We attended a wedding today! For the occasion, we donned our finest Maya t-shirts, freshly bought from the market, the same morning. Esperanza gave us an appointment at 10am to celebrate the union of Cristina and Estuardo. After two hours of ceremony in the great Catholic Church of Tecpán, we joined on the march on the streets towards the banquet. This ceremony was an opportunity for us to realize how important religion is in the lives of Guatemalans. “God” is thanked in every speech: “El matrimonio es regalo de Dios”. In Tecpán, almost the entire population is Catholic or Evangelical. The union of Cristina and Estuardo, and their families was celebrated on the basketball court of one of the Tecpán primary schools. Around forty outdoor tables awaited their guests. On the right, two whole pigs, quartered on their rotating grates, roasted wisely. On the left, a band ignites the still empty area, whose floor is lined with pine needles. The tables are filled little by little, first of the guests, then of food.
On the menu: pork, rice, and corn cakes. Everything is delicious. Esperanza tells us that corn is the first food of the Mayan communities “since the dawn of time”. We were given a warm welcome and kindness shown by all the guests. They were not stingy with smiles, and we knew how to give them back! The basketball court was filled children running and playing amongst each other. They are numerous, which serves as a reflection of the demographic dynamics of the country. All four of us were truly touched by the respect and affection that emerged throughout this wedding. This gave us the impression that the family circle – much wider than the one we are used to – holds a prime place in the daily lives of the people with whom we spent the day. Estuardo, a 25-year-old student, thanks his parents, grandparents, brothers and sisters, uncles and aunts, cousins, and friends for being present in tears. The list is long, the emotions are only tenfold. As for Cristina, a 23-year-old teacher of Kaqchikel **, seems to embody the heritage of the Mayan culture by thanking each of her relatives in that language. Has the time come to open the gifts … Or should we say the hours in view of their gigantic number? Mugs, pans, plates, trays, glasses, blankets, baby clothes, religious signs, and others that give us some clues to imagine the future life of both spouses. Esperanza tells us that in Guatemala marriages are very early in the lives of young women. We experienced this ourselves in the time we spent there, for when when we give our age, we are often asked if we are married. The ceremony ends with a symbolic staging: the bride’s family cuts her white veil, a sign of purity and protection, and then entrusts it to the man who became her husband. Estuardo’s mother then offers Cristina an apron, a woolen vest and a traditional stole. Esperanza explains that we are witnessing the union of very conservative families and that such rituals are not the norm in all Guatemalan marriages. Today, the rainy season has spared the spouses and at night erases the last rays of a sun that is rare. Tecpán gradually regains its nocturnal calm. It’s already time for us to come back …
*Marriage is a gift from God
** Kaqchikel is one of the 23 languages spoken by the Mayas of Guatemala. It is the principle dialect used by the community in Tecpan.