Category Archives: Parenting Challenges and Cultural Norms

Chambelan at the party

No Quinceañera event would be complete without the party. Despite what you may imagine, it is a highly organized affair, well, at least until that last hour anyway. Remember, this tradition comes from formal presentation of a newly transitioned woman to society, dating back to 500 BC in Mesoamerica.

I was able to make short videos of the various activities at this Quinceañera, but the quality is not the best. I apologize for that. You’ll be able to see my gorgeous son though throughout!

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We arrived a bit earlier that the Quinceañera party. We wandered around a bit until we found tables that weren’t reserved. We were in the chambelan family section. Instead of sitting all at one table, however, each set of parents opted to have their own table for 8. Whatever! I did notice however that the resemblance each chambelan had to his father was marked and we could therefore easily identify the family of each.

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Before too long, the Quinceañera and her escorts arrived and made their formal entrance. My son’s pants seemed to be the only one out of the four that were so tight.

After the formal entry, there was the Ceremony of the Change of Shoes. The Quinceañera’s shoes are replaced with high heels, symbolic of her change in position from child to woman.

After she had received her new shoes, the Quinceañera was crowned. She will always be a princess.

The chambelanes next danced the waltz with Quinceañera. Traditionally, the chambelanes would be eligible young men who would have been considered appropriate mates and thus would have been allowed to pay court to the young woman.

Following the chambelanes’ waltz, was the father-daughter dance. In this case, I thought the choice of Total Eclipse of the Heart an inappropriate song, but hey, I didn’t pick the music. The godfather also took a spin around the dance floor with his goddaughter, but I didn’t record that.

The dancing paused for more ceremony at his point. Next, there was the presentation of flowers. The Quinceañera received two bouquets of blue roses. Then she presented a rose to each and every person who was considered essential to the event, parents, godparents, damas, chambelanes. It took awhile, and several of those so honored were not present, but finally, it was over.
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Following the flower bestowal was the Ceremony of the Last Doll. The Quinceañera was presented with a large doll dressed just like her as her final doll of childhood, based on a Maya tradition.

Also as a symbol of her new status, the Quinceañera was toasted with wine. At this party, only the godparents, parents and chambelanes received wine. The rest of us had to toast with soda.

Then followed the final waltz and exit of the Quinceañera and her escorts.

After a costume change, the Quinceañera, the chambelanes and the damas performed a modern dance sequence. The man of honor, the Quinceañera’s boyfriend, defended his lady love from the zombie like attentions of the unacceptable chambelanes. I didn’t think it was a fair fight. He whipped out a pistol and shot them at the end.

Finally, there was a solo dance by the Quinceañera. It was a bit hoochie-coo for a 15-year-old to perform in my opinion. But I’m not her mother.

Surprisingly enough, we were not served carnitas (pork) but fried chicken. It was ho-hum and certainly not worth the money I’d spent in costuming. After eating, there was a bit more dancing by the young adults.

As I sat there watching my son revel in the power of his youth and beauty, the music like a second heartbeat, I got a bit teary-eyed. How fast he had grown!

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My son dressed for his kindergarten graduation ceremony.

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My son dressed for his role as chambelan.

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Chambelan at the church

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Part of my son’s duty as a chambelan (escort) was to attend the pre-party misa (mass). The church of choice in Moroleon is El Templo del Señor de Esquipulas. The church had been adorned with a few additional touches, like this white flowered lighted tree thingy.

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The ceremony began with the priest anointing everyone with holy water and a march down the aisle to stand before the altar. The Quinceañera had a special seat front and center while the court (chambelanes and damas) had seats to either side of her. Her parents and godparents were also up front.

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I’m not Catholic, and although my husband is, he’s never attended this special Quinceañera mass, so wasn’t much help in explaining things. There was a sermon. The gist of it was that the Quinceañera was now an adult and able to make decisions as an adult, but as a woman of faith, those decisions should be in line with what the holy church dictates. The godparents passed a lit candle to her, representing their obligation of transmitting the flame of faith to the Quinceañera. The Quinceañera read from a red book that I assume is the particular holy book for such events. She promised her devotion and offered her heart to the faith.

