On Friday I had the privilege of going to an annual celebration of the Mexican Flag at the Maddox Academy, a very rich, prestigious catholic school for girls between preschool and high school ages. The girls were dressed very smartly in their school uniforms, overcoats and white gloves and the different classes organized to do their hair a certain way (Jimena, Toño's sister and her class put their hair in a pony and braided the tail into many tiny braids)
(left to right: Daniela, Fernanda, Jimena)
We arrived to the school at 7:30, an ungodly hour that I have been very lucky to not have to experience in many months, the sun hadn't even hit the school campus yet. We had a seat and Jimena ran off to her classroom. We sat, waited and watched girls run around for an hour and a half before the ceremony actually started. Finally and suddenly every door in the school opened at the same time and girls began to pour out in straight, sharp lines.
They marched in time with the military drummers, their arms and legs were in exact sync.
Little blue girls stepped in time for 15 minutes, they came from everywhere, they filled the stairs marching down in the same time.
When they came to corners the "sergeant" yelled YA, the whole row marched around the corner. When they passed the president and the state mayor, the "sergeant" yelled VISTA and the whole row turned their head simultaneously to look at the visitors and in passing, they snapped their head forward. When one class was done marching, they kept moving to the sound, kicking their left leg out and slightly lifting the right, a stationary march.
The governor was given the honors of raising the flag along side the girls who are to graduate this year. These last year students were crying toward the end of their last march.
After the raising of the flag, the school sang the National Anthem, The State Anthem, the flag song and a song in English that was incredibly hard to understand due to hundreds of girls singing with thick accents. For the first time, they didn't sing God Save the Queen (it's a British school).
The entire assembly had me stupefied. My breath was stuck in my chest, unable to escape while my heart pounