[FACT OR FAKE #87] A Jewish Boy Was Adopted To Stop Him From Becoming A Werewolf?

By tradition, the seventh son (or daughter) born to an Argentine family is eligible to become the godson (or daughter) of the President. But is it true that it's done to prevent them from turning into werewolves? We explore the topic in the very first FACT OR FAKE column of 2015.

Cover image via Wikipedia

From last few days, multiple news organisations from around the world including BuzzFeed, The Independent, New York Daily and Haaretz have been, unquestioningly, reporting that Argentina's President Cristina Fernández de Kirchner has become godmother to a Jewish boy in order to stop him from becoming a werewolf

Argentina's president, Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner, announced on 23 December 2014 that she had adopted a young Jewish man as her godson.

Image via Charly Diaz Azcue/LatinContent / Getty Images

Getting straight down to it, SAYS can confirm that while President Kirchner has indeed become the godmother of the seventh son of an Argentinian Jewish family, the rumours that this was done in order to prevent him from becoming a werewolf are completely NOT TRUE. It's FAKE! So what about those several news reports?

As The Washington Post notes, while Argentinian accounts of the said adoption made no mention of the werewolf, it would appear that little tidbit was picked up in translation by the English media

However, as per a detailed report by The Guardian, like all good urban myths, the news articles were based on a grain of truth

By tradition, the seventh son (or daughter) born to an Argentine family is eligible to become the godson (or daughter) of the president.

Until this month, the honour had only been bestowed on Christian babies, but on Wednesday, Iair Tawil – not a baby, but the strapping 21-year old son of a rabbi – became the country’s first Jewish presidential godson.

In her Twitter account, Kirchner described Tawil, 21, as “completely sweet” and lit Hanukkah candles with his family.

But somehow, the story became entangled with the ancient legend of the lobizón (Argentina’s equivalent to the European werewolf). According to some versions of the myth, the seventh son of the seventh son is particularly prone to fall victim to the curse.

Evidently, the chance meeting of a Latin American president with a colourful myth too good to fact-check proved irresistible – confirming as it did any number of stereotypes about erratic behaviour from national leaders in the continent of magical realism.

There is no link between the two traditions.

“The local myth of the lobizón 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 said.

As per the report, the custom of adopting the seventh consecutive son in a family, or girls who are the seventh consecutive daughter began in 1907, when Enrique Brost and Apolonia Holmann, Volga German emigrés from south-eastern Russia asked then-president José Figueroa Alcorta to become godfather to their seventh son

“The couple wanted to maintain a custom from Czarist Russia, where the Tsar was said to become godfather to seventh sons, and Argentina’s president accepted.”

The tradition was passed into law in the year 1974 by Isabel Perón, the widow of Argentina's political strongman General Juan Perón, once she succeeded him in the Presidential seat after his death in office. As Argentina's first woman President, Isabel Perón extended the honourary benefit to seventh daughters as well.

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“The unconnected myth of the lobizón began among Argentina’s “gauchos,” the cowboys of Argentina’s vast cattle-raising Pampas, adapted from the older European werewolf legends,” said Balmaceda.

In the Argentinian version, the lobizón transforms into a mixture of pig and dog every Tuesday and Friday night – not just once every full moon. Unlikely other werewolves of myth, the lobizón transmits its curse not through its bite but by passing between the legs of its unfortunate victims.

Coming back to the the Jewish boy's story, his parents, Shlomo and Nehama Tawil, had written to the President's office requesting the adoption in 1993. President Kirchner has become Presidential godmother to some 700 children since taking office in 2007.

Earlier this year, she set another precedent, by making the the daughter of a lesbian couple the first presidential godchild.

The president with most godsons was Juan Perón, who had 1,982 over three terms in office. He is followed by another Peronist former president, Carlos Menem, who had 1,136 during the 1990s.

However, while large families are not uncommon in Catholic Argentina, NOT all qualify to become Presidential god-children as the honour is ONLY given to those in which seven sons are born consecutively, with NO daughters in between

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