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Weddings in Wealthy Families

Extracts from a report entitled “CASORIOS” (Weddings) submitted in the 1930s by Aurora Lucero-White to the WPA Files in the State Records Center/Archives in Santa Fe, New Mexico.  In an accompanying note she explained that it was “an accurate description of a wedding witnessed by Sra. Branch, E. Garcia Street, Santa Fe, New Mexico, in Union County.” The customs described, she said, might differ from others because the “principals” in this wedding were “persons of wealth” and because customs in New Mexico were regional. “On the whole, however, the description of this wedding tallies with descriptions of other couples as told to me by various persons whom I have interviewed.” Her typewriter lacked keys for Spanish letters with accent marks, and she sometimes did and frequently did not insert them with pen.

DE ANTAÑO (formerly) young people married into their own class—that is the sons of the RICOS (rich) looked for brides among the daughters of the rich; the children of the GENTES (the folk) intermarried and in turn LOS INDIOS (the Indians) never aspired to marry other than Indian maidens.  The important thing was not to MEZCLAR LA SANGRE (mix the blood).  As a result of this young men had only a limited circle from which to choose their brides.  This of necessity resulted in the intermarriage of families, which makes the PRENDORIO (engagement party) seem superfluous in view of the fact that the members of the families were already well known to each other and the purpose of the affair was to bring about their acquaintance. 

When a SEÑORITO (young man) wished to ENTRAR EN EL ESTADO his parents dispatched a very formal letter to the SEÑORITA’S (young lady’s) family asking for her hand.  The messenger returned with the answer:

            --The reply will be in accordance with the wishes of the niña.

            --Yo les responderé con sí o no conformo diga la niña.

If the parents disapproved of the NOVIO (suitor), a letter of refusal was sent within three or four days.  This was called DANDO CALABAZAS (giving the squash).  If, on the contrary, the suit was acceptable, delicacy required that a little longer time be allowed to elapse before dispatching the letter.  Two weeks was considered as a sufficient length of time for the NOVIO’S parents to make the necessary preparations and for the NOVIA’S to get the house in readiness, as the wedding followed closely upon the heels of the PRENDORIO.

On the appointed day of the PRENDORIO, the NOVIO and his parents arrived as well as the uncles, aunts, cousins, nephews, brothers, sisters, husbands and wives of these, and of course, all the NINOS (children), with perhaps a CRIADO (servant) or two.  Ceremoniously received, the visitors sat around and talked about the weather, the crops, the family not intimating by word or action that there was serious business on hand.  And when at last the NOVIO’S father would express a desire to meet the “coveted jewel” a hush of expectancy filled the room.

            --Deseamos concer la prenda que pretendemos.

This was the cue for the NINA to enter.  Dressed in her fiesta finery, with eyes downcast she entered and taking the proffered arm of her future SUEGRO (father-in-law) she was formally presented to each of her NOVIO’s relations, thus:

            --Conoscan por su criada a ______

            --Meet your servant ____________

Before each one she curtsied daintily as though she were being presented to a queen and by each one she suffered herself to be kissed on the cheek, blushing a little as some bewhiskered PRIMO (cousin) put a little more ardor than was necessary into the greeting.  The poor NOVIO in turn allowed himself to be squeezed by his NOVIA’S TIAS (aunts) and PRIMAS (cousins) passing up the fat pompous ones quickly, lingering a little with the pretty young ones for there never was a SENORITO so much in love with one that he could not appreciate youth and beauty in others.

This part of the ceremony being over, engagement presents were exchanged—a rosary to the groom from the NOVIA, the DONAS from the NOVIO to his fiancée.  DE ANTAÑO lovely hand painted chests were used to hold, beside the wedding outfit, MANTONES DE MANILA (embroidered shawls), CORTES DE RASO (bolts of silk), PEINETONES (large Spanish combs), TERNOS (matched sets of jewels made by New Mexican silversmiths) and always there were as many ONZAS DE ORO (gold coins) as the wealth and station of the NOVIO’S family permitted.

