Girls Just Want to Have Fun

Not too long ago, those who considered themselves a notch above declared the quinceañera dead, substituting a cruise, a vacation trip or even the fifteen-year old’s first boy-girl party for the big event. Even in those times, it was a rite of passage that just wouldn’t give up the ghost.

A few summers ago, old man Jacobo’s granddaughter and her chambelanes practiced their dance steps with a choreographer in the moonlight for weeks in front of my house. It would take them at least a year to pay off that party.

You saw the movie Quinceañera a few years ago, but it’s more than just a Latina Bat Mizvah. Estadounidenses have caught on to the rage, too. Hearst Communications, Inc., publisher of the bible of my youth, Seventeen, now publishes, in English and in Spanish.

Like Estadounidenses who try to cut costs by scheduling a wedding or other event mid-week, some middle-class Mexicans have done likewise, paring back the quinceañera to a weeknight event with a family dinner at a nice restaurant.

For some poor girls living in Mexico City, that just wasn’t an option. They wanted their moment of glamour and magic, even if it meant having to share the stage with other queen bees and wannabees. And they got together at the Youth Institute, rounded up donors, and held the world’s largest mass quinceañera.

Detractors might question whether these girls should’ve been working on teen rights, culture, pay equity, job opportunities, family planning and other more important issues. But you know something? In organizing the mass quinceañera, they were doing just that and more: working toward a common goal and getting what they wanted. And that’s not a bad approach.





Outsourcing the Presidency

Estadounidenses really don’t have much choice when it comes to presidential candidates: a witch, a guy with a foreign-born father, and an ex-con.

The U.S. is already outsourcing everything else, so why not the presidency? It outsources the nasty job of fighting its wars to poor folk and convicted felons, customer service, tech support and even legal research to India, and everything else to China. Being president really isn’t something to be learned on the job, so it should go to a guy with some experience under his belt. And you really ought to have a president who has some familiarity with the U.S. and doesn’t have to move a long distance.

Can we lend you Vicente Fox for the next eight years? Or even Carlos Salinas de Gortari? All right, so Ernesto Zedillo and Miguel de la Madrid but be better choices, but they’re not around stirring up a lot of anxiety, so we’d sort of miss them.

Look at this way: Mexico does have some history of shipping off its ex-presidents elsewhere, and I’m sure a deal could be worked out to get around what the U.S. Constitution has to say about qualifying to be president. After all, Fox got the Mexican Constitution changed.

Apron Strings

Santa Maria 013 Billie Mercer, who writes about ordinary and extraordinary lives in central Mexico, took on the topic of aprons, and I just had to comment about what aprons represented to my generation, which gave her fodder for more.

So I went out to the kitchen, where my thirty-something housekeeper was washing dishes, dressed in an ironed t-shirt and jeans, and asked her why she wasn’t wearing a mandil. “Oh, those are just for working around my own house,” she told me, rolling her eyes.

She obviously hadn’t read Billie’s blog — or The Wall Street Journal article.

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Do You Look Like a Gringo?

“This Warren Hardy tote bag just shouts ‘Look at the gringa who can’t speak Spanish,'” complained a friend who fit the description at the time.

Kelsey Mulyk offers up some advice about the sure markers of a gringo in Mexico:

  • Wearing a fannypack
  • Dressing like a hippie
  • Wearing short shorts

To those, I’d a few more identifiers: too much ethnic clothing, shorts worn  outside of a resort or sporting activity, tire-treaded huaraches, campesino clothes, makeup-free eyes, shirt and jeans which have never seen an iron,  and oversized clothes.

Who hasn’t read the travel literature telling foreigners to leave the name-brands and jewelry at home? If you’re going to fit in in Mexico, you’d better put on some makeup (at least if you’re female), get rid of the gray hair, become acquainted with an iron, wear a good watch, and let Ralph Lauren, Coach, or Burberry see the light of day.

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