Why Our Tías Mean Everything to Us

Aunties, or tías, are having a moment, but in many Afro-Latinx families, they get the recognition they deserve every day.

<p>Ridofranz/iStock/Getty Images Plus</p>

Ridofranz/iStock/Getty Images Plus

Aunties are having a moment—and rightfully so. From customized teeshirts and an Instagram hashtag with 3.8 million posts to an annual observance, the term auntie has become popular in recent years as Black women, like Congresswoman Maxine Waters, have been affectionately assigned the name by younger Black people. Alongside its rise in use within pop culture and the digital space, the Spanish translation of the term has been equally embraced by millennials and Gen Z-ers of Latin American and Caribbean descent. It is both representative of a chapter in their lives and a celebration of their long-standing relationship with elder maternal figures. Whether biological or chosen, near or far, many reflect on the tías, titís, aunts, or aunties, in their life with adoration.

Since childhood, the maternal figures in my life have all had a hand in molding me into the woman that I am today. While my mother has been a central part of my upbringing, my tías have also imparted valuable lessons, unconditional love, and pure joy into my life in their own special way.

My mother’s younger sisters—Maritza and Maxima—have mothered me like one of their own. I have Auntie Maritza to thank for several style pointers that I’ve gleaned over the years. The importance of a statement bag and a simple yet signature skincare and makeup routine, as well as a fresh manicure, are among the many lessons she’s provided to me. I’ll never forget my first-ever makeup kit, which she gave me, and how beautiful she made me feel when she did my makeup for my Sweet 16. Looking back, it meant the world to me that she would take the time to create a magical look for me on such a special occasion.

Similarly, Auntie Maxita is just as caring and committed to her role as a tía, watching me at times when school was out, taking me on outings with my cousins, or providing a wise word when necessary. Not one to mince her words, she’s my reminder to stand firm in what I believe and, ultimately, my message. As I got older and pursued a writing career, my late madrina, who is also una tía, would always check in on my progress; I’ll never forget her affirming words and just how proud she was of me to see the very first magazine my words appeared in. Tías have a special way of making you feel seen and acknowledged. 

For creative strategist Jessica Matos, 36, her Tía Antonia and late Tía Luisa, among other tías and great aunts, have also left a lasting impact on her. “I would honestly say my tías are some of my best friends because there's a bond and a relationship, and a trust that we have that is different from what I have with my mom,” she says. “I couldn't imagine my life without having my aunts. I couldn't imagine the type of woman that I would be today; so I'm just grateful for how they've shown up for me and the examples that they’ve set for me throughout the years.”

As a love letter to her tías, Matos launched The Tía Chronicles—a digital community and podcast that highlights new age tíadom and centers “Tías, Titís, and Aunties everywhere.” In the series "Tías You Should Know," as well as season one of The Tía Chronicles podcast, the self-proclaimed fav tía introduces her audience to a collective of tías from various walks of life. The Mexico City-based, Black Latina content creator will be releasing season two soon and has plans to further document tías across the globe, specifically Black tías. But when she’s not creating, Matos is checking in on her nieces and nephews in New York City and the Dominican Republic. 

Emily Mariscal says showing her nephews and niece love, as well as making them feel seen, is why she enjoys being a tía. “I want my niece and nephews to know beyond a shadow of a doubt that they more so even emotionally, than physically, are cared for, they're loved, they're supported, and that they can be themselves,” Mariscal says. “It’s very important to create a space for them where they feel they can be authentically them.”

The 34-year-old, who often plays Roblox on video chat, hits send on silly texts, and spends quality time with them, recalls special moments growing up with her own tías. Her Tití Mireya, for example, spent quality time with her and her siblings by introducing them to new experiences, including their first powwow which led to an annual tradition of attending the Indigenous gathering.

“Just a lot of cariño,” the Puerto Rican and Cuban-American recalls how her titís made her feel. “We knew we were loved.”

Tías’ acts of love transcend distance and even time. A recent visit to my parents’ homeland of Honduras was a welcomed reminder as my tías and abuelita (great aunt) made sure I was well-fed and comfortable during my stay. Sometimes it's the subtle ways they show their affection—a timely conversation, a prayer, or a favorite dish they know you’ll likely never make if they don’t prepare it — that speak volumes. As Mariscal's, Matos’, and my own family prove, tías are integral parts of our community.

They deserve this moment and more.

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