Coral is a jack of all trades, a talented writer, and a free spirit, always going out of her way to help people in need. Coral Caporale wrote this piece for publication in my newspaper, the East Harlem Journal when I lived there. I found it in my files and knew that I had to share it. I believe she wrote it in 2007. Her mother passed away about 6-7 years ago. Coral also recorded my “Educational Pledge” on Youtube, both in Spanish and in English. Due to my seizure several years ago, I lost contact with many people, and she was one of them. I’m happy I found “Bendicion”, its so essential in our culture, a golden gift we lost as a people. Alberto O. Cappas, co-publisher, Buffalo Latino Village (Buffalolatinovillage.com).
PIDIENDO LA BENDICION
By Coral Caporale, JD
I do not remember exactly when it started but ever since time on this earth, I have always entered my mother’s home and left it saying “Bendicion Mami” (blessing). It is the short cut for the sentence “Mami, hechame la bendicione/ Mami, give me the blessing”. To this she has always responded,”Que Dios te bendiga y te acompane/May God bless you and accompany you.” Another similar response has been “Que Dios te bendiga y te favoresca/May God bless you and favor you. “
As I recall, other fathers and mothers would bless their children with’ La Virgen Maria (The Virgin Mary) instead. It is all the same because those parents/guardians like abuelos/grandfathers and abuelas/grandmothers were acknowledging that their great prize had entered their home and it pleased them. We, as their children, entering with this holy salutation knew that the essence of any spirituality in them was being fully bestowed upon us. Sometimes profound exchanges can be
accomplished in the simplest manner.
The blessing/bendicion as I was growing up transcended class or societal stature. In fact, if you entered or left without asking for it, that parent/guardian would make you go back and fulfill that cultural and respectful expectation. God’s presence, thru these words, served to dignify His/hers existence in the home. Is He/Her there today thru your efforts?
What has happened that we teach our second generation children the Spanish language at home but have forgotten the tradition of ‘la bendicion’ (blessing). The exchange of these tender words between child and guardian may be the only softness that they have heard in their entire day because of the speed with which we are all expected to live. Think about that. The asking of the blessing are words that allow us total vulnerability and trust with the most important people in our lives. Every age group, on a daily basis, needs a kind gesture. La bendicion transcends religion. It bonds people and people need to feel connected to something good.
One day, as an adult, I entered my mother’s home at 6:00 pm and asked for the blessing as she was making a richly perfumed sofrito where your nose rose to the fragrance of olive oil, recao, ajisitos dulces, onions and green peppers, dancing in some red tomato sauce. You heard the chattering of all those spices frying away on that hot stove. Without losing the rhythm of her cooking, she immediately gave me her bendicion. In fact, she did not even looked at me as she moved that big spoon in that metal clanking pot but the bendicion surpassed her cooking task. Her ‘child’ had entered and that love needed to be addressed without reservation so she responded and still remained focused.
As fate would have it, we got into a controversial discussion. The heated topic is not important. All I recall is the philosophical essence of it all. I learned a big lesson that day and the profound meaning of la bendicion.
I got up and said some nonsensical to Mami, grabbed my coat and left huffing and puffing without another meaningful word. But, a few days later, I realized that I missed her. You know how that is. A little invisible ache in the soul that beckons you to put your tail between legs, lower those eyes and see if you can fix the mess you made.
On a late afternoon, I entered my mother’s home but this time I smelled that rich and robust coffee Bustelo! As I walked past her, she did not turn around nor did I dare say a word. I was trying to check out the lay of the land to fix my rude mess. Meanwhile, she was juggling her hot coffee NOT on the fancy $50 metal coffee pot I had purchased for her but on the $2 cloth “colador” she had purchased at her local bodega. She has always insisted that the coffee tastes much better from that cloth colador and keeps a better aroma. I smiled to myself at that scene but did not utter a word to ask about my fancy $50 coffee pot. I guess one should not interfere with tradition, I thought, because come to think of it her coffee sure tastes better than mine made in her colador.
Without turning around and continuing to make her coffee, she firmly and with so much dignity said, “Coral, I hope that you know that you left this house the other day without asking for la bendicon, but know that I gave it to you.” In an instant, every hair on my back rose. There was an authority, righteousness, and conviction that echoed with my mother’s statement that stopped me cold. In her truth was the undeniable love that comes from someone who has nurtured you, has spent sleepless nights waiting for you to come home, has found a way to keep clothes on your back, and would enter a burning building if necessary to save you. Her tone and words were a left hook to my soul that brought the value of the blessing to a new dimension. Her soul had just pressed into mine. WOW!
I gently touched her shoulders, turning her around and eye to eye asked in a trembling voice, “ay Mami, cuando ya tu no estes, quien me dara la bendicion? (Oh mother, when you are gone, who will give me the blessing?) Silently, we both swallowed hard in a split second… so much of life passed by.
It is never too late to resuscitate the precious Puerto Rican tradition of la bendicion in your home. It can also be a bridge into the eternity of good memories someday with your loved ones. To all of you who read this and the person who once gave you las bendicion and is no longer there to give it. In honor of their absence and spirit, I tell you, lovingly “Que Dios te bendiga y los favoresca (May God bless you and favor you). Know that with this blessing, God’s heaven has just showered your dreams for tonight with sparkling stars and rainbows. All that can be holy and sacred has been placed at your feet. Rest in the peace of this good intention. Treasure it, honor it, but more important, make it live in your home.