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Before you begin working your way to foreign language fluency, it helps to understand the culture behind the language you’re learning. After all, language exists to help a group of people express their ideas and beliefs. Spain is an old country with a rich history and culture. As you begin your Spanish language program, gaining a strong grasp on this history, the values, and the etiquette will help you rapidly achieve success. In particular, Spanish speaking nations have a rich culture centered around going out with friends and living in the moment, but their emphasis on tradition stands out amongst other cultures.
In Spain and Latin America, girls are believed to pass into womanhood at age fifteen. The fifteenth birthday, therefore, is very important for them – it symbolizes a right of passage. To them, these celebrations are as good as marriage and they pay a lot of attention to this personal milestone. The celebrations are even better than the sweet sixteen birthday celebrated in the US.
The budget of a family will determine how the celebrations will be carried out. The girl, “quinceañera,” is dressed up in a ball gown and adorned with a crown and other jewelries. This party will be attended by her closes friends who will be in dresses and formal suits.
Traditionally, this event starts with the “quince” attending a mass in church. In church photos will be taken and the quince acknowledged. Afterwards, there will be a party at home to cement the womanhood. The quince will dance with her dad and other activities that follow will depend on the budget. There will be a toast, brief speeches, perhaps a mariachi band will perform, and then a DJ will entertain the crowd through the night.
Quinces can receive extravagant gifts. A while ago, daughters of the rich would be taken to the US and bought a horde of expensive gifts. Nowadays, they may be taken for trips around Europe, bought a car or be given anything they ask. For the quinceañera from a poor family, the event will still be special. However, the dress code may not be strict, and the gifts are not extravagant. Still, everyone makes the quince feel that she is special.
Weddings in Latin America and Spain are joyous, colorful, and very costly. In fact, there are no events as colorful as weddings. According to Latin Americans and Spaniards, you are considered married after a civil wedding. Before you marry in a church, you will need to have a civil wedding. Granted, marriage starts at a “registro civil,” register officer, or can also be carried out by a Justice of the Peace, who will come to where you are holding the wedding. The latter is for those who can afford it. Weddings can be held at home, on the beach, or in a historic hacienda.
While not all societies have fully embraced same-sex marriages, the government has made it easier for these weddings to happen by organizing mass weddings in the central square for LGBT and heterosexual couples.
Foreigners that need to marry other foreigners will have it easy in Spain and Latin America. The process is straightforward. In such cases, most expats hold their weddings in Cozumel and Cancun. For foreigners who want to marry Spaniards and Latin Americans, the process is a little lengthier. Here, the foreigner is required to apply for a permit in the federal state where the wedding is to take place.
Traditional church weddings are exquisite and expensive. These weddings are also fun. They involve lasso, a cord that acts as a symbol of eternal unity. There are also arras, which are gold and silver coins the groom gives the bride. Mariachi, tequila, and traditional food fill the reception.
What the Spaniards and Latin Americans refer to as the cycle of family life is the celebration of religious and national holidays, birthdays, newborns, weddings, and quinceañera parties. These are events that bring friends and families together. They are events where people forget all the burdens they have in life and just enjoy being together. If you have been working in Spain and Latin America for a while now and you have friends, you might get lucky and get invited into these events.
If you want to learn the culture of Spaniards and Latin Americans, you need to attend one of their events, watch, and learn from the way they behave and talk.
“El bautizo,” or baptism, is an important ceremony when a baby is first given its Christian name. The ceremony is celebrated after the birth of a baby in a church service. Friends and close family members are invited into the ceremony. If you are invited, you will be expected to be carrying a gift for the baby. Music, food, and drinks are part of the celebrations.
First Communion, or what they call “Primera Comunión,” is an occasion where young Catholics take holy water and wine for the first time as symbol of the body and blood of Jesus Christ. This is for boys and girls between seven and twelve. The occasion is celebrated in groups where boys and girls wear all white from head to toe symbolizing purity.
After First Communion, boys and girls confirm their faith in the Catholic Church.
Spanish and Latin American calendars are some of the most crammed calendars in the world. The calendars come with a whirl of carnival, religious festivals, and national commemorations. It is not surprising that on any particular day at least one small town somewhere in Latin America is decorated in readiness for some party.
Most of these celebrations commemorate events in the Roman Catholic calendar that came with the Spanish conquistadors. Upon the capturing of Tenochtitlan, which was the Aztec capital, Spanish priests imposed the Roman Catholic doctrine on the Aztecs and other indigenous groups that they subjugated. The doctrines introduced a cycle of moveable feasts and saints’ days among the people of Latin America at that time, and the culture stayed on to become what it is today. However, there are still traces of pre-Hispanic heritage and rituals that have remained and form some part of the traditional Christian festivals.
Latin America’s tumultuous history with Spain also covers a large part of the calendar. Important dates such as the “Grito de Dolores” (“Cry of Dolores”), which represent this history by marking Father Miguel Hidalgo’s famous call for the independence of Mexico from Spain in 1810. The “Day of the Dead Festival” is the most significant of all festivals in Latin America being a continental event. The festival bears many similarities to the Roman Catholic event of All Saints and All Souls Days, which are held on November 1 and November 2, respectively.
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