How do you know you are there for your family? How are they there for you?
Ask what is most important about family and many Latinos say loyalty. Although some people immediately think of the consequences of disloyalty, the benefits of family loyalty impact us daily. It is related to simpatia, respeto, and belonging. In academic literature it is called familismo. Familismo refers to the bonds between family members related by blood and also those invited into the family such as comadres and compadres. So why are familismo and loyalty so important to us?
John T. Cacioppo and William Patrick write about connection in society and the sense of unsafety when connection is missing. In their book Loneliness they write, “When we feel satisfied with our social connections, we feel safe….We also anticipate and more often experience positive emotions.” This definition of safety is crucial to understanding the function and daily experience of emotions. Without social connection, or familismo, we feel lonely, which can cause or exacerbate symptoms of depression.
We usually think of safety in terms of physical danger. However, once physical safety is established, social safety takes the lead. It comes from a variety of social connections including parental, filial, romantic, collegial, and companionate relationships. Basically, we need our parents, siblings, partner, friends, and even the Señora at the bodega for the spectrum of connection. In wanting to maintain safety we are loyal to the source that provides it. This allows for a positive and fulfilling life.
So how does loyalty happen in your family? For some people it is the knowledge that no matter your age, you will always be “Raulito” when you go home. When you need to raise money for the softball team, your tios and tias will buy extra raffle tickets. When you are raising children, you will get the village of Latino Cariño in your home. When your primos argue, they’re still expected at the Sunday comida. You are wanted and at whatever moment, you have an entire village ready for your needs. You know this on a gut level because you have done these things for them, too.
If you are unfamiliar with social safety, if you have lost connection in your own family, if you are unsure how to define loyalty, then reach out. Perhaps you cannot reach out to a family member but there are people ready to help such as a pastor or a culturally aware therapist. Bring focus to the flexible, forgiving, and unconditional acceptance of loyalty in the Latino culture. We all deserve to have someone get our back and to have the feeling that no matter what happens, you will hear and also say, “I am here for you.”