Abstract

This study examines godparent selection patterns by the parents of 632 slaves baptized in Arecibo, Puerto Rico, from 1735 to 1772. The article broadens our understanding of baptismal sponsorship by using family reconstitution to re-create demographic patterns of behavior, including age and marital status, associated with godparenthood. Data regarding the godparents revealed considerable diversity in age, but most were under the age of 30. Godparents generally sponsored only one child of a slave parent or parents. There is a correlation between baptismal sponsorship and marriage. Godparents, especially women, often married within three years of the first time they were selected as baptismal sponsors. Serving as a godparent for a child born to at least one slave parent prepared adolescents for adult responsibilities. In agreeing to accept the spiritual and moral obligations associated with godparenthood, females demonstrated the ability to parent children, whereas males asserted their readiness to provide for a family.

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