and baptism in rural Oaxaca: The mandate of tradition
pink frills and candies
usually think of weddings and baptisms as rites of passage
we attend on separate occasions. But November 27, 2008, marked
the celebration of both in San Lorenzo Albarradas: the nuptials
of a couple in their early twenties, and the baptism of their
three-year-old daughter. What resulted was a melding of highly
organized custom characterized by extremes of indulging, giving,
and all-out merriment.
San Lorenzo Albarradas (San Lorenzo) is a village
with about 1,900 inhabitants of Zapotec ancestry, located
60 kilometers east of the city of Oaxaca. Its accessed
by a paved highway which, beyond Mitla, winds as it ascends
foothills of the Sierra Madre del Sur. San Lorenzo has the
usual municipal building housing the office of its presidente
municipal (mayor) and local police, a health clinic, school,
marketplace, and of course Catholic church and cemetery. Residents
engage in predominantly subsistence economic activity: cultivating
corn, beans, squash, palm leaf and agave; tending sheep and
goats; gathering firewood; and servicing the local population
as well as tourist vans en route to and from San Isidro Roaguía
(San Isidro). San Isidro, designated a marginal
community by the federal government, is home to the bubbling
springs and petrified waterfalls known as Hierve el Agua.
San Lorenzo, San Isidro and environs are home to seven small,
rudimentary yet wonderfully functional fábricas de
mezcal (mezcal factories).
The marriage of Gladis and Eli and the baptism of their daughter
Lexy were planned in early autumn. Santos and Lupita were
selected as padrinos de la boda (godparents of the wedding),
and long-time grade school friends Daniel and wife Alma as
padrinos of the baptism.
If not through blood or marriage, then through compadrazgo
(fictive kinship), most people are related one way or another
in small Oaxacan towns and villages. On this occasion about
a quarter of the residents were invited to partake in at least
some of the festivities. Many have relations in nearby San
Isidro. But as a result of a longstanding dispute between
the villages regarding the right to exact a fee from tourists
visiting Hierve el Agua, only recently resolved after years
of Hatfield and McCoy antics, invitations were extended to
only residents of San Lorenzo, apart from that extended to
me and my wife Arlene.
As custom normally dictates, we arrive in town for the mass
shortly after the designated 12-noon start time. Daniel and
Alma, and Daniels parents Hilarino and Sara, had counseled
that we would be expected to remain until the madrugada (middle
of the night, generally until just before sunrise), and to
thus be prepared. We really didnt take the advice to
heart. As once again custom normally dictates, we were just
as clear that we would arrive fairly early on, with no guarantees
regarding the duration of our visit.
Wed known Hilarino, Sara and family for about four years,
initially as a result of purchasing mezcal from Hilarinos
roadside palenque (mezcal facility), and subsequently from
eating and imbibing in Saras adjoining eatery. Wed
broken bread in their home, and they in ours. Wed laughed
and traded stories of differences in our respective cultures,
and cried over the death of their forty-day-old grandson.
Theyd missed our 25th anniversary, and we Daniels
wedding. But for this occasion they required our assurance
that our attendance at the festivities would not be pre-empted.
Booming bottle-rocket fireworks direct us to the standing-room-only
church service. Guests cram the entranceway and sit under
the shade around the courtyard. Dress ranges from Sunday best
to workday usual. Gladis, Eli and Lexy emerge about a half
hour after our arrival, shockingly early based upon our prior
attendances at functions with a religious component. But perhaps
ritual was rushed in anticipation of more important local
custom to follow. In rural Oaxaca there is often not very
much to rejoice, so when the opportunity arises, no expense
is spared, figuratively and literally.
As rice showers the honored celebrants, and candies the rest
of us, the six piece brass and percussion band begins with
upbeat traditional song. I spot a familiar face, Santos the
palenquero, competitor of Hilarino:
Hilarino invite you? Hes my cousin you know.
And what about you and your wife?, I ask.
