One day a couple of weeks ago, Mia came home from school and announced that the class chose her to be the "madrina", or godmother, or homecoming Queen representative for her 8th grade class. She seemed excited about it so we got on board and asked her what her responsibilities and duties where, to which she responded "ser guapa" (be pretty!). That's what the teacher told her.
For those of you who are not familiar with Latin culture, you need to know there is a major obsession with beauty queens. Literally every day in the paper, there is something about a beauty queen contest, be it for the country, city of Cuenca, a neighborhood, a school, or a parish. In fact, our landlady, a sort of short, squat, woman in her mid-50's, forked out $25 to attend the selection event for the "Reina de Cuenca" - this from the woman who won't spend $5 to fix our leaking toilet! People get totally into it and we just sit back and roll our eyes and marvel at the cultural differences.
Once our neighbors and friends got word of Mia's being selected, they started asking me about her dress, shoes, jewelry, and make up. Oh boy, I thought, this is serious and the pressure is on. Mia ended up wearing a dress she had brought down but we did buy her some white sandals and our neighbor lent her some make up. it's simply unheard of to have a madrina not wear make up, no matter the age....
The big day was last Saturday, the "Jornada Deportiva" of the school. The day is most similar to Field Day at John Stanford Int'l School or Homecoming at Lakeside - except they sell beer! It was a very fun day and we experienced firsthand the tight community of Alborada, the kids' school. The entire parent community was there, participating in the events, selling food, including a couple of roasted pigs, and cheering on their kids in their various athletic pursuits.
The day began with a huge parade, during which each class marched out on the blacktop in their "uniform", or costume they chose. First came the 2 kids holding flags, then the Madrina with her date and then the rest of the class. Alborada goes from pre school to high school so this parade took some time. The younger the kids more, the more extravagant the costumes, mostly because of the parental participation.
After the parade and cheering of the different costumes, they asked all the madrinas to come out who represented their grades. They said their names, they walked up to the stage and turned around. That was it. The crowd was going crazy. There was more enthusiasm for the beauty queen than for any other event... Don and I were watching from above and taking some photos, thoroughly amused by all the fuss over the girls. Then the grand moment arrived. They announced the 3rd place winner, Señorita Fraternidad, the 2nd place winner, Señorita Amistad, and then the 1st place winner, Señorita Deportiva, Miss Mia Loseff!!! I looked at Don and said "all that time and money spent on beauty school finally paid off! :)
We learned afterwards that Mia will be representing her school as the Madrina in the major athletic events all year long. She is definitely having an interesting cultural experience here!