(written Sunday 29 November 2009)
Just got back from visiting San José’s 232nd birthday party, which I found fascinating on a number of levels — but then I’m an anthropology major and working on a master’s in Women’s Spirituality, so what do you expect? :)
There were a few small ironies or other marks of our current cultural attitudes that I rather liked, since I’m a huge fan of diversity for cultural growth and health. For example, I liked that the councilman (for El Pueblo de San José de Guadalupe) and his wife who were present were named Chu, and were clearly of Asian descent — but from the way they spoke, I’m guessing they were born and raised in this area. Also, the very small (and not too long, huzzah!) ceremony was presided over by Miss San José, who was a friendly, extremely poised, nice looking young girl in some of the most painfully high heels I’ve seen in a long time — the poor thing was practically standing on her toes! That’s a cultural relic I’ll be happy to see go away.
Miss San José seemed at least somewhat Hispanic of descent, but apparently did not speak any Spanish — which, frankly, I also found interesting, since I’ll gladly welcome the day when people are seen as simply people, rather than genders, ethnicities, religions, sexualities, or whatever. The ceremony was to open with a line from the highest ranking male member of the new pueblo, Luis María Peralta. Miss San Jose asked for Spanish-speaking volunteers from the audience, and got a nice gentleman to read the line in Spanish to open the ceremony, before she read it in English — which I thought was a nice touch. This is it, as best I can remember:
Un pueblo sin pasado es un pueblo sin futuro
which translates roughly to: A village (or people) without a past is a village (or people) without a future.
There was sparkling apple cider and a delicious birthday cake, which had the city’s heraldic shield nicely detailed in frosting. The cake was quite tasty — half vanilla cake with raspberry and half chocolate with chocolate — and was made by Peter’s, which is apparently (of course) the oldest bakery in San José. Also, there was an old Spanish flag flying over the proceedings, which was another nice touch — “old” as in it had the heraldic shield of only Castilla and León on it, rather than the composite shield of all the provinces which is used today.
I liked how the fifteen commemorative candles lit in the little ceremony apparently referred to the fifteen original families, rather than just the 15 men whose names linger still in this area. The reprinted listing of who first settled the little village, for example, very clearly named almost everyone in the families: women, children, men, even a few servants — although there were a few children who were not specifically named in the document. There were over sixty individuals in all, as well as all the tools and livestock which was necessary to support them in their new endeavor. Admittedly, it made me wonder if the bachelors were considered to not count at all, and also if the one or two Indian families were included.
It was sweet that descendants of the original settlers were asked to come forward to help light the candles. There was a gentleman there representing the Berryessa family, and an older lady who seemed to be enjoying herself, but whose name I never quite caught. I think she was referred to as Ms. Pam? There was also a 5 year old child who was applauded for being the youngest descendant there, which seemed to please her.
One of my companions mentioned this was the “oldest” birthday party he’d ever attended, which made me laugh. A moment later I cheerfully shared that I’d been to one even older: April 17th, the 4749th birthday of Enheduanna, the first named writer of record — even before Homer! She was the high priestess of Akkadia, a role equivalent to the modern pope, and wrote three still-extant, lovely prose poems to Inanna. We also have 43 short verses she wrote to the various temples in Akkadia. I may write more about her later.