Te ofrezco, Se­ñor, mi juventud; guía mis pasos, mis acciones, mis pensamientos. Concédeme la gracia de comprender tu mandamiento nuevo, el mandamiento de amarnos unos a otros. Que tu gracia en mi no resulte vana, te lo pido por Jesucristo, tu Hijo, nuestro Salvador y Redentor. Amén. (I offer you, Lord, my youth; Guide my steps, my actions, my thoughts. Grant me the grace to understand your new commandment, the commandment to love one another. May your grace in me not be in vain, I ask you through Jesus Christ, your Son, our Savior, and Redeemer. Amen)

There was some mention of La Virgin de Guadalupe, and I saw a bouquet of flowers in the Quinceañera’s colors of blue and silver at the foot of her altar.

Madre mía, presenta mi ofrenda y mi vida al Señor. Sé siempre mi modelo de mujer valiente, mi fortaleza y mi guía. Tú tienes el poder de cambiar los corazones; toma pues, mi corazón y hazme digna hija tuya. Amén. (My mother, I present my offering and my life to the Lord. May you always be my model of a brave woman, my strength, and my guide. You have the power to change hearts; Take, then, my heart and make me worthy your daughter. Amen.)

There was some praying, some kneeling, some standing, some bell ringing and some sitting. I wasn’t able to understand it all with the acoustics in the church being what they were.

I did find the promises that the Quinceañera made above and some additional information on the mass procedure. (Misa de  Accion de gracias de Quinceañera, Quinceañera misa guia, Misa para celebrar los 15 años)

Then there was the call to partake communion. At this point, my husband’s latent Catholicism kicked in. He nearly jumped out of his seat with the comment that our son could not partake of the wafer. I just rolled my eyes. Our son certainly was astute enough to know that without being told.

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The Quinceañera and her entourage marched back down the aisle, concluding the services. My husband and I took our leave. We headed to the centro (downtown) for some churros and cacahuates (peanuts) while the picture taking session took place.

About an hour later we headed to the party hall to continue the festivities.

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Chambelan Preparation

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My son was asked to be a replacement chambelan (escort) for a school friend’s Quinceañera (Sweet 15) party. Although he’s attended a Quinceañera before, this would be his first time actually participating in this traditional Mexican coming of age event.

Preparation began two months before the scheduled date. All members of the court (chambelanes, damas and the Quinceañera) had been taking dance lessons. As my son was a replacement, he began classes at a disadvantage. However, he was pleased to report after the first class that the dance instructor was highly impressed with his skills. Dance classes twice a week it was then.

The formal event required a suit. It was $450 pesos to rent, $650 pesos to buy. Not much of a difference really, but we went for the rental option on the basis that he was growing so fast that it wouldn’t fit in 6 months and it was silver, so not practical for other types of events. A week before the party, my son and the other guys went to the tailor to have their measurements taken. The suit was ready for pickup the day before the event. So we went and picked it up.

We peeked at it when we got home to discover that the jacket did not have the two front buttons. Hmm. A few frantic messages later, we were on our way back to the tailor’s for repair. Unfortunately, I didn’t have him try on the pants too. When he put them on, right before the event, he could hardly move. They had been cut too small. Well, there wasn’t any time for any more alternations.

Then there was the outfit for the modern dance section. The morning of the event, he was informed that he needed to wear jeans, a gray t-shirt, black shoes, a leather jacket, and sunglasses. Fortunately, he had all but the last two. I had just bought him a nice modern black jacket and could not understand why that wouldn’t be good enough. I certainly didn’t have the money for a leather jacket. He also didn’t have any sunglasses. So we headed to the market until we found a sunglass vendor. $70 pesos. We also found a vinyl jacket for $375 pesos. The total for this honor was racking up left and right!

He needed to be at the girl’s house at 5:00, so we all dashed about getting ready. We hopped into the truck. My son handed me his sunglasses, and they broke. ARGH! After we dropped him off, we headed to the mall to pick up some super glue. $11 pesos. We went to have our parking validated. In order to validate the parking ticket, we needed to spend a minimum of $50 pesos. I marched back to the store and bought a jar of peanut butter. $55 pesos. My husband repaired the glasses in the truck, and we headed to the church for the pre-party misa (mass).