This over, all passed A LA MESA (to the table) where BIZCOCHITOS (cakes flavored with anise seed) and VINO (wine) were served.  One COPITO (wine glass) followed another until the SEÑORES (gentlemen) began to laugh boisterously at the CUENTECITOS (stories) and the women began to address each other as COMADRES (a term of endearment).  The children, unheeded, played in the PLACITAS (the backyards) their mouths and pockets crammed with goodies.  The young people took this opportunity to get acquainted and many a romance had its beginning at just such a function.  The company, with the exception of the immediate family of the NOVIO, now returned home for the wedding, a few days hence.  If they lived too far away, they went to stay with friends and relatives in the town.

From this time on and until after the wedding, everything ran at COSTO DEL NOVIO (at the expense of the groom).  The DISPENSA (store house) of the SEÑORITA’S house was stacked with PROVISION (provisions) enough to keep the house up until after the fiesta.  The role of hosts was now reversed—the NOVIO’S family taking charge, the NOVIA’S allowing themselves to be entertained except for attending to a few personal things, such as sending out of invitations, the selection of PADRINOS (sponsors), and the fitting of the DONAS. 

The time passed quickly and soon it was time for the wedding.  On the appointed day the NOVIOS received Communion at Mass, hence an early service was performed.  The bride and her parents rode to the church in a CARRETELA (carriage).  At the church they were joined by the groom and his family, with the best man, the contracting families meeting at the door of the church.  Here the best man took the bride’s arm and walked up the aisle, to the altar, the bridegroom following with the bridesmaid.  During the mass the four principals sat in the Sanctuary holding lighted candles.  This is called the VELACION.

As the bridal party left the church, muzzle loaded guns fired a salute to keep the evil spirits away.  Then followed the procession of the wedding party to the house of the bride’s parents.  The musicians came first, with fiddle and guitar, playing the wedding music, interrupted by the firing of the guns.  Gay bits of colored paper were showered before the bride and groom as they made their way to the groom’s CARRETELA which was gaily decorated with colored ribbon streamers, as were the horses in their silver mounted harness.  In the carriage with the bridesmaid and best man, they drove through the village street, around the plaza, then home to the bride’s father.  The wedding guests followed in other CARRETELAS, buggies, wagons and carts as well as on horseback.

Arriving at the bride’s home they were met by the parents who stood around solemnly as the parental blessing was pronounced at that threshold:

            --Padres queridos hechenos su bendicion que somos sus hijos nacidos del corason.

            --Parents beloved give us your blessing for we are the children born of your love.

Now the family repaired to the SALA (drawing room) to hear the reading of the POEMA (poem) read by the oldest brother of the groom’s father.  This is followed by the serving of chocolate in the dining room while the photographer gets things in readiness for the RETRATO (photograph).  The family sofa was taken out into the patio and upon it sat the principals posing for the picture.  Different poses were taken so that there would be one sure to please as the picture, afterwards enlarged, would occupy a prominent place.  After this ordeal, came the more trying one of sitting in state—again on the family sofa—all day, receiving the congratulations of friends.  The company sat around and there was little conversation.  Occasionally they cast shy glances at the NOVIOS.  The rest of the time they ate carrying their REFRECOS (refreshments) around in napkins or PANUELOS (handkerchiefs) as they sat around, first in one room and then in another.

Dinner was just for the CONVIDADOS (invited guests) and it was a very sumptuous affair.  No attempt was made to have a menu, and platter upon platter of every dish known to native cooks was placed upon the table so that one ate to the point of satiety.  Sometimes chefs were engaged to prepare the fiesta and at a certain wedding none other than the ex-chef of the Empress Carlotta prepared the food charging the neat little sum of $300 for his services.

