Sunday, December 23, 2012

Graduation Night

For Young people in Peru there are several milestones that are major league activities. For a girl, the biggest single event in her young life is her 15th birthday. It’s her ‘coming out’. It’s a formal dress; rent a hall and band; take a ride in a horse drawn white carriage in Parque Las Muses; invite 150 guests at $12 per plate; let the liquor flow; party all night and bankrupt your parents type event. Parents start saving and planning 3 years in advance. For a boy it’s his 18th birthday and pretty much follows the same script, except now he’s legal age and can drink with the rest of the ‘adults.’

Lesser events but still up there on the importance scale are school graduations. Peruvians celebrate graduations with an impressive display of pomp and circumstance at four levels…kinder, primary, secondary and university. Common to all of them is a ceremony in a hall or some other suitable facility that has been tastefully decorated. In the larger cities and for wealthier families the graduates, parents and guests will be dressed to the nines. In small villages the kids will be dressed in the best clothing their parents can afford, which is often hand-me-downs from older siblings; borrowed from a neighbor or relative, or sew by mom or some other family member.  There will be formal introductions as each graduate with escort enters the hall individually and circles the standing/applauding attendees before coming to a halt at a prescribed location. It’s heartwarming to watch kinder graduates of five and six years old trying to act just as officious as university graduates. After several speeches by faculty and parents the graduates and their escorts will dance center stage, to be followed by dancing with parents and finally the other guests. Following several hours of dancing, food will be served followed by more speeches and the cutting of the graduation cake(s). These activities last to the wee hours and often see the sun rise.

The graduation Maribel and I recently attended in Puerto Arturo for primary students in the 11 to 13 age range was different in that there were just four graduates. And these are poor people…there were no 3-button suits, evening gowns or horse-drawn white carriages. Still, the formal ceremony as outlined above was followed to the letter.

The four graduates are in this photo, taken on our first visit to the school in October. Can you can identify them from the following photo?

They clean up pretty well, don’t they? Jaime Diaz (left) intends to study mechanical engineering. Next to Jamie is Luis Diego Fernandez who wants a future as a medical doctor. Their teacher Ninfa Milian apologized during her speech for sometimes “being too hard on you.” To Ninfa’s left, Cintya Cotrina has her sights set on being a policewoman, and Eliana Castrejon wants a nursing career. They will be going on to secondary school in Reque when school begins again next March. They are personable and intelligent kids. Maribel and I were proud to be their Padrinos de PromociĆ²n (graduation Godparents).

The event was still going on at midnight when Maribel and I and three others opted to leave. We walked about a mile through quiet village streets to the highway where we lucked out and stopped a passing taxi that was returning ti Chiclayo from Puerto Eten. We were home at 1:00am, feeling good about the evening and happy for the kids.

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