Lupita and I are the padrinos de la boda, so you have
to come to our home with the procession. Hilarinos coming
Ive yet to see Santos without his stiff, off-white cowboy
hat, and this occasion is no different. Others wear the softer
felt-like version in beiges, greys and blacks, many adorned
with peacock feather. The groom, Eli, is dressed in a smartly
tailored, very formal light olive suit with all the trimmings,
while his bride is in a traditional white strapless gown with
long train. Their daughters dress is equally appropriate,
and yes, predictable. Several downtown Oaxaca retailers have
found their niche marketing dresses for weddings, quince años
(celebration when a girl turns 15, similar to the Bat Mitzvah
in the Jewish faith), baptisms and confirmations. Clearly
in San Lorenzo they go all out. In fact the young family,
aside from being in this physical environment could have passed
for urban Oaxacans of much greater means.
As the band, bride and groom leave the church grounds, Hilarino
informs me that Ill accompany him and others to Santos
house, my wife Arlene will stay with the rest of his family
at theirs, and we will reunite in a short while. Arlene and
her group trail off. Close family members stop at the bride
and grooms residence to make final preparations for
later festivities. Our procession walks about a mile further,
to the padrinos home at the end of a meandering potholed
During 2005 2007, pavement of the main street through
town was completed. However with few exceptions the rest of
the roads are dirt, connected by narrow pathways. Land ownership
is in the process of reform, with privatization on the way
and promised for 2009. Homes range from extremely modest adobe
construction with laminated metal roofing, to a number of
large, contemporary-styled two storey clay brick and block
abodes. Foundations are often made of locally mined limestone,
known as cantera. The padrinos compound is somewhere
in between, with a couple of buildings composed of brick and
adobe, plastered and brightly painted, and a few outer structures
for cattle, cooking and storage. The mezcal trade has been
good to them.
Our arrival is greeted with fireworks. Without missing a beat
the band takes its place aside a manger. About 15 of us are
now inside a room with couches facing an altar where Gladis
and Eli are kneeling. Additional seating is brought in, along
with mezcal and then beer. I take both, as is now my custom,
not unlike that of many others. I follow the lead of the elder
to my right, pouring a few drops of mezcal on the floor, a
sacrament in this village. I think back to the past 57 years
of annually spilling ten drops of wine at Passover Seders,
recalling the plagues heaped upon Moses people by Pharaoh.
Chuckling ensues as I then knock over and spill Hilarinos
beer to my left. At first I decline a second beer, but after
convincing I accept. After all, the bottle had already been
opened for me. Where custom dictates, I rarely decline.
Beer and mezcal are the most typical alcoholic beverages served
at rural celebrations in and around the central valleys of
Oaxaca. Urbanites of the middle classes tend more towards
tequila and scotch, usually Johnny Walker Red Label, simply
referred to as whisky. But we all have our favorite mezcals,
usually produced in small mom-and-pop operations peppering
roadsides in specific regions of the state, usually much better
than the commercial labels.
The presidente municipal, Hilarinos brother, mistakes
me for a priest acquaintance of his
a Spanish guëro
(white person) with moustache and grey hair. Not even
close, I answer to laughter. A couple of children begin
rhyming off numbers in English. I inform that Arlene gives
private English lessons. The ears of each in attendance perk
up, since while learning English is valued, aside from very
limited instruction in the local school there is no one to
Ill make you a deal, Mr. Mayor, I say. Once
privatization arrives, you find me a small plot of land or
very modest home for Arlene and me to buy so we can spend
the odd weekend in San Lorenzo, and Ill make sure she
gives free lessons to the kids.
More chortling, and of course the obligatory salud!
as we toast the idea.
Someone spots a bull seemingly charging towards the house,
having broken loose from its tie. No es bravo,
were assured, so we re-take our seats and continue with
levity and further small talk.
After the better part of an hour, following the lead of Santos
and the newlyweds we move outside to the covered dining area,
taking our seats on benches accommodating about 20 of us.
