meets him after school at the Jean De Lafayette Elementary School where he attends the low incidence special education program on March 21, 2013 in Chicago, Illinois. Low incidence special education Programs are educational programs for students with Autism or severe and profound disabilities. About 170 of Lafayette's 480 students are in the low incidence program. The school is one of 50 schools slated to be closed by the city. The school district says it needs to close under-enrolled schools to address a looming $1 billion budget deficit. Opponents of the closings are accusing the city of targeting schools primarily in minority neighborhoods. The student population at Lafayette is around 60 percent Hispanic and 35 percent black. (Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images)  (2013 Getty Images)

Madre is a verb, as the proverb says. It is never a noun. It is an all-encompassing loving frenesí that can overwhelm with its intensity and is never wrong. It is a 24/7 on call, a constant worry and a mistress of the art of multitasking. In my case, it is the Puerto Rican version of the Hindu Goddess Kali, the Gentle Mother and Fierce Warrior, but with a sartén, a mapo and a plate full of consejos in her multiple hands. The doer of it all. Or as my beloved father called it: Mother Hen.

A Hispanic Mother is the gift that keeps on giving, even when you wish it would stop. We are overprotective and at times overbearing, but we stand as titans over our children, lionesses at the gates of their lives. The Spanish say that an ounce of mother is worth a pound of clergy. I am a Boricua Yoda.

We cajole, we demand, we are intrusive in our children’s lives but, we are always there, a constant that will never leave, no matter the passing of time.

- Susanne Ramírez de Arellano

We are strong, with a strength that, depending on the day, can smell of stubbornness. We are experts at everything. A friend of mine, Federico Rodriguez, product of a Puerto Rican mother, describes us as follows: “They are nurses, teachers, prosecutors, lawyers, cooks, you name it and they can do it.” We can also instill fear just by raising an eyebrow and slowly, with gritted intonation, say the full name of our child to stop him from doing something wrong.

If you ask my daughter, Cristina, she will say that her Hispanic Mum has a particular sense of drama, a mixture of Maria Felix and Greta Garbo, but the “I want to be alone” silk-clad Garbo of Grand Hotel. Indeed, we are prone to hyperbole, but only of the best kind. Some might call it exagerada, pero I choose to label it a gift. My Titi Doris was a master at it. When her children would drive her to the edge, from somewhere deep in the kitchen she would proclaim: “Me van a matar, yo me voy a matar, no puedo más” or something like that. We always knew she wouldn’t do it.

My daughter also thinks I have ADHD – because I can cook, clean, do the bills, write my blog while on a conference call with Washington, and still have eyes in the back of my head that can see what she is doing. “Bendito, no mi’ja,” I tell her. “It’s just that I am a Puerto Rican mother.” It comes with the territory. It’s in our DNA. And thank God for that. 

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On top of that, no Hispanic Mum can deny that her husband or significant other is also part of the brood. This is especially true if the significant other is also Hispanic. Para un detalle un botón, basically 'the devil is in the details.' The other night I cooked an amazing Italian meal for my wonderful husband, Mr. Moya. He looked at the magnificent spread, my ode to that great Italian cook Marcella Hasan, and said, “What, no hay carne”? I rest my case.

We cajole, we demand, we are intrusive in our children’s lives but, we are always there, a constant that will never leave, no matter the passing of time. I imagine probably much to our children’s chagrin. But, this is my truth and core — my daughter will turn 50 and she will still be la nina, and I will always be Mami.

Susanne Ramirez de Arellano is a freelance writer based in New York City. She is a former News Director for Univision Puerto Rico and has worked for ABC News, the Associated Press Television News in London and CNN International. She writes a Blog for www.magacin.com called Susanne en la Ciudad.

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