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Working boy

My son has been carrying on like a typical teenage boy about how BORED he is with his life. So I decided it was time to find him a job. I sent an email to my local acquaintances listing his stellar qualities and work experiences and asked if anyone knew of a job would they let me know.

I also started scanning the streets for help wanted signs. There were a quite a number, however, for the most part, they were looking for empleadas (female employees) because they are “known” to be more responsible than male employees. Whatever.

Of course, the other glitch is that although my son looks 17 with his bitty ‘stache and impressive height, he’s only 14, thus underage for most positions. So our cruising around didn’t get us very far.

Then my boss’s husband’s sister sent me an email asking if my son was employed. If not, she could offer him some hours at the papeleria (stationery store). He’d work there before but was replaced with a ‘chacha (girl) after a few months with no explanation.

The catch is he would be working with the elderly mother as sort of a caretaker/salesperson until the daughter gets home from work and takes over. She’s well into her 80s and quite set in her ways, which makes it a bit challenging to work there and all. Well, we’d give it a shot.

The first week he was supposed to work Monday, Wednesday, Friday, Saturday from 3 to 8. I took him to work, and the store was closed. We knocked on the door, and the old lady said his hours started at 4. So he went back at 4. Then she stated that I had said he would be starting at 5, which I hadn’t. I sent an email to the daughter and asked for clarification of the hours. 4-7:30 was the response. However, that changed yet again, now it’s 4:30 to 7:30. All righty then!

The days changed too. His days would be Monday, Wednesday, and Friday and not Saturday. Well, ok. But then on Monday, she changed them again. Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday and not Friday. My son changed his guitar lesson from Tuesday to Friday to accommodate the hours. Then on Tuesday, the days changed yet again back to Monday, Wednesday, and Friday. Well, the music class was already scheduled so he wouldn’t be going on Fridays. (See Music Lessons)

Meanwhile, my son was invited to be a chambelan for a quinceanera party. Dance training would be Tuesday and Thursday from 5 to 7 pm. (See Attending a Quinceanera) Now he was up to his eyeballs in activities!

So, feeling overwhelmed and missing his computer time, my son didn’t want to work anymore. He said he “hated” the job. It was SO BORING. I told him that I would take him home right after school then. That wasn’t enough motivation. I said he would need to tell the girl whose party he was supposed to grace with his presence that he could not participate in the quinceanera because he didn’t have any money for the formal attire required. OK MOM I’LL GO TO WORK!

His arguments for not working were valid. He is only 14, and none of his friends have jobs. He doesn’t like it. It is pretty slow for the most part. He would rather work for himself. I said that would be great! Did he have any start-up money for his business? Nope, well, then he’d have to work at a ho-hum job until then. I reminded him how many hours I was currently working and he said that was different because I was a mom and it was my responsibility, but he was a kid and didn’t have to. So I replied that because I was a mom, I should be home baking cookies instead of working and as a male, he needed to be gainfully employed, that is if we were going to talk about stereotypes and all.

So now his hours are on Monday and Wednesday only so that he can continue with the guitar classes and begin the dance classes. I told him to stick it out until December and then we would talk again. He whined and moaned about that, but I think he’s going to try.

In the short time that he’s been working there, he has already made an impression on the local clientele. A teenage girl, maybe 16 or 17, stopped to pick up some supplies, clearly expecting to be waited on by someone else. When my son asked her what she needed, she sputtered and choked. He asked her again, and she mumbled and blushed. The third attempt allowed her to spit out her paper needs and my son packed them up in a bag. She then circled the block 3 times casting furtive, longing looks his way. He asked me why she acted like that when he had done nothing to provoke the response. I told him that teenage girls all go a bit crazy and act like that and he should just be kind when they are rendered speechless in his presence. I also told him he should be thankful that she didn’t run into a light pole. (See Knockout)

I expect as word gets out, business will be booming Mondays and Wednesdays between 4:30 and 7:30. Don’t you?

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