Nicolas Estrada is a Mexican-American lawyer working in the greater Los Angeles area. His parents immigrated to the United States from Mexico before he and his sister were born. They settled in Southern California and quickly began to assimilate to the new culture. Nicolas’ parents imparted both Mexican and “American” customs to him and his sister, but they placed a stronger emphasis on American culture. For example, they raised Nicolas with Spanish as his first language, but encouraged him to speak only English in public. This strong emphasis on assimilation influenced Nicolas’ relationship with Mexican culture, but he can still recall some Mexican traditions being practiced in his home and at family functions. In the excerpt below, Nicolas describes one of the traditions he would observe at Mexican wedding receptions:
Nicolas: “Everyone would be at the reception after the ceremony ended. The couple would come out and they’d be present for the first time and a married couple—or as “man and wife.” And about mid-way through the reception, the bride would go to the dance floor and mingle with all of the guests. Everyone would be drunk by this point. And then guests would pin money to the bride’s dress with clothespins—not safety pins because that would probably damage the dress. But this would go on throughout the reception and by the end of the night, the bride would have a pretty significant amount of money pinned to her.”
Here, Nicolas describes a folkloric wedding custom. Pinning money on a bride’s wedding dress is both a folkloric gesture and ritual; it qualifies as a gesture because it is a widely recognized and encouraged practice that involves a specific action (i.e. pinning the money on the dress with clothespins); it also qualifies as a ritual because it takes place during weddings, which are largely considered to be special holidays. If one were to pin money on a bride’s dress during a reception, they would be demonstrating their familiarity with Mexican wedding customs and taking part in a collective activity.