The tradition of godparents and godchildren runs deep in the Catholic religion. Traditionally, a godparent is chosen as a sponsor to a child when receiving a sacrament, and many parents choose someone who can help to guide their child through life.
“The mission of the godparents is to be present in that child’s life, especially in their spiritual life,” Valencia resident Verónica Astiazarán said. “In Mexico, you call that couple ‘compadres,’ and it is a very special relationship.”
Once a child has grown up, no longer in need of their care, most times the relationship between godparent and godchild seems to dissipate, but not for Verónica and her husband, Ricardo, who have been blessed with a total of 18 godchildren over the years.
On the contrary, their relationships have grown stronger as they have created a little clan of their own, and were recently able to celebrate this with their first Ahijadiza event, which comes from the word ahijado, or godchild, in Spanish.
While some came from Monterrey Nuevo León and Hermosillo Sonora in Mexico and others came from El Paso, Texas, and Orlando, Florida, nearly all of their godchildren traveled from near and far for the Ahijadiza celebration, held at the Astiazarán house in Santa Clarita.
Ricardo and Verónica are both from Sonora, Mexico. After getting married and starting a family, they moved to Santa Clarita for Ricardo’s work.
Though both come from religious families. It was more common in Ricardo’s family for nieces and nephews to be promised as godchildren to family members as the family grew.
“Out of my seven brothers and sisters, we have godchildren in five of those families,” he said.
Ricardo received his first godson before meeting Verónica about 30 years ago, and once married, she, too, became a godparent in their eyes.
“You share,” she said, adding that she treated them as such. “They call us Niño and Niña,” meaning godfather and godmother in Spanish.
Though many came from family, others came from friends as well, including Ricardo’s best friend who had twins — each of whom became godchildren at different sacraments.
“It’s funny because years later, my brother told us that he wanted us to baptize his youngest son, but they didn’t ask because they thought, ‘No, they have too many,’” Ricardo said as both he and Verónica began to laugh.
“After that, we got a bunch more,” she added, chuckling.
Though “legally by the religious law,” they only have 13 godchildren, once a godchild gets married, they then “adopt” their spouse as well.
After moving to California, they feared these relationships would subside, but they’ve put in the effort to remain in each of their godchildren’s lives, doing crazy things to get to as many of their important life events as they can manage.
Once, they went as far as to fly to Mexico, then driving more than six hours to attend a bridal shower, then coming right back afterward. “We spent less than 24 hours there,” Verónica said.
The family still returns to Mexico every Christmas, only having missed one or two in the past 17 years.
“I was not lucky either with my godparents,” Ricardo said. “I never had a relationship with them, so for me, it’s very important, and I know for Verónica as well, to keep that relationship with them strong.”
While it has gotten much harder to keep in touch as their godchildren have grown up, they remain faithful to that mission.
Both agree that it’s an honor to be chosen, and though they have many, they said they will never say no
They recently adopted two more godchildren, who though have not been confirmed by sacrament, are certainly confirmed in their hearts.
“It is not the same when the parents pick you,” Ricardo said. “A parent is picking someone for their child, but when the now young adults pick you, it means way more.”
Verónica agreed, adding, “It’s still very special to us.”
The crazy idea for the Ahijadiza came to Ricardo about three years ago, on the quick trip for the bridal shower.
“I thought it was just a dream,” Verónica said.
Then, when they returned to Mexico a month later for the wedding, they solidified the plan during the happy festivities. “We were all having so much fun, so we thought, ‘Why can’t we do this?’” Ricardo said.
In the following weeks, a WhatsApp group was made and plans began to form. It still seemed as though a far-off fantasy, until one godchild pulled the trigger and bought their plane ticket. From there, it was set.
Finally, it was time for the Ahijadiza. Many started coming in as early as Thursday evening, and Ricardo drove to Tijuana to pick others up. By Friday, most had arrived.
“It went really well considering I had 26 people staying at my house,” Verónica said, laughing.
Each guest received a little goodie bag with an “Ahijadiza” mug and T-shirt. And though it was crowded, everyone had a wonderful time during the weekend-long celebration.
On Saturday, they rented space at a nearby park for a friendly volleyball game and even got a taco truck, then went hiking on Sunday morning.
“I don’t think they’ve ever been all together before, so it was really cool to see everyone together for the first time,” their son Fernando said. “It was a lot of fun.”
Though their celebration won’t be annual, the Astiazaráns guaranteed it will return as they continue to keep their Ahijadiza alive.