San José, Costa Rica, since 1956

Mother of 18 Prepares to Celebrate

Ask any Costa Rican why Mother’s Day – celebrated here Aug. 15 – is so important and they’ll just shake their head at you. The answer is a no-brainer when it comes to celebrating these givers of life and love, but the significance of family for Ticos has made Mother’s Day something extra special for generations.

Lillian Campos, 72, could tell you something about that tradition.

Life seems quiet on an average day at her home in Heredia, north of San José, where she hand-squeezes her own lemonade over a pitcher in the sink and mixes old newspapers with the kindling in her 30-year-old wood-fired stove. But on Mother’s Day, it’s hard to slip down the narrow hallways lined with relatives or find any quiet with the sounds of guitars strumming Tico music and gifts being torn open.

Campos is the mother of 18 children whose ages span two generations; her oldest is 53 years old, the youngest 28. Four of them still live in the house with her, and many of the others live in the same neighborhood. Altogether, her children have given her 48 grandchildren.

That makes for remembering a lot of names, but also means more memories.

As a woman who’s made a career out of being a mother, she says the most important things you can do while raising children is to try to make them helpful, smart and kindhearted.

It’s a teaching process she went through time and again, but she still reflects on all of it with a smile.

“What a fight it was to raise so many children!

But it was worth the effort,” says Campos, whose own mother had 15 children. “Life has been better since I’ve been a mother.”

Mauricio Arguedas is one of Campos’ 10 sons and lives with her. He says his mother has blessed him with more things than he can even begin to list. There’s something different to be thankful for every day because of his family members, he says, but the mother is most important.

“My mother gave me life and taught me the importance of family,” he says. “We have a big family, and it’s a strong family.”

His sister Ana Isabel, who works in The Tico Times’ accounting department, also lives at home with Campos. She says Mother’s Day is just like celebrating someone’s birthday because it’s centered around one person you love. Whether she’s sick or needs help with something, her mother is always there for her, she adds.

“Aside from God, she is the pillar of my life,” she says.

Mother’s Day in Costa Rica can be much like Christmas in North America, where cards and goodwill phone calls aren’t even the half of it. Here, there’s a lot of gift giving and money spending when it comes to showing appreciation to mom.As can be seen in advertising campaigns on television, billboards and the backs of city buses in the weeks leading up to Mother’s Day, many of these gifts are for use in the home (TT, Aug. 11, 2006).

Campos says she likes to mark the occasion by cooking some of her favorite meals from her own book of recipes, none of which she seemed willing to share with The Tico Times.

The day also has religious importance as it marks what Christians celebrate as the Assumption of the body and soul of the Virgin Mary to heaven. Just one glance at the hanging copy of Leonardo da Vinci’s “The Last Supper” that ties together the statuettes of Jesus and Mary adorning her dining room lets a visitor know the role religion plays in Campos’ family.

She says the family’s religion is something else that brings them together, and going to church is an important part of her Mother’s Day festivities.

“The Virgin is an example of the importance of the mother,” Campos says.


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