The band continues. More family has arrived and is milling
about along with those involved in meal preparation. A large
bowl of traditional hot chocolate is placed before each of
us, together with two loaves of bread, one small and the other
the size of a regular unsliced rye. This is pan de yema,
a type of egg bread, similar to challah, the bread that accompanies
many Jewish celebrations and Friday night dinner.
Pan de yema is a Oaxacan tradition, served at many rite of
passage fiestas as well as for yearly celebrations such as
Day of The Dead, when its known as Pan de Muertos. Many
villages are known for the distinctiveness of their bread,
some baked with cinnamon, others anise, and so on. Hot chocolate,
a customary beverage in the state, is almost always accompanied
by the challah-like bread. Oaxaca is known for its chocolate,
made in small mills in virtually all towns and villages. Oaxacan
chocolate is made from toasted cacao beans, sugar, usually
a bit of cinnamon stick, and at times a small quantity of
almonds. Many Oaxacans have their own recipes of stipulated
percentages of ingredients, and so instruct the mill operator.
Witnessing the simplicity of production is fascinating, and
as a non-native Oaxacan, having ones own chocolate made,
even more so.
Barbacoa de chivo (goat, baked the traditional way in an in-ground
oven) in a broth with vegetables arrives in deep ceramic soup
bowls, along with tortillas and platesful of chopped onion,
cilantro, cabbage, fresh chili and radish. The radish
will give you twice as much stamina, Im assured,
to the amusement of all. More mezcal follows, this time pursuant
to statewide custom because of its tendency to cut the grease
of barbacoa, whether goat, sheep or beef.
Raw chopped vegetables and greens are traditionally served
alongside barbacoa, enabling you to control level of spice
and type of flavor, on your own. Another typical Oaxacan dish,
pozole, is similarly served with accompaniments on the side,
in this case including small dishes of chopped dried oregano
and chili powder.
While were seated a teenage girl distributes clear plastic
bags for carrying home the leftover bread. Some have eaten
not a bite, while others have broken off chunks to use as
dippers in the chocolate. None, however, comes close to putting
a dent in all that has been given. We get up, and the next
shift, including band members, takes its turn.
Who decides who gets to eat first?, I inquire,
needing to know that I did not take someone elses place.
Everyone knows. Thats just the way it is. Those
who stay sitting down near the band are aware that their turn
will come later on, and that we eat before them.
I am anxious to compare notes with Arlene about our respective
comidas, so Hilarino agrees to drive us back to his house
in an old pick-up. Arlene was sitting with eight women and
children in a tiny dark living-room jam-packed with sofas
and an entertainment unit crammed with electronic equipment
eating peanuts, drinking tequila, and watching Bambi
for the second time. All unfolds while Alma, whose
infant had died some eight months earlier, watches her 40-something-year-old
mother nursing her own newborn.
Arlene whispers: Im starving. They didnt
feed us anything except this. Its already three oclock.
Were supposed to be waiting for the procession to arrive,
and then well all be going to the fiesta for comida.
Well Im stuffed, and the barbacoa was great,
I respond, to her mild disgust.
Have some of this bread. It was great with the hot chocolate,
I continue to tease.
We wait, and we wait, until I get bored with Bambi. To pass
the time I go out to son Daniels adjoining pool hall
to play snooker with him and a couple of friends:
I just opened the place a couple of months ago. Theres
nothing in town for kids to do at night except drink and have
sex, so I figured that with a pool table, card games and dominos,
and pizza and other snacks, it would be a winner.
I would later learn to better appreciate Daniels motivation.
At long last fireworks resume, signaling that the procession
is once again departing. We hear the band starting up far
off in the distance. The procession has finally begun to retrace
its tracks, heading back to the couples homestead, its
outer fence now draped with white ribbon and floral bouquets.
Earlier in the day we had noted two other homes duly decorated
with white banners and streamers. We had been told that those
residences were to be the focus of later festivities, but
uncertain as to when and why.
We walk to the newlyweds home to await their arrival.
The fiesta will take place in an open, dirt floor courtyard
facing the villages main street. Tables are set, adorned
with flower arrangements. Smoke billows from the two, rudimentary
in-ground ovens. Women are busy coming and going to and from
two close-by buildings sheltering food and storing stacks
of ceramic dishes and pails of plastic spoons. I spot another
palenquero Ive known for a few years, already mildly
inebriated, sitting at a table holding court with his friends.
But familiarity breeds comfort, so we join them, and there
we continue to drink, more beer and more mezcal. At this household
the latter is not of particularly good quality, so after downing
a small plastic cupful I stick to seconds of the former. How
do you know the gringos?, I overhear. I pipe up with
the answer, correcting that were Canadian
In Oaxaca most use the word gringo in a non-derogatory
way when referring to or addressing Americans, yet are usually
sensitive to its common connotation. While always setting
the record straight, I make it clear that I know that no offence
is intended and none is taken, and that I simply want all
to be aware that were Canadians, and not gringos.
The procession arrives just as Im finishing another
hot chocolate (Arlene, her first), and contemplating what
to do with four additional loaves of bread, two for each of
us. This time all are super-sized. Once again I hear the ripping
off the roll of plastic bags.
But the band and revelers pass right by the house. We hurriedly
join in, stopping a block down the road to bring back baptismal
godparents Daniel and Alma and everyone else still at their
home. By now the pyrotechnics have become continuous and the
music is at a feverous pitch. Some 50 well-wishers arrive
back at the party. Slowly another 100 or so arrive and seat
themselves. A rose bush is placed on each table, two on ours
pursuant to the instruction of Sara: Youll take
this one, so dont forget. Ill take the other,
and someone else can take home the centerpiece.
Hot chocolate No. Three is placed before me, along with two
more loaves and a bag. And then more beer, followed by mezcal
yet again, foreshadowing another heavy comida for me, and
the first, at long last, for Arlene.
Mezcal in the pueblos is served from either a multi-liter
plastic gasoline container (purchased new for selling and
transporting the spirit), or a 2.5 liter plastic coke bottle.
Purists, upon arriving home after purchasing in such receptacles
immediately transfer their liquor into glass, the fear being
that leaving it in plastic may taint the subtle nuances.
Barbacoa de res (beef) arrives, similar in presentation and
with the same cut-up legumes and leafy herb as I had enjoyed
only three hours earlier. But its not often one gets
to indulge in such proportion. The band continues, the number
of musicians somehow having grown to 10.
Bands are an extremely important part of Oaxacan society,
cultures and the multitude of micro sub-cultures. Musicians
are highly respected because of not only their training and
talent, but because of what they offer the community: familiar
tunes; an opportunity to dance ranchera, cumbia, danzon and
the pinotepa; and more generally a medium for advancing the
Towards the end of the comida, Tupperware-style containers
are distributed to everyone, marked Recuerdo de nuestra
boda, E y G, 27/11/08 (Souvenir of our wedding, etc.).
In goes the leftover beef and broth. We decline to take home
tortillas. Were then showered with an array of gifts
commemorating the baptism, each personalized with particulars
of the event: a wooden basket containing suckers and other
assorted sweets, adorned with pink ribbon and a small pink
baby doll; a plastic bowl; a frilly, pink cotton doll blanket;
childrens birthday loot bags. Everyone packs up his
bounty. I walk back to our vehicle to stow away umpteen bags
and containers, as well as the rose bush. I return with our
wedding gift, placing it in a designated room.
Very few gifts at rural Oaxacan functions arrive in a wrapped
box or gift bag with card affixed. Instead they are fashioned
so that all in attendance will know who is giving what. The
present, be it a set of dishes or mugs, a blender, clothing,
linens or even a lamp, is taped or glued to a piece of decorated
particle board, then shrink wrapped with cellophane. The gift
can then be proudly paraded in front of everyone as its
put in its proper place. Hence, often guests do not even include
a card. Of course this makes it difficult for the recipient
to know who gave what, unless he or she has a keen memory.
But there are no worries, since thank yous are not the
norm, and sending a note of appreciation is unheard of.
Tables are quickly cleared. When theyre then folded,
it signals that guests had better stand up. At the same time
an 11-tier wedding cake is being assembled, along with a somewhat
more modest cake in honor of the baptism. At first the taking
down and setting up all seems rather incongruous, but only
until the band takes to the street and guests follow behind,
once again signaled by the commencement of fireworks.
By now its nightfall. Were clearly a spectacle
as we march through the towns main thoroughfare, picking
up more celebrants as we proceed, turning onto a dark dirt
road, and then into an alleyway, followed by a right, continuing
up a steep dusty gradient, and finally some 20 minutes later
arriving at the home of the brides godparents from her
own baptism. Tradition dictates that on the occasion of her
wedding, they present her and the groom, in the presence of
the throngs, with a large wooden wardrobe. But not before
prayer and advice. All the while the bands tempo picks
up and dancing begins on a large makeshift patio.
Dont you remember me?, Im asked by
a young girl toting a four-year-old. I used to work
for Sara in the comedor, but now I cant because I have
to take my son to school every day. Im already 21. Its
been a while, hasnt it? She appears closer to
16, slight, short and moderately attractive, clearly pretty
enough to attract the attention of a local suitor. I
live with my parents and sister.
The bride, groom, her godparents and other honored guests
emerge from the well-wishing, together with four men holding
up the white ribbon adorned wardrobe, and yes, dancing with
it. Were showered with candies. More beer. I accept,
only reluctantly since its getting late and the thought
of the drive back to Oaxaca begins to weigh on my mind. Next
time perhaps Ill opt for the bottled fruit drink being
offered. If its good enough for young mothers to feed
their infant children, then maybe its okay for me.
An older man passes out unfiltered cigarettes, in singles,
from a plate: Its a tradition, so take one.
I comply, and get a light. More mezcal, this time much smoother.
I decide that soft drinks can wait until a little later. The
band continues, as do the four friends dancing with the closet.
It looks heavy to me, but they persevere for perhaps 15 minutes.
The merriment builds. Bags of goodies are distributed to the
extraordinary number of young children, most supervised by
The band leaves its designated playing area, and begins to
trace its steps. The wardrobe follows, along with the rest
of us. We stop at the bottom of a hill for more deliberate
and formal dancing. Then at the residence of the brides
godparents of her confirmation, tradition once again prevails:
more drink, more candies, more cigarettes (this time filtered),
and more milling about, but this time in a large, poured concrete
floor courtyard of a relatively lavish looking home. And of
course dance. These hosts are required to present the couple
with a metate, the large grinding stone used for hand-milling
corn for tortillas and tamales.
The metate remains a common and highly appreciated gift for
special occasions, at least in towns and villages. Its
usually painted with brightly colored flowers along the sides,
with a dedication such as Souvenir of my wedding
followed by the year, or other wording appropriate to the
occasion. At all weekly town marketplaces theres at
least one metate vendor, and at the large Abastos Market in
downtown Oaxaca there are several metate stalls. Metates were
traditionally as important to a Oaxacan family as a car for
most Americans and Canadians today. Even though blenders are
now a more common wedding gift, the tradition of gifting a
metate in this and other villages remains well entrenched.
And why not
its use probably dates back some 3,000
years, albeit in simpler form.
A man is dancing with the 135-pound metate strung across his
back. A woman is parading a large galvanized aluminum wash
basin, another gift. Someone else is entrusted with carrying
a huge clay cooking vessel with a petate (palm leaf mat) rolled
up inside. About 40 others are dancing, accompanying those
who are presenting these additional gifts.
Now more under the influence than before, our third palenquero
acquaintance takes me over to his wife for a chat. His daughter
is also present, clutching her infant son.
Our sons getting married December 29, and we want
you to come, so Im going to give you a special invitation
the next time youre at my palenque.
