I was fortunate enough to be invited to my boyfriend's cousin's Quince celebration to see the celebration I had only ever heard about from Colombians who spoke of it as something of mythical proportions. The party lived up to this expectation and did not disappoint!
It was being held in the function room of an apartment complex towards the south of Cali which had been decorated fit for a wedding. This was the first sign of what was to come. After being sat around a table with some glamorously dolled up elderly Caleñas, the birthday girl was paraded through onto the dance floor, where she danced with all the males in her family one at a time. This included Juan Felipe, who had been told it was going to be a Waltz, so had been watching a YouTube tutorial under the table beforehand in a panic! After feeling he had mastered the box-step, he was disappointed that it ended up being an improvised dance, not a waltz at all!
After this, an evangelical preacher stepped onto the scene to give a sermon about how her life was so important and great because she let God into her heart. It felt a little impersonal, but hey, each to their own. The preacher could later be seen taking selfies with the guests like some sort of celebrity. Next, there were various photo opportunities then the food was served. Everything was sweet and savoury. The meat had cherry sauce and the salad had pineapple and strawberry in it. It was very typically Colombian in this way!
After eating, came out the pièce de résistance - a Mariarchi band. These are massive here, even though they are traditionally Mexican, and are frequently hired for birthdays, arrivals in airports and, Juan Felipe tells me, for when a man cheats on his girlfriend and wants to serenade her to apologise - how sweet... Anyway, this Mariarchi band did not disappoint. They were incredibly good singers and even had some small dance routines, but they were very loud! I did notice, though, that they were all very old, way past retirement age, and one of them tragically had no hands, yet was still able to play the trumpet. Quite incredible. They sang to the birthday girl and then she blew out 15 candles which were on a huge candle holder that was taller than here.
One of the best or most interesting parts of the night for me, though, were the other guests. One table was full of incredibly plastic-surgeried women (a useful adjective I just had to invent living here) with the whole package: enormous bums and breasts, nosejobs, liposuction, 'blonde' highlights and 7 inch heels. They were accompanied by their typically short, overweight and unattractive husbands and a couple of children, being cared for by the live-in indigenous nanny, of course. We heard it on the grape vine that these families were involved in money laundering, but you didn't hear it from me...
It left me feeling like I had experienced an authentic side of Colombian family life and society in general, but I was also a little overwhelmed that all of these sides were in the same room playing out at once! It was a lot to take in but I am so glad that I am able to be a part of things like this, as I know many expats are not. It truly was everything I had expected and then some!