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Parents and Parental Figures
In Spanish, as in English there are a few different names used for certain family members which are just a matter of user preference most of the time. For example, mother and father are madre and padre, yet you could also call you mother, Mom or mama, and your father, Dad or papá. In some families, these terms are also changed to mami and papi for smaller children. Many families, however confusing it might seem, also tend to call their children ‘mami’ or ‘papi’ as a form of affection, although obviously they are not either parent.
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Brothers are called ‘hermanos,’ and sisters are ‘hermanas’ (only when all parties are female). The word for siblings as a neutral term does not really exist, so when there are members of both sexes in the sibling group they are referred to as ‘hermanos.’ Younger brothers and sisters would be called hermano menor or hermana menor, while older siblings are called hermano mayor or hermana mayor.
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Aunts and Uncles
Uncles are called ‘tío’ and aunts are called ‘tía.’ Yet, the grandmother or grandfather’s brothers and sisters would also be called tía or tío, as there is not a commonly used term for great-aunt and great-uncle. Cousins are primos. Female cousins are primas. Informally, second and third cousins are still called primos, although first cousins can be called primos hermanos to be more specific. Although the distinction is there, when family gets together, most people do not feel the need to distinguish between the closeness or degree of the relationship. Nieces and nephews are sobrinas and sobrinos.
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Grandparents are abuelos. Grandma is the abuela, and Grandpa is the abuelo. Many families have at least three generations living together, so grandparents remain a very important part of the family unit. Great grandparents are the visabuelos. If you are lucky enough to have great-great grandparents, you would call them tatarabuelos.
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Modern Family Extensions
These days, new titles and roles are part of the family unit. Son and daughter have always been hijo and hija, however now stepsons and stepdaughters have become part of the family. Stepchildren are called hijastros, hijastra for stepdaughter and hijastro for stepson. Most parents will still call these children hijo and hija so as not to make them feel left out. The term of endearment for a son or daughter would be m’ijo, a contraction of mi hijo and m’ija for mi hija. Sometimes out of love, these terms are used on children that are close to you, but not your actual offspring as well. Half brothers and sisters have also appeared now in families. They are referred to as medio hermano or media hermana. However, again, most people will save their feelings by simply using hermano or hermana. The stepfather is called the padrastro, and the stepmother the madrastra.
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One last relationship you may hear about but not yet understand is that of the godparents. Most Spanish-speaking families come from countries or areas that are predominantly Catholic, or of similar faiths in which the baptism and other rites are held high in esteem. There are always godparents chosen to help with these events and be the designated party for a child’s care in the absence of the parents, or to host an event. The godparents are the padrinos. The godmother is the madrina and the godfather is the padrino. If there is not a closer family relation than this, they might refer to their godchild as their ahijado or ahijada, depending on their gender.
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Importance of Family
Families tend to think that the more people involved, the merrier festivities are, so they might also include their friends and neighbors as their family on many occasions; however, they are usually called by their name. You know you have been accepted if you are considered part of the family. It’s not always about what you are called, but whether or not you are called that name with cariño (caring/love).