December 20, 2009


Los Angeles has a large and growing Latin American population.  Their influence on the city is substantial. Notices in public places are usually in both English and Spanish while business advertisements in Spanish alone are everywhere. Virtually all businesses provide Spanish interpretation upon demand.  

 A couple of months ago, a colleague  invited me to her daughter’s Quinceañera.  In the Latin culture, this is the coming-of-age ceremony for girls, much like the American or Canadian Sweet Sixteen celebration.  The quinceañera (also means the birthday girl) celebrates her quinceaños or fifteenth birthday on this day.

If parents could afford it, a big party is thrown where the entire Quinceañera celebration is similar to a wedding ceremony and consists of two parts.  The morning is spent at church where the quinceañera affirms her faith.  Those of Latin descent are usually Roman Catholics so there is a blessing given by the priest, followed by the presentation of gifts by family elders usually of a religious nature, like a Bible.  In the Latin culture, the girl’s godparents, or padrinos, play a very important role in her life and is also present during the mass and dinner.  

 Click here for a short overview video.

At nighttime, a dance party is held at a restaurant or banquet hall, which is decorated with one or two theme colors of the girl’s choosing.  Prior to the day, the quinceañera selects her ball gown (similar looking to a wedding gown) and her Court of Honor consisting of friends and relatives of the same age group to accompany her during the waltz performance at the dinner party.  The quinceañera herself is escorted by a male companion.

Click here to see a waltz performance.

After the waltz, other traditions are also carried out that night.  Usually, the quinceañera first comes in a pair of flat heel shoes that are then taken off and changed into high heels by her father during the “Shoe Changing Ceremony”.  The mother then assists in the coronation or crowning ceremony and exchanges this with her doll.  This is then followed by the Father-Daughter Dance, where the father and daughter take the first dance.  Other older male family members (e.g. brothers, grandfathers, uncles, godfathers) may also ask to take her around the dance floor.  Then the dance floor is opened up to all guests with the playing of fast songs, characteristic of the Latin culture. 

Click here to see some of the traditions and a father-daughter dance.

Of course, this ceremony may be celebrated on a smaller scale, like at a family’s backyard, depending on the financial well-being of the parents.

If you are ever invited to a Quinceañera make sure you accept it!

A New Birth of Freedom

July 22, 2009




(This was originally posted during Obama’s inauguration.)

The theme of the inauguration of President-elect Barack Obama is “A New Birth of Freedom”, which marks the 200th anniversary of the birth of Abraham Lincoln.  Born in 1809, Lincoln was the sixteenth president of the United States and the chief force behind the emancipation of slavery in the nation.  Less well known is that Lincoln belonged to the Republican Party, which since its founding, opposed slavery, a highly debated issue at the time.  Eventually, the divided opinions over the issue of slavery culminated in the Civil War, fought from 1861 to 1865.  Lincoln’s victory preserved the unity of the nation and freed slavery.  Despite being from the Democratic Party, instead, Obama will be sworn in as the 44th president on the same Bible used by Lincoln during his first inauguration in 1861 as the significance of his being the first president of African descent cannot be undermined.

I’m very excited to witness this historic inauguration, are you?


July 21, 2009




(Note that the pronunciation below is not based on the International Phonetic Alphabet IPA. Only stress marks and syllable separation are provided.)

(This post was originally created during Obama’s inauguration)

Listen to this episode

the Capitol (n) (‘ca·pi·tol) – the location where Congress convenes.  Note the difference between the name of this building and ‘the capital’ which is the city of the center of government

commencement (n) (co·’mence ·ment) beginning. One may often see “commencement ceremony” to describe a graduation ceremony as it marks the beginning of advancement to higher education or into the professional world.

inauguration (n) (i ·,nau·gu·’ra·tion)

historic (adj) (hi·’stor·ic) – something of value or has significance in history (i.e. an historic election).  Note the meaning difference between this word and ‘historical’ (adj). ‘Historical’ means from the past (i.e. an historical cultural relic, an historical costume).

oath (n)

president-elect (n) (’pre·si·dent·e·lect)

swearing-in (n) (,swea·ring·’in)

Republican (n, adj) (re·’pub·li·can)

Democrat (n) (’dem·o·crat); democratic (adj) (,dem·o·’crat·ic)

The swearing-in ceremony of the president of the United States marks the commencement of his term in office.  The highlight of the ceremony involves the taking of an oath.  The inauguration of President-elect Barack Obama will be an historic event as he will become the first African American president. Both Republicans and Democrats are expected to gather at the Capitol to witness this momentous event.

Note that ‘an historic’ and ‘a historic’ are both used in spoken English (American English speakers, especially, not sure about British English speakers).  However, in writing, ‘a historic’ is preferred.