Its common for people to give last-minute or unexpected
invitations to rite of passage celebrations in both rural
and urban Oaxaca, even, perhaps surprisingly, for the middle
classes. Especially in the villages, extra tables are set
up if necessary to accommodate additional guests, and theres
always an abundance of food and drink on hand. Its a
custom with which most North Americans are not familiar, and
when confronted with such an 11th hour offer or request to
attend, we usually feel insulted or at minimum a little uncomfortable.
But the intention is generally to honor and show respect and
We are now back on the street, once again with music, dance,
fireworks, and upwards of 300 in the procession, having picked
up invitees from the last two stops, and undoubtedly others
along the way. The furniture-foursome continues, joined by
metate-man and others, strolling with the most recent gifts.
We finally arrive back at the party site. The band repositions
itself off to a corner. But now, with the last of the endowments
having arrived, its time to take notice of the riches
being heaped upon Gladis, Eli and Lexy. All presents are brought
out, and each is given to a different person, to rejoice and
dance with above the head. A spectacle of potlatch proportion
ensues, with baskets, dishes, small appliances and every other
class of gift hoisted to the starlit sky and spun around as
the band plays on. Those not directly participating clap in
Many are in the street, oblivious to the odd passing vehicle.
Children are playing, men and women imbibing. A municipal
police pick-up stops out front. The mayor goes over for a
chat. All is under control.
Oaxacans returning from the United States to their rural Mexican
roots, in the course of expressing their reasons for coming
back home, frequently comment about the excessive regulation
and control exercised by the American government over its
Why shouldnt I be able to have a beer in the street
out in front of my home as long as Im not drunk?
Why cant I keep the music turned up until midnight
if I have a party only once a year?
If I cant afford to keep my cars catalytic
converter functioning well, its not fair to pull my
vehicle off the road.
The bride and groom are getting more advice, and providing
all assurances that they will be faithful and remain together,
be good Catholics and lead forthright honest lives, always
supporting one another. A conjunto, the more contemporary
musical group with amplifiers, electric guitars, singer and
MC, is setting up just as the band packs up. Its after
9 pm. Chatter continues, now about the upcoming waltz, la
culebra (snake dance), toast, and other traditions. Many comment
that theyre ready for dessert. Dancing with a live turkey
is not a custom in this village as it is in many others.
A young girl approaches, yet another former employee of our
friend Sara of roadside eatery fame. Shes 20, with a
two-year-old. But shes holding her 15-year-old sisters
three-month-old. Her sister also has a two-year-old:
So she had her first at thirteen?
Yes, I guess thats right.
Do you have a boyfriend?
No, I dont like boys, and I dont think they
like me now.
My parents are very strict. They never want us going
out with boys, so we have to sneak around.
But dont you see how it hasnt worked? Look
at your sister now.
She looks confused. She doesnt get it. In a flash the
wisdom of Daniels one room billiard parlor strikes home.
Giving young people something to do might just have an impact
on the youth of his village.
There are class distinctions in the village of San Lorenzo
Albarradas. But fiestas seem to transcend economic distinctions
in terms of the guest list, at least for the middle and lower
classes. Those with barely a skill set are noteworthy: the
youngsters getting pregnant at 13, working for Sara for perhaps
$6 - $8 a day, appearing to be going nowhere, and barely subsisting.
Then there are Hilarino and Sara, and Santos and Lupita, with
drive and motivation. Their children, while having families
when relatively young as compared to current North American
trend, aspire to be in long-term monogamous relationships,
learn trades and attend higher
education. They aim towards a future, while others seem to
not. Its perhaps never even entered the realm of their
But neither San Lorenzo nor San Isidro has a school beyond
junior high. There is no preparatoria (high school) in the
area. The closest are in the towns of Mitla and Tlacolula.
It costs approximately $20 a week to get there and back by
public transit, money that most dont have. And if a
family does send a son or daughter to high school, apart from
the cost of doing so, theres one less income earner
in the household.
