Older people are usually much wiser than me (except for ex-bosses, of course). I have always shown my respect for older people by calling them, señor, señora, sir, ma’am, mr., mrs., don, doña, usted, - lo que sea. Bueno, pues, I thought that was showing chingos of respect until I saw my cousins doing their Santito bit.
My primos have been doing this since I was a kid. Before going to bed they go up to all of my aunts, uncles, grandparents, and other older relatives and say, “la mano.” They are asking for a person’s hand, so that they can kiss, before going to bed. In return, the adult says, “Santito” and touches their head, does the sign of the cross over them, or just wishes them a good night.
I was at my grandmother’s house this summer and I noticed my primo Marin doing this. Marin is a big, strong, cholo-looking, 24-year old California chicano with a wife and a young daughter. He went up to my grandmother, aunts, and my mom, and asked for “la mano.” I was amazed that he still does this. Everyone obliged of course.
I never did this as a kid and neither did most of my other cousins. My Tio Juan’s and Tio Rafa’s kids were probably the only kids who did this. It’s a practice still common in El Refugio.
I asked my aunt and my mom about this custom – after twenty some odd years of seeing it done – and they told me they never really thought it necessary. In fact, they rebelled against it, when they were kids, because my grandmother wanted them to ask their oldest brother (My Tio Rafa), for “la mano.” You can imagine why young girls would rebel against having to ask their older brother for a blessing.
I usually say “Buenas noches” or “Hasta mañana” when I’m heading to bed, but I must admit, it’s probably pretty nice to ask for a blessing before going to bed.