No, Por Favor

February 5th, 2010 Posted in culture, day to day

Written by Shanie

We showed up early. Well not really. We actually were on time but by the looks of the empty parking lot, we were the first guests to arrive. It was 9 pm and we hadn’t had dinner yet, but this was a normal affair for an Argentine QuinceaƱera.

Juan had invited Jamie and I to his daughter, Luna’s, 15th birthday party. Now this just wasn’t some regular ol’ fiesta. No, this was the initiation for Lunita into adulthood. She was becoming a woman.

For us, it meant even more. We knew that Juan didn’t have much money. He was earning a nice Argentine wage from us as our maintenance man, but even still the amount didn’t add up to much for his five-member family.

In fact, our invitation had been delivered with a request. His only daughter’s special day (for many in Latin American countries the QuinceaƱero is more important for females than their wedding) was costing more than he had been able to save and he was wondering if we could loan him $200 to help with the festivities. For us there was not even a second of hesitation. Of course we would help.

The barren, dirt car lot was the entrance to an abandoned train station that had once housed the mighty Argentine train system. Now it was a decorated party hall for a girl coming of age.

Juan and his extended family had done impressive alterations to the rusting building. Interwoven streamers of gold and white hung over the steel beams that had turned dark with the beating of wind and rain. A small generator could be heard rumbling in the distance, the only source of power for the small Christmas lights taped to the walls. The cement floor had been neatly swept and multiple white plastic tables with four matching chairs had been situated throughout the open room; a small candle surrounded by gold sparkles decorated the middle of each table setting. In the corner of the room sat a small, square boom box that looked circa 1980s. It desperately tried to fill the vast space with the Salsa music spilling from its speakers, but distortion fought back.

Juan greets us with a giant grin. His incredibly white teeth shine in contrast to his sun-kissed skin. His laugh lines and glowing eyes are speaking true to this being the most important night in this man’s life. He hugs us both tightly and quickly before he gives us the customary kiss to the cheek. The hug brings a tear to my eye. A memory quickly flashes through my mind of when I met this kind-hearted yogi-of-a-man. I had given him a hug then and it was obvious that my boldness had caught him a bit off guard. I am realizing that I am becoming a part of the family. It’s not so strange to be exchanging hugs now.

“Please come with me. We set up a special place for you two. Thank you so much for coming. It is a great honor for me, my family, and especially, Lunita.”

“No, por favor.” The common Argentine phrase comes in handy for us. No, please. Being invited is a truly special moment for us as well.

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