Hints from Senor Heloise
There is the old adage “Mexicans are raised to be entertaining while folks from the US are raised to be entertained.” Rarely is this statement more proven to be true then when hosting an event that includes both cultures.
Those raised in the US have opportunities in high school to perform in a play or sing in a choir. Beyond that, performing in public is such a rarity public speaking tops many lists as being the most painful experience possible.
Children here often come home for school, enjoy their comida and head back out to take classes in singing, dancing or playing an instrument as these are life skills one needs for future fiestas.
Training in being a good party guest doesn’t end in youth. Salsa classes are filled with Mexicans in their 20s, 30s, 40s and 50s fine tuning their dance skills. When I teach danzon to retired public school teachers they are equally busy taking classes in folkloric dancing, singing and such. Not just taking classes, but all these various groups perform at festivals around the town and the country.
Teaching dance in Escobedo has students from their middle school years through their senior citizen years. I often discover the same folks in my classes are accomplished singers, guitarists or indigenous dancers. All these folks will spend hours on their costumes, hair and make up for a performance perhaps only lasting minutes.
Other than my son that dove deep into the world of Improv, I didn’t meet performers in everyday US life. We spend our water cooler time discussing movies seen, books read and games watched. No showing photos of activities we actually expressed ourselves creatively in.
The most creative group activity my parents ever did was bowl which they did separately and decades apart. (I assume after six babies they couldn’t trust their impulses in the romantic allure of a bowling alley. Such sexy shoes!)
The other big cultural differentiator at a social function is food. Foreigners attend a party to eat, drink, then go. If the invite says 2PM you can have appetizers and drinks waiting but that meal best be coming by 2:30 as they’ll want to leave by 3:30. Mexicans guests will still be arriving after 8PM.
Whereas a Mexican will have witch-sized cauldrons with pazole, beans or rice I prefer a multitude of fun finger food encouraging folks to chat and mingle more. Hence, I never set up large tables with chairs as folks tend to place roots and not move about.
Once full, foreigners slip out, Mexicans clear the floor for performances to get the party started. After some presentations by resident singers and dancers, I like to lead the crowd in dance numbers not requiring partners so everyone can perform. My go-to song is Bananarama’s “I Heard a Rumor” as I get folks to do the hand motions from the iconoclastic video (“They say you got a broken heart. I heard. Whoo hoo hoo hoooooo!”) Feel free to practice on your own first as the song is a fiesta game changer and easily translated. Those Bananas didn’t use a lot of multi-syllabic words!
Another fiesta must have is the box of my grandmother’s doll house furniture that I’ve never regretted schlepping down. Throughout any event I can spot a bored child, whip out that box, and captivate them for hours of bliss. Also works really well with the young at heart.
Can you have both Gringos and locals at the same event? But of course, it simply should be thought of as two events in terms of timing, food and participation and a host with the most can plan accordingly. That, and even if feel you’ve made food for an army, make more. Gringos love seconds and Mexicans always, eventually, arrive feeling peckish.