I don’t remember when I first saw it. I also don’t recall when I first noticed. I always thought it was a kiss. I thought it was something to do with religion. Everybody did it but I’d forget about it until many years later.
We had just arrived, from el Norte, to our dusty little Rancho in the Zacatecas sierra. We jumped out of the chicken bus and made our way to my Abuelitas house down a winding dirt callejon. On both sides were tapiales(adobe fences), and her adobe home was at the end of the callejon. It was a quiet afternoon and all that you could hear were the tortolas.
I got there first.
I ran inside the house and gave my Abuelita a huge hug. She started to cry. She always cried when she saw us. You see, due to the lack of communication, my mother hadn’t seen or talked to her mom in years. This was the time before landlines, cell phones and internet. So, it was always a surprise because my Abuelita never knew we were coming.
That’s when I saw it again.
I remember my Abuelita put out her hand toward my mother like they were going to shake hands and for a split second I remember thinking it was weird that my mom and her mom never hugged when they met. My mother took her hand y se la adoro.
In an instant, I remembered years of grown-ups doing it every time they saw their parents or grandparents. I always thought that adorar la mano(adore the hand) meant leaning over, taking an elders hand and kissing it but as I watched closely my mother didn’t kiss my Abuelitas hand she held it up to her forehead.
It was one of those fleeting moments where the universe stops, you’re present for a split second taking it all in and then you’re off again playing and living life like it never happened yet you know that there was something special about that insignificant moment.
It wasn’t until I was older that I realized that adorar la mano was a time honored Zacatecas custom. What I don’t know is whether it was in all of Mexico or just specific to Zacatecas. I did ask someone a long time ago and they said “eso viene de los indios” but elaborated no further.
I do know that what used to be customary, you only see now in fleeting moments when a son or daughter hasn’t seen his or her elderly parents in years. I always smile because to me it just seems like an awesome way to show respect for nuestros viejitos.
I will say that now in my family the adorar la mano has been traded in for the always fashionable hug and kiss on the cheek.
But if you look closely today, maybe you’ll see it and be privy to a lost tradition.
Have you ever seen it?