Saturday, January 9, 2016 - Yasmin's Quinceañera

We wished Yasmin a happy quinceañera soon after we woke up. We gave her a photo collage spanning the years since we met her in 2007, and she got first pick of the hair adornments that we had bought for the girls in China.

Yasmin's quinceanera

Feliz cumpleañanos, Yasmin!!

Vanesa and Yasmin finished up the centerpieces, adding balloons, marshmallows, a little decoration shaped like Yasmin's dress and curly silver decorations. Breakfast was a quick bowl of cereal as everyone was busy with last-minute party preparations. The kids' cousin Sandra is the family's party planner extraordinaire. She had taught the girls how to make the basket centerpieces, and we remembered how much she had helped with Paola's quinceañera. She arrived and immediately started construction on the entrance archway.

It was a beautiful, sunny day. The party would take place on the second floor of the guest building. There were still guests in two of the rooms this morning, but they would be checking out long before the party. We decorated the second floor, scattering pine needles on the floor, setting up plastic tables and chairs rented from a party store right next door to Humberto's office, hanging glittery signage, balloons, and ribbons. Paola's boyfriend Jeremias helped with the preparations as well. It was looking so festive!

Olga cut up fruit to make the two beverages: nonalcoholic ponche, as well as rum punch. Yolanda and Juan came over with Junior and Fatima. In addition to all of the party prep, Paulina and the women prepared lunch for everyone who was helping. We had grilled steak with salsa, guacamole, black beans, tortillas, and fresh pineapple juice.

Yolanda delivered the cake topper and bouquet that she made (this family is talented!) The topper was a doll wearing a gown which was identical to Yasmin's. The bouquet contained white roses speckled with blue, and small stalks of wheat.

Craig and I got showered and dressed. Mass was at 6:30 p.m., and Humberto had said that they would be trying hard to leave at 5:30 (the family is rarely early for anything, in accordance with their culture). We thought this was unlikely, and Humberto laughed and he said that he knew they wouldn't be ready that early. Nonetheless, we didn't want to be the bottleneck, so we were ready soon after 4 o'clock.

When Steve got out of his yoga teacher training class, we talked with him via Skype. He gave us the update on his awesome experience, and we gave him the update on ours. Aracely came in and was able to talk to Steve, which was very cool. She would later hug Craig and say, "that's for your brother. Give it to him when you get home." Eddy also said hello.

Yasmin decided at the last minute to go with a more conservative dress than the one she had originally selected. The color was basically the same, but the style was more conservative. so Yolanda did some last-minute alterations to the cake topper so that it would still match.

The girls went off to an aunt's house and came back with their hair styled in curlers and waves. They got dressed for the party. Aracely wore her high heeled wedge boots. It reminded me of prom or wedding preparations in my own life.

More extended family members started to arrive. Paulina's sister Estela arrived with her youngest kids Loren and Michelle. We were amazed by how tall Loren ("Lori") had become. We first met her when she was 4 years old. It had been a couple of years since we have last seen her, and she is now 10! Michelle was an infant the last time we saw her, and now she is a vivacious, tiny, happy, 3-year-old. Despite not having any idea who we were, she immediately gave us big hugs and chatted with us.

Olga's kids Pamela, Chilo, and Allison Margarita arrived. Allison Margarita was Craig's buddy when she was a toddler. She used to hang on his every (English) word, staring into his eyes and nodding as if she understood everything he said to her. It was adorable. They picked up where they left off a couple of years ago, with the now 6-year-old cutie giving us both huge hugs. Fatima came back wearing a beautiful burgundy and black gown.

A crew of disc jockeys arrived and started setting up in the "disco" room. They had a variety of speakers, light rigging, lasers, strobe lights, etc. Paola helped Yasmin to do her makeup.

It was 6:15 and we hadn't left for church yet. Humberto went to get the van to drive us all. I was waiting for Yasmin to emerge from her room to photograph her in her dress. I was with Vanesa and everyone else had gone out to the street. Humberto called for us and Vanesa and I hurried to the van. Yasmin was already seated inside, looking beautiful. How had I missed her? And how was I, who had been dressed and ready for the past two hours, one of the stragglers everyone was waiting for? Curious.