Arlene is whisked away to the waltz, forming a ring with young
women and female children, arm in arm, while Gladis and Eli
begin to dance. They hadnt taken dance lessons. The
circle moves ever so slowly to the right. Arlene catches on
pretty quickly. The MC begins to call out names of guests
to be honored by being invited to dance with bride or groom.
Every other surname called out is Martínez.
A half hour goes by, with more drink, talk and laughter. Daniel
asks me to participate in the long awaited snake dance. He
instructs me to remove my glasses. I initially decline, but
then recall from prior experience what it entails, so off
they come. The bride and groom each stand on a chair about
three yards apart, Eli holding onto the end of Gladis
train. I and four other men grab onto the brides chair,
holding it firmly, while another group does likewise with
the grooms. Women begin circling around the main attraction
in the center, bumping into us and trying to topple us over,
and consequently the bride and groom from their chairs. As
the pace of the music picks up, likewise the movement of the
the women circling. So does the fervor in trying
to knock us over. Its a draw. Next the men do the same,
but the bumps and grinds are more deliberate and severe. We
are firm in our resolve to protect Gladis by ensuring that
our feet remain firmly planted on the ground and our hands
are not dislodged from her chair. Those hanging onto Eli are
similarly steadfast. The second snake slithers away as the
music dissipates, both newlyweds still standing.
By now, Hilarino and Sara have left for home to put their
other son, a two-year-old, to bed. The villages main
street remains alive with drinking, coming and going, and
of course sporadic bottle rockets going off. The conjunto
is now playing in full swing as the next ritual unfolds. The
groom, suit jacket removed, is being ushered around the courtyard
by Daniel, so as to enable guests to write a congratulatory
note on the back of his shirt, and then affix a peso bill
to it with a safety pin. At the other end, Alma is similarly
assisting Gladis. Gladis is approaching guests with a crystal
slipper, inviting each to fill it with coins or bills. Alma,
trailing, periodically empties the slippers contents
into a decorative wooden box.
The expense involved in throwing a wedding in Oaxaca can be
significant, and while most cannot afford much of the pomp
and ceremony involved, they nevertheless pull it off. Its
tradition. Theres a saying that most people in Oaxaca
have two jobs, one to meet their normal day to day expenses,
and the other to fulfill their social obligations. Asking
for direct contributions assists in defraying the cost. Honoring
specific friends and relatives by asking them to be godparents
of a particular aspect of the function further reduces the
outlay; godparents of the music, the cake, the wedding rings,
and so on.
Its now 10:30, and its a long drive home over
dark winding roads. Gladis and Eli continue to solicit contributions.
Cider has been distributed in small plastic cups in anticipation
of the toast, but no one knows when it will occur. And still
to come are the cutting of the cake, the bride or groom having
his or her face smashed into it, and other longstanding traditions,
not to mention dancing to familiar song
sure to continue
throughout the night.
To a person, our friends and acquaintances are shocked at
our premature departure, Daniel ready to burst
into tears, Alma pouting. Weeks earlier we had indeed spoken
about spending the night and sleeping over, but not without
qualification. I do a quick calculation of the number of drinks
I have had over the past 10 _ hours, to assure myself, and
Arlene, that well be safe for the drive home. I had
been conscious of my intake all day and evening long, for
that very reason.
A week later I see Alma at her mother-in-laws comedor.
She is clearly still disappointed, as well as angry. Many
partied until six in the morning. Others closer to our age
called it a night at about two or three. But theres
always an opportunity for us to redeem ourselves, perhaps
at the next wedding in a months time, now that we are
much better acquainted with the customs and traditions of
San Lorenzo Albarradas.
Machaya Oaxaca Bed & Breakfast ( http://www.oaxacadream.com
one or two Oaxaca tours with Alvin, regardless of whether
or not you stay at Casa Machaya Oaxaca Bed & Breakfast
). Alvin is the Oaxaca destinations expert for a major international
travel website, and a founding member of the Oaxaca Bed and
Breakfast Association, whose members provide an attractive
Oaxaca accommodations alternative to lodging in traditional
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