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Un Brindis / A Toast

by Anne Boone Johnson


I was staying in a 300-year-old hacienda, now an inn owned by a friend of mine, in a room next door to a couple from Guadalajara and their two girls, ages eight and ten. I'd joined the family in the patio when the young girls suddenly shouted, "Es una callejoneada," hearing the music of the approaching wedding procession before I did.

As the chicas raced toward the intricate wrought-iron gate separating the patio from the cobblestone street, their enthusiasm was contagious. Although over the years I had seen quite a few joyous callejoneadas unique to the state of Guanajuato –and particularly popular in San Miguel with its beautiful Parroquia– I ran after them.

The heavy gate clanged shut behind us. Just in time we arrived to see a burro festooned with colorful flowers approaching, two bottles of tequila hanging from either side, leading the celebratory procession. Following immediately behind was a mariachi band in sombreros and black suits studded with metallic silver. Their lively music seemed to reverberate from the colonial stone walls up to the heavens. The band was followed in turn by two mojigangas, giant paper maché dolls dressed as a bride and groom that gaily danced and nimbly whirled about, the "groom" flinging his fake arms wildly.

The chicas had only seen one callejoneada during their stay, and they were entranced. The younger girl stepped into the street to grab one of the flying sleeves of the mojiganga. I quickly pulled her back and out of the way as the real bride and groom approached.

Balancing on stiletto heels, the bride held the hem of her white wedding dress above her ankles with both hands as her new husband gallantly held her arm to steady her on the cobblestones.

Next came the exuberant wedding party. They were toasting the couple with tequila from small wedding cups called cantaritos suspended from their necks. The procession wound happily through the streets toward the central garden or Jardín.

As the last of the wedding party passed and the chicas ran back through the wrought-iron gate, excited to tell their parents what they had seen, I lingered for a while.

In the twilight, leaning against the cooling stucco of the old inn, I wondered if the bride and groom would be happy. Would they be able to fulfill their vows from this day forward to love and to cherish each other for better or worse till death parted then? Would they be able to weather the ups and downs, the trials and tribulations, the stresses and strains that accompany even the best of marriages?

I thought back to my own wedding day, the reception, the rice, the escape from pursuing friends. I remembered the wonderful honeymoon to Hawaii. I remembered the pain of long separations demanded by my husband's career. I recalled the sadness of moving away from my beloved New Orleans, of even leaving our marriage for awhile and then eventually coming back to try again for happily ever after. I'm glad that I did. I thought of our two grown sons, now with families of their own. I reflected on how quickly time goes by, how it would pass just as fast for the new couple as well.

Standing alone there on that Spanish colonial street, I felt the past, present and future somehow seem to draw closer together–even to become wedded themselves for a while–a brief pause in the progression of time against which all of our lives unfold.

Then, as the evening grew even quieter and night began to fall over those ancient cobblestones, upon which so many generations had passed, time itself seemed to even stand still for a moment, just for a moment.

During that timeless moment, alone in the dark, I held up my hand in a celebratory Spanish toast, un brindis, wishing the new couple Health, Wealth, and Love. ¡Salud, Dinero y Amor!

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Anne Boone Johnson, Ph.D. Spanish/English, has been visiting San Miguel since 1990 when she came by train. She lives in Gulf Breeze, Florida. She is retired from the University of West Florida and spent summer terms teaching international students at Harvard and Columbia. She continues teaching Spanish in her community, traveling, and writing in her spare time. Her stories have appeared in Solamente in San Miguel III, as well as in various anthologies in Florida.

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