Another gift for the newly fifteen year old Marina on this unforgettable day was presented by her father Oscar. He cradled the old, faded doll and, overcome with his emotions, could not speak before holding out his arms for a long embrace with his daughter. It was the last of the “community blessings” and concluded the worship service before the feast and cake celebrating Marina Cuevas Espinosa’s fifteenth birthday “quinceñara”.
Commemorating her passage from childhood, three roses were presented by three friends to signify Marina’s childhood, adolescence and current status as an adult. Another friend in the Church slipped a new ring on her finger to symbolize her “authority” as a free adult “child of God”. The pastor reminded us in the crowded sanctuary that the prodigal son’s return home was also celebrated by the father’s gift of a ring (Lk 15:22). The series of blessings on this occasion concluded with the daughter receiving from her mother the infant-sized wool outfit knitted by her grandmother, followed by her father with the doll.
And what about a boy’s passage to manhood? Does the culture here commemorate the male achievement of adulthood in a similar way? We are not aware that Marina’s older brother or other young Mexican males have their “authority” and the sources of their wisdom affirmed by any cultural tradition.
Perhaps that is why the pastor began his sermon by addressing the quinceñara’s father. He began by reminding Oscar of fifteen years ago when he held his daughter for the first time and how he was filled with joy then as now. Later in the sermon, he suggested it was that joy along with a deep love that had enabled her parents to make “immense sacrifices” for Marina.
Not wanting to divert us from the celebratory mood, there was no mention of the fact Oscar had not seen his family in over four years. Nor was there mention of the fact that Dad has been working two jobs in the States to enable the family to live comfortably in a gated community here in San Luis Potosi. Those “sacrifices” have been felt especially at Christmas when Oscar has had to let his wife know that, again, he could not risk returning home.
Having met Oscar, it is easier now to imagine the anguish of the father far away from his wife, two daughters and older son. Having met him, we now have a better idea of what the pastor’s reference to the “immense sacrifices” was about. And along with celebrating Marina’s quinceñara, last Saturday we had something else equally wonderful to celebrate. We celebrated a father’s return home.
NOTE: The Spanish translation below was edited by our friend Hemer Sierra Silva and wife Marisela Huelga. When we asked Hemer what he thought of the article he replied, “Oh it’s fine, a moving story. You know it’s the same story with millions of other Mexican males.” We said we did know that as we’ve heard that the current immigration legislation stalled in the U.S. Congress would “legalize” the status of over ten million people now living in the U.S.
Marcando este día inolvidable, Oscar el papá, entregó otro regalo mas a la recién cumplida quinceañera, la señorita Marina. Abrazando la muñeca vieja, aconteció que tan conmovido estaba el papá que no pudo hablar ni una palabra y se detuvo con sus brazos extendidos para un largo abrazo con su hija. Fue la ultima de las “bendiciones de la comunidad” y concluyó el culto para después continuar con la fiesta y el respectivo pastel para celebrar a la quinceañera Marina Cuevas Espinosa.
En conmemoración del evento de dejar la niñez, tres amigas de la Iglesia le presentaron a Marina tres rosas blancas como símbolos de las tres etapas de la niñez, la adolescencia y su vida actual. Se deslizó al dedo un anillo afirmando su potestad como adulto libre de ser “hija de Dios”. Nos recordó el Pastor que en la parábola del hijo pródigo Jesús contó que el papá le regaló al hijo un anillo luego de su retorno al hogar paterno. (Lc 15:22) Concluyó toda una variedad de regalos bendiciendo a la quinceañera con la presentación por la mamá del vestido de lana tejida por la abuela para la bebé hace quince años y al fin con la presentación del papá de la muñeca vieja.
¿Y para la celebración de la transición del niño joven al estatus de adulto? Esta celebración nos hizo pensar si la cultura tradicional ofrece una ocasión semejante a la quinceañera para marcar algo similar con un hijo. Nos preguntamos si el hermano mayor de Marina o los jóvenes varones de México se ven afirmados en su autoridad y sus fuentes de sabiduría por una tradición cultural semejante.
Quizás por eso el Pastor se dirigió al principio de su sermón al Papá de la quinceañera. Empezó por recordar al papá de la primera vez hace quince años que abrazó a la niña ahora una linda señorita y del regocijo que había sentido en esa ocasión. Sugirió después en el sermón que fue tal regocijo al lado de su amor profundo que hizo posible los “inmensos sacrificios” de los padres en favor de Marina y toda la familia.
Evitando alejarnos de la alegría del evento el Pastor no hizo mención del hecho que Oscar no había visto a la familia en mas de cuatro años. No hizo mención de que el Papá había tenido que trabajar a la vez en dos trabajos en los Estados Unidos, para mandar lo suficiente que permitiera a la familia vivir en una colonia confortable y de alta seguridad aquí en San Luis Potosí. Los papás han sentido el efecto agudo de tales sacrificios cada Navidad cuando Oscar tuvo que quedarse tan lejos en vez de arriesgarse a volver a cruzar la frontera.
Con la bendición de haber conocido a Oscar, podemos imaginar mejor su angustia en no poder regresar y disfrutar los eventos especiales con la familia. Ahora conocemos mejor de los “inmensos sacrificios” a las cuales hizo referencia el Pastor. Y con la celebración magnifica de la quinceañera del sábado pasado ya tuvimos algo mas, también maravilloso, para celebrar. Celebramos el retorno de un papá al hogar de su querida familia.
NOTA: Hemer Sierra Silva y su esposa Marisela Huelga nos ayudaron otra vez con la versión espanole del articulo. Cuando preguntamos a Hemer como lo halló lo que escribimos respondió el, “Bueno, me conmovió. Pero ustedes saben que hay unos millones mas con la misma historia.” Dejimos que si sabemos por que nosotros escuchamos que hay may de diez millones de personas en EUA que están esperando la aprobación de nueva ley de imigración para una “legalisazión” de su estatus migratoria.
In both Disciples churches we attend in San Luis Potosi, there are a few bilingual English-Spanish speakers, most of whom have spent time in the U.S. At the Julien Carrrillo church, Natividad Tovar Torres spent over thirty years as a railroad employee, and a proud union member, after working in the fields of California. Nati and wife Eva Beltran Castro now live on a couple of acres of land in one of the housing developments that have mushroomed on the outskirts of the old town center.
When their pastor Rogelio Espino Lopez invited us to accompany him and his family to lunch in Nati and Eva’s home we gladly accepted. While Pastor Rogelio and Eva talked about the details for the upcoming worship service for his granddaughters’ quincenara birthday party at age 15, Nati proudly gave us a tour of his marigold fields, livestock and rooster (for cock fighting) pens. Drip irrigation keeps over an acre of marigolds flourishing before they are harvested for sale during the Day of the Dead fiesta on October 31. “Cempasuchiles”/marigolds have adorned graves before the conquest of Mexico by the Spaniards and are a principal feature of the altars created to honor and remember those departed from Catholic households across Mexico.
We hope the marigold crop is profitable this year because the quincenara (literally “the female at age 15”) last Saturday was a lavish event. A large tent was set up next to the house to accommodate over one hundred fifty guests. Family and church members and friends of Heidi and Jamie participated in the opening worship where numerous gifts were presented to accompany the cousins into adulthood. The significance of each gift was mentioned by Pastor Rogelio or thefriend making the presentation. Following the gift of a Bible, three roses, a ring, a watch, an umbrella, and a pillow led up to their crowning with a tiara. The roses represented the three ages of childhood, innocence and adulthood achieved by Heidi and Jamie. The authority granted all who recognize and accept responsibility as a “child of God” is symbolized by the ring with the pillows serving both practical and symbolic functions for those who regularly go to God in prayer.
The meal began with a delicious cup of “charro” beans (a broth of pinto beans, meat, onions and cilantro), followed by barbecue beef and lamb with rice, fresh tortillas, limes, onion and cilantro and heaps of green or red salsa. The cake was served while many were huddled in groups around the tables under the two tents or defying the soft rain that fell most of the afternoon.
That both fathers did return for their daughters’ quincenaras can be seen as powerful testimony to the durability and importance of the ties of family in the Mexican culture. Transfers of earnings from the States to family members back in Mexico represent further evidence of the strength of those ties. After oil exports, those transfers are the leading source of foreign exchange for Mexico. During the long period of separation of father and mother and father and children, Church friends affirm and bless those family ties as the work of the Creator whose love is always with the family.
We close with an early nineteenth century commentary on the power of family ties within the Mexican cultures. Written by Fanny Calderon de la Barca (Scottish wife of the Spanish ambassador), we find it as true today as when she wrote the letters that make up her renowned 1843 book, Life in Mexico .
“I have seen no country where families are so knit together as in Mexico, where the affections are so concentrated, or where such devoted respect and obedience are shown by the married sons and daughters to their parents….I know many families of which the married branches continue to live in their father’s house, forming a sort of small colony, and living in the most perfect harmony. They cannot bear the idea of being separated and nothing but dire necessity ever forces them to leave their fatherland.”
Dire necessity and the work opportunities in the U.S. during the last one hundred years do not seem to have diminished the bonds of family in Mexico.
Hearty thanks to Heidi Sifuentes Lopez (wife of Pastor Rogelio) for the photos and indispensable help with this post.