In Mexico such fiestas would call for a siesta but not so in New Mexico for guests continue to pour in throughout the day to extend felicitations.  In the evening all the company attend the BAILE (ball).  In the CASAS (houses) the patios of which were large enough to justify it, a platform was improvised for dancing and an awning stretched over the opening as a protection against the weather; otherwise the town SALA was used.  The BAILE was as colorful as it was gay.  All the traditional dances were danced as only New Mexican SENORAS and CABALLEROS can dance them.  The bride changed gowns at least twice during the evening causing the older matrons to wipe their eyes in reminiscence, while the younger ones punctuated their dancing with ahs and ohs as the SENORITA waltzed by bewitchingly clad, now in white satin, now in green Gaza (an oriental cloth), now in scarlet velvet.  Such creations, such colors, such grace, such beauty.

On and on they danced—“Vals Despacio,” “Vals de Pano,” “Vals Chiqueado,” “Varsovianas,” “Cuadrillas,” “Camilas” until everyone was ready to drop.  AL FIN (at last) someone would say it was time to ENTREGAR LOS NOVIOS (to be rid of the newlyweds).  Again led by the MUSICOS the company repaired to the house where the POETA (poet) was waiting to deliver his famous verses, the supposed improvised stanzas which he had been carefully preparing for weeks.

Upon entering the house the PADRINOS were met by the PADRES (parents) of the NOVIOS, who had preceded them in order to receive their children. 

            --El padrino y la madrina saben su obligacion

               de entregar estos novios y hecharles la bendicion.

            --The sponsor how well their duty know

               that of returning these newlyweds to their parents,

               and upon them their blessing bestow.

By this time the whole company had had time to come into the house and seat themselves so that they might hear the recital of “La Entriega” for although the familiar verses were well known to all, the improvised, interpolated ones were sure to hold surprises and kept the company now laughing, now blushing.  The more SENORAS who wiped their eyes, now in reminiscence, now through sentiment and often enough through sheer exhaustion, the more would the fame of the PUETA spread.

Unfortunately these improvised stanzas, composed to fit the occasion, were never recorded, but the following verses of the “Entriega” are known wherever there are persons of Spanish speech:

           LA ENTRIEGA

Quisiera que Dios divine

me diera en esta occasion

la ciencia de Salomon

y la pluma de Agustine.

            Would that God divine

            would on this occasion give me

            the science of Solomon,

            the pen of Augustine.

Hizo Dios con su poder

a Adan con sabiduria

y le saco una costilla

de ella formando a la mujer.

            God with his own power

            and with his great wisdom created Adam

            And drew from him a rib

            from which he formed woman.

Es el estado un sacramento

con voluntad de ambos dos.

Se casaron en el templo

porque asi lo quiso Dios.

            Marriage is a Holy Sacrament,

            when entered willingly by two.

            They were married in the temple

            because God willed it so.

El padre con el manual

les explico las palabras

y les entrego las “arras”

y el anillo conjugal.

            Twas the priest with his manual

            the Holy words explained

            And delivered to them the “arras”

            and the conjugal ring.

Los llevo para el altar

Les hecho la bendicion

y como cosa precima

los dejo en union legal.

            He led them to the altar,

            He gave them his blessing

            and as was expected of him

            united them in matrimony.

Reciban a vuestros hijos

ligados en grande union

el padre los ha casado

y les dio la Comunion.

            Receive your children

            bound in Holy union

            For the priest has married them

            and given them Communion.

Cristo nos dio a conocer

que padecio en un gran Madero

amo a su Cruz con esmero

como su esposa adorada.

            Christ gave us to understand

            that He suffered on the Cross

            That He loved it passionately

            as his wife beloved.

Piensan los malos casados

su cruz abandonar

piensan a Dios enganar

y ellos son los enganados.

            Those who live unchristian wedded lives

             think God to deceive

            And it is themselves

            who are in the end deceived.

Reciban su cruz legal

 no vayan a quebrantar

este precepto sagrado

que Jesucristo enojado es el que nos

va a juzgar.

            Accept your obligations. 

            Do not the sacred precepts break

            Lest Jesus angered

            bring judgment upon us.

Acknowledgements to: Aurora Lucero-White to the WPA Files in the State Records Center/Archives in Santa Fe, New Mexico.

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