by Martha I. Fernandez
Editor in Chief
On July 20, 1990, I had my Quinceñera. My family packed up the trunk of our blue station wagon, tied down too many suitcases on the car roof and made a three-day trek south across the San Antonio border and through the arid deserts of Mexico.
I was going to celebrate my rite of passage in my parents’ hometown, Capilla de Guadalapue, Jalisco. We arrived and commenced the flurry of sewing dresses, cleaning my grandmother’s house from floor to ceiling and preparing me for my coming of age mass.
My tia (aunt) Angelina decorated my hair with beads and flowers and applied the first layer of make up I ever put on my face. I slipped on the white satin dress my mother made and walked down the town church aisle. It was a special day-something glorious was supposed to happen.
When I stepped out of that church, I graduated out of childhood. At 15, I was officially allowed to wear make-up and have a boyfriend.
Walking out of Our Lady of Guadalapue was to open up a whole new world for me. And, it did.
However, what I learned that summer was less about becoming a young woman and more about being Mexican.
My parents drove back home, and I stayed with my grandmother for an extra month. I woke up every morning and swept the street and greeted all the other ladies cleaning their piece of the sidewalk. Following, I walked two blocks to wait for the truck stocked with steel containers filled with fresh milk. At noon, I met my cousins and went to the plaza with my basket to wait in line for the warm tortillas.
In the afternoon, I sat down in front of the television to watch one too many soap operas with my tia Angelina. I ended every day with a loss to my grandmother after a grueling match of chinese checkers.
I had only seen these people three times before in my whole life. The blood that ran in all of our veins may have been the same, but our lives were very different.
Even as a Spanish minor at ULV, I often have to translate sentences into Spanish in my head before I speak. I wake up every morning to sit in a classroom, instead of preparing the day for the family.
I’d like to think that for at least that month, I was really Mexican.
The memories I hold of that summer are not of the biggest birthday party I ever had. They are, however, of sifting through the picture boxes in my grandmother’s bedroom and listening to her tell me about how she met my grandfather, who died that May. She held a passionate love for him, her family and her country.
I learned about why I love being Mexican.