Friday, October 13, 2006

Bailar la Cumbia

Bailar la Cumbia!

This past weekend was the wedding of my cousin Sonia. I dont know her very well but I grew up with her older sisters. Also, her father, my uncle Antonio - kind, witty, gregarious - is one of my favorite relatives. He knew that I was a rare sight at family weddings and, for this one, had good-naturedly demanded my presence. When I kissed and greeted Sonia at the wedding she whispered to me: "It means so much to me that you came." These statements mean much in a family with about 20 aunts and uncles and over 40 cousins.

In enormous families, such as mine, the act of planning a wedding, already a convoluted affair, must bear additional complications. The first is how to manage the guest list. An "intimate wedding", such as Sonia's was, including only close family and friends of the bride and groom and their families still could not be reduced below 300-400 people. As might be imagined, a received wedding invitation within the family creates a reciprocal contract and this obligation only serves to fatten up the wedding lists, lest someone accidentally be slighted.

The second obstacle is planning a date that doesn't collide with other family obligations. This includes baby showers, baptisms, funerals and of course, other weddings. It's an impossible art. The day of Sonia's wedding several family members had traveled South, just past the Mexican border to attend the wedding of another distant cousin.

For Sonia's reception, my uncle had booked the band La Sonora Dinamita. They are a well-known Colombian band, famous for their Cumbias. Although Cumbias originated in Colombia, they are popular all over Latin America. The music has a driving, irresistible beat. As soon as La Sonora Dinamita started playing, half the guests, young and old, crowded the dance floor. I danced for a couple hours straight among my aunts and uncles, my cousins and their children, among familiar strangers.

I've included an mp3 file of Sonora Dinamita performing a medley of some of their more popular Cumbias:

La Sonora Dinamita: Cumbia Mix (mp3)

The reception was well-attended - more so than the wedding itself. Exactly 350 of us packed the dance hall. I know this is the number because thats what the owners of the venue pointed out to us as the maximum we could have before violating the fire code. Wedding Guests #351 and onwards had to wait outside.

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