Angelitos

18 09 2008

On the Death of Baptized Infants in Catholic Latin America

One of the most vivid memories that my mother tells of her childhood in Mexico is that of the death of her baby brother at the age of three. Little Ignacio drowned in a creek when he ran off unsupervised, leaving his parents and young siblings devastated. What my mother remembers most, however, is what is known in the Spanish speaking world as el velorio del angelito, or the little angel’s wake. She always remembers how beautiful it was, how soft music was played by the villagers, and the room was full of bright flowers. My mother in adulthood gave birth to an older brother and sister prematurely. Both lived only a few days, but my mother called the priest to baptize them before they died. We would visit the cemetery as children and my mother would point out the graves of our dead siblings and say to us that they had become angels now. It wasn’t until I was a teenager that I found out that my mother’s theological position wasn’t quite right.

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