We drove the short distance to Iglesia San Francisco de Asis, arriving just moments before Mass. I took a photo of Yasmin standing outside the church. She looked gorgeous in a light blue satin gown with spaghetti straps and some monochromatic embroidery on the bodice. Her sparkly silver peep-toe pumps were just visible below the tea-length hem. The back of the dress was bustled. Yasmin looked radiant.

We entered the church, which was festooned with white, green, red, and gold fabric from Christmas. Vanesa and Junior had also come by earlier to decorate the pews with light blue balloons and ribbons.

Yasmin, her parents, and Craig and myself walked in the opening processional. She looked so beautiful and grown up in her light blue gown. I had tears in my eyes as we walked down the aisle with her. We first met her eight and a half years ago, and it is amazing what a lovely young lady she has grown into! It struck me that soon the girls would start getting married...Saint Francis, the namesake of their church, is also the namesake of the church where Craig and I were married 17.5 years ago.

Yasmin was seated in a fancy wooden chair with its own kneeler in the center aisle in front of the altar. We sat in the front pew. There was a brightly lit nativity scene to celebrate Christmas and Epiphany. The musicans were set up right in front of us: a keyboard player, drummer, and three singers. All were Mayan. When one of the singers went up to the lectern to do a reading, Aracely nudged me and motioned that the woman was wearing the same style of boots as her. Aracely obviously felt like she was in the fashion vanguard.

Mass was celebrated by Father Peter, a young visiting priest from Minnesota. The quinceanera was announced, and he anointed Yasmin with holy water.

I gave Aracely a dollar to put into the collection basket. She pretended to pocket it. "You can't steal from God!" I whispered. She laughed and dropped the dollar into the basket.

It was a very nice Mass. Afterwards we took some photos in front of the altar. Father Peter came out and we got a chance to speak with him for a few minutes and to thank him for the nice Mass.

As we exited the church, boys from the family set off firecrackers outside to celebrate Yasmin's quinceanera. We took a few more photos outside and then piled into the van. It was like a clown car - I don't know where all of the people went. And there were also the freestanding flower arrangements from the church. It was a tight ride back for some more than others (the very back seat held 7 people, including Chilo sitting on sleight Josue's lap!)

As we drove down Calle Santander, we noticed just how many tourists were in town. It is good for the area, since so many families rely on tourism in one form or another to make their living.

When Humberto parked the van in front of the office, we counted at least 30 people exiting. It must have looked very funny to observe from the street! As we walked up the alley, we saw Jeremias. He lit off some firecrackers to announce Yasmin's arrival at the party. He and Paola were both dressed very nicely, and they made a very nice couple. He had brought his young niece Yasmin to the party as well. They are all so good with little kids!

As we entered the party through the archway Sandra had constructed, the kids' cousins Yesmy, Pamela, and Laisa pinned guests with lapel pins featuring a butterfly and a ribbon printed with Yasmin's name and the date of the party. The color matched Yasmin's dress.

The format of the party is similar to a traditional wedding in the United States: receiving line, toast, a meal, father/daughter dance, cake cutting, drinks, and dancing. I stood behind Yasmin and took photos of her greeting everyone in the receiving line. Then we sat down at one of the tables, admiring the finished centerpieces.

I walked around the three rooms of tables to make sure to get photos of everyone. The majority of attendees were family, with the addition of some of Yasmin's friends, Luis (who works in the office) and his family, and the two ladies who own the shop next door which rented us the tables and chairs.

I went back and sat at our table. We met Humberto's half-brother Juan for the first time (father of Victor, Juan, and Blanca), and we chatted with him and Juana. Rocio does not live with her mom any more, and we were disappointed that she was unable to make it to the party.

They circulated ponche and rum punch to drink. Yasmin had a special cocktail glass decorated with blue and white flowers and ribbons. The dj announced the toast. Humberto, Paulina, and Yasmin gathered in the hallway between all of the rooms and performed the toast.

Then the food was served: deliciously fresh chicken in mushroom gravy, mixed vegetables, rice, and tortillas. It was amazing how the family was able to come together and self-cater this big a party with such quality food.

After eating, all of the little kids played in the hallway. As I wandered around taking photos, Allison Margarita would continually hug me and try to get all of the toddlers to smile for the camera. I made a new friend as well, pony-tailed Eloise. She was adorable and chatted with me. She and Michelle would chase each other down the hall, back and forth, giggling and swatting at each other with balloons. It was hysterical.

Although we had seen Neli, Andrik, and Julisse previously on this trip, tonight was the first time that we got to see Rosa, Victor, and Alex.

Craig did a great job of making the rounds from table to table, greeting everyone whether we had met them before or not. He introduced himself to Luis's wife and their three little boys, smiling and chit chatting to the best of his ability in Spanish. I was very proud of him. I was making the rounds as photographer. We make a good team!

Next it was piñata time. We headed down to the yard where Yasmin pummeled the pinata shaped like a castle until hard candies and lollipops streamed out. All of the little kids waited with plastic bags to collect the loot raining down on them.

Everyone headed back upstairs and it was time for the father/daughter dance. Humberto danced with Yasmin, and then Humberto danced with Paulina. Paulina danced with her brother Carlos, and Humberto danced with me. Then Paulina danced with Craig. There were fog machines and lasers, making most of the photos of the disco room very atmospheric.

Then it was time for the cutting of the birthday cake. This is similar to the "bride cuts the cake" silliness at U.S. weddings, but ends with the Latin American twist of shoving her face into the cake so that she emerges with a face full of frosting. It did not disappoint.

Led by the dj, the guests sang happy birthday in Spanish. Instead of the "how old are you now" add-on, they sing "Pero queremos pastel" (but we want cake). Kids gathered around her in anticipation (with Aracely and Neli being especially excited). After Yasmin had psyched herself up for it, they pushed her face into one tier of the cake. Her upper lip had a blue frosting mustache. But the dj wasn't satified, and neither was the audience. The kids once again pushed her face into the cake, so hard this time that the entire cake jerked backwards and she now had frosting all over her face. She smiled like a good sport and Neli helped to clean her face.

Paola took a break from dancing with Jeremias, and asked Craig to dance. It was very sweet of her. I danced with Craig, and then we danced with Fatima and Neli. Craig was tired and stayed close to the wall in case he lost his balance, but he was a rock star!

After dancing, we were very hot and climbed up to the roofdeck for a few minutes to enjoy the cool fresh air. We looked up at the stars and took a few moments to catch our breath before returning to the party.

As the night grew later, people started going home. Eventually there was the regular late-night crew: Humberto, Paulina, Yolanda and Juan, Rosa and Victor, Alex, Julisse, and Junior. Estela was still there as well, with Lori and Michelle. Michelle was still going strong, even after midnight! She kept running down the hall and up and down the stairs...ah to be young again and have that much energy!

As the dj's disassembled their equipment, the family joked with them. After both bottles of rum had been consumed, we all decided to call it a night and the party officially disbanded at 2:30 a.m. We learned that the preferred goodnight greeting tonight was not hasta manana; it was hasta tarde. They intended to sleep late!

By the time we got to our room, we were tired but also invigorated. It had been a lovely evening and we were so happy to have been a part of it!

Coming soon:

Yasmin's Quinceañera Video

Yasmin getting ready for the party

Yasmin getting ready for the party

Yasmin awaits the processional

Yasmin awaits the processional

Father Peter anoints Yasmin with holy water

Father Peter anoints Yasmin with holy water





Family portrait

Family portrait

Yasmin's cake

Yasmin's cake

Yasmin's parents give a toast

Yasmin's parents give a toast

Yasmin and friends

Yasmin and friends



Father / daughter dance

Father / daughter dance

Partygoers who stayed until the wee hours

Partygoers who stayed until the wee hours

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