© 2024 KOSU
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations

Argentine President Takes On Godson — But Not To Keep Werewolf At Bay

Update at 5:38 p.m.

Did Argentine President Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner take on a godson? Yes. Did she do it, as we and others reported, because of the legend of the werewolf? No.

The Guardian reportsthat a tradition that began during mass Russian immigration to Argentina in the early 20th century became conflated with a local legend involving seventh sons and werewolves.

"The local myth of the [lobison] is not in any way connected to the custom that began over 100 years ago by which every seventh son [or seventh daughter] born in Argentina becomes godchild to the president," Argentine historian Daniel Balmaceda told the newspaper.

The emigres from Russia who asked the Argentine president in 1907 to become the godfather to their seventh son were carrying on a custom from czarist Russia. The practice became law in 1974.

Our original post is below:

Silver bullets are believed to be among the few effective weapons against werewolves. In Argentina, add presidential protection to that short list.

President Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner, in keeping with a long-standing tradition, has embraced a 21-year-old Jewish man as her godson to prevent him from assuming a lycanthropic form.

The root of the story is the mythology of the Guarani people that says the seventh son in a family of only male children will turn into el lobison — a werewolf. This legend prompted some people to abandon — or kill — their seventh-born sons. So Argentina passed a law in the 1920s that gave the seventh son presidential protection along with a gold medal and a scholarship until his 21st birthday.

At first, that law covered only Catholic families. But in 2009, a presidential decree broadened the law to cover children of other faiths, too.

Kirchner's godson is Yair Tawil, the seventh son of a rabbi, and he's the first Jewish godson of an Argentine president.

The Jewish Telegraphic Agency reports:

"Shlomo and Nehama Tawil, parents of seven boys, in 1993 wrote a letter to the president asking for the honor and were denied. But this year Yair wrote a letter to the president citing the 2009 decree, and asking for the designation of godson."

Fernandez received Yair, his parents and three of his brothers in her office in Buenos Aires. They lit Hanukkah candles on a menorah the family presented her. Kirchner publicized the event on Twitter, calling the meeting "magical" and the Tawil family "marvelous."

Copyright 2021 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Krishnadev Calamur is NPR's deputy Washington editor. In this role, he helps oversee planning of the Washington desk's news coverage. He also edits NPR's Supreme Court coverage. Previously, Calamur was an editor and staff writer at The Atlantic. This is his second stint at NPR, having previously worked on NPR's website from 2008-15. Calamur received an M.A. in journalism from the University of Missouri.
KOSU is nonprofit and independent. We rely on readers like you to support the local, national, and international coverage on this website. Your support makes this news available to everyone.

Give today. A monthly donation of $5 makes a real difference.