My “nina,” Mary Lou Montoya Lucero, died last Thursday at her home in Las Vegas, N.M. In Spanish, “nina” is short for madrina, or in English, godmother. I wasn’t able to attend her funeral, but she’s been on my mind.
In the Hispanic culture we take our ninos and ninas seriously. They are my parents “compadres,” meaning they’re part of our extended family. In reading my nina’s obituary, I learned that I’m part of a rather large “extended family.” I was only one of 19 godchildren that Mary Lou and her surviving husband, Jake, “adopted” through baptism.
It was a couple of years ago that I last saw my nina. I saw her almost every day one summer, when she directed a summer youth program in North Portales. But other than that, I mostly saw her in passing. Every Christmas, throughout my childhood and teens, Mary Lou and Jake brought me a gift, always something nice, for the 1970s and 1980s, like a blow dryer, curling iron or camera. Some say that’s the job of “ninos,” to bring gifts. But what I remember most is seeing her at weddings, funerals or at Mass, and mom saying, “This is your madrina.” She would hug me and I always felt a strong bond with her.