Tribute to Tinis: Our Latina Role Model

Tinis GomarWhen Kat and I first saw Tinis, we agreed we wouldn’t take any photos of each other next to her. Her caramel-colored skin and picture-perfect body would have made any 30-something mom feel self-conscious.

Tattooed Tinis is intimidating from a distance: motorcycle; Italian personal-trainer boyfriend; gorgeous flowing hair; and a body that shows the benefits of daily surfing and training. Upon closer inspection, she proves to be even more admirable. She is smart, graceful, and strong. But her most important feature is her kindness: the trait I work hardest to cultivate in my daughters.

Tinis Gomar has a traditional given name, but no one calls her by it. Tinis is the nickname her sister gave here—a reference to how small she was for her age. My girls are small for their ages too, especially Philippa, who is also known by many nicknames (e.g. Pippa, Pip, Pipster, Flipper, Floober).

Tinis commands attention with smiles and warmth. All seven of the strong-willed children in our group were eager to follow and impress her. Whether she was giving surf instruction, introducing new Spanish words, or sharing practical wisdom, she formed a unique bond with each child during our weeks in Nosara, Costa Rica.

Her influence was especially effective with Pippa. Like Tinis, my Philippa is fierce and beautiful. Pip is confident and gets noticed wherever she goes, but there are a few things that frighten her. One of those is water in her face. Little Pip tried to hide her fear of the water by focusing on other activities, but that ruse was transparent to Tinis. Originally from the Central Valley of San Jose, Tinis was frightened of the ocean when she was young. Now, she is an accomplished surfer and certified instructor.

As the days passed, she knew just how to encourage Pippa. They progressed step-by-step, from jumping waves to standing up on the end of a surfboard. Pippa still doesn’t like getting splashed in the face, but who does?

Tinis helped my little warrior feel excited about surfing. “Again Mom. Again!” she would say after riding each wave. But Philippa kept finding more things she admired in Tinis. They both have bad dreams. Pippa has always been my night screamer, and sometimes gives sleepy reports of her nightmares (e.g. “A bug is biting Minerva!”).

As time went on, we learned a little more about Tinis’s struggles and realized just how humble and lovely she is. At one point, I noticed my girls listening in on a conversation in which Tinis was sharing some thoughts on body image.

As the mother of young daughters, I’m very aware of how women’s own body issues can be passed down to the next generation. I’m grateful for a mother who never complained about her own body and seldom spoke about the physical traits of others. I grew up believing that a body was a tool that needed care. Its size and shape was irrelevant, so long as it was strong and healthy.

For the most part, I think my girls have adopted that attitude, but every once in a while I hear them make a judgment about another’s body. Sometimes I’m surprised that they inquire about a food’s calories–a measurement that shouldn’t concern them so long as the bulk of their consumption is nutritious.

I noticed myself tense a little when the conversation with Tinis turned to bodies. I wanted to hug her when her only comment was that if anything, she would like to gain some weight. I’m quite confident that this is not a message we hear often in our North American culture.

Lots of things made me want to hug Tinis. She’s an amazing woman who came into our lives at just the right time. I might be okay with the idea of Philippa driving a motorcycle, getting a dream-catcher tattoo, or living in a remote beach town if it also means her heart is as kind and generous as Tinis Gomar’s.

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