I went to a historical wedding yesterday. It’s not the kind of event that gets into history books, but it marks a change in our society that is proceeding daily. I’m sure there have been similar weddings in East L.A., Seattle, Chicago, El Paso, San Antonio, and many other cities. This one took place in Chandler, Arizona, a suburb of Phoenix.
Many younger teachers on this list may wonder why I think this wedding notable, but I think anyone over forty-five or so may recall a time when there was not the mixing of cultures that this wedding represents. Furthermore, as teachers we may want to note that many school policies are built on an older model of society. This society is changing with every moment our young people spend at school.
So what’s historical about a wedding? you ask. The groom was an Anglo young man. The bride was a young woman born in the U.S. of Mexican parents. But that’s not the historical part. The historical part is the other parts of the mix: The young man, James, an Anglo I repeat, speaks a form of Black American English. His first and second best men are African-American, as well as the extremely polished DJ, also an old friend. The other two men in his party are Anglos. The young man’s father is very “cowboy” in his dress, looking like a thin Chris Christopherson; his mom, petite and pretty. Both his parents are outgoing, rather uninhibited people who spent much of the reception on the dance floor regardless of the type of music; both move very gracefully and seemed quite comfortable on the dance floor. Several of the men on the groom’s side of the church wore felt cowboy hats, the expensive kind, and nice western boots. Several other, younger men, sported earrings and beards of various cuts.
The bride is Viridiana García, who has been Biri with a B to me for the past ten years until I saw her name on the invitation. Her parents, Luis and Chila (Isidra), are the people who originally invited me to spend New Year’s in Zacatecas, although in the end they could not afford to go because of a slow down at the factory where Luis still has a job.
The DJ had the commanding manner and look of a talk show host, say, Montel Williams. Most of the music he played was by Black artists, some rap, many other styles, all very good for dancing. If I knew names of artists and styles, I would tell them here, but I don’t and can’t. Most of the young people, Mexican, Mexican-American, Anglo danced during the DJ part of the program. When the DJ put on a George Strait (big name country singer) song, the floor filled with Anglo men in western boots and their partners.
At a certain point in the program, the DJ announced he’d be taking an extended break. The Bracamontes brothers, Carlos, Lano, David, and five other men set up the instruments of a tamborazo, a small band, and began to play. The music they play is commonly referred to as “banda” in Mexico. You’ve heard a type of this if you’ve heard Banda Machos or Banda Maguey. This small band had two trumpets, two saxophones, a tambora (drum set) and a bass drum. The dance floor filled up with the peers of Viridiana’s parents, predominantly people born in Mexico, which means that 80% of the men, and a large percentage of the women, spent part of their lives in Lovatos, Zacatecas. There were Bracamontes, Ramirez, and Garcías from Oxnard, California, Chicago, Denver, and Houston. And one Bracamontes had come from Washington D.C.
Some other, briefer observations: James wore a bright red, white pin-striped zoot suit with black shirt and black hat. Viridiana wore a very traditional wedding dress.
The reception was held in a rather nice hotel on the periphery of the most modern shopping mall in the Phoenix area.
Mrs. García and her mother, Eliza Bracamontes (who puts three tomatoes and three chiles on the stove every morning), prepared numerous gallons of beef in red mole with chocolate, of barbecued beef, and of rice. Several women served the guests.
The traditions of throwing the bride’s garter and the bouquet exist in Mexico and were observed at this reception. There was also “the dollar dance,” in which men put bills in a big bag to dance with the bride, and women put in bills to dance with the groom. Although, Viridiana had wanted it, there was no dance of the víbora. In the vibora (the snake), the bride and groom stand on two chairs facing each other, holding hands. First the women dance in a sort of crack-the-wip line in figure eights around and between the bride and groom; they gently try to knock the bride off her chair. Then the men take their turn but are not so gentle. Many times the groom is knocked off his chair–and usually caught before he can hit the floor.
Now, why did I think this was a historical wedding? I thought it marked a very comfortable accommodation of three cultures to each other. Mexicans and Anglos have intermarried since before the Alamo (1836), but the ways in which African-American culture fit in on this occasion and the use of Mexican music, African-American music, and country music mark a particularly accommodating mutual recognition among three groups.
P.S. I want to thank Pat Barrett for looking over this post and suggesting some revisions or additions.
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1 thought on “A Historical Event”
Brian, what a beautiful description of the reception. You are so right about the historical nature of the occasion. As a 1966 graduate of Kofa High School in Yuma, I remember when an Anglo father (a rancher) got up in front of the school board and complained that his daughter wanted to go with a Mexican young man and couldn’t they put a stop to this kind of thing. It is particularly interesting because I have seen pictures of the school children in the earliest years of Yuma, and Anglos, Mexicans, and Indians were all represented. I went recently to a reunion of classes for the last 50 years, and dividing lines didn’t seem to be there any more. I love the southwest, especially Arizona, and I hope that the many newcomers from other parts of the country will learn from those who have lived together and honored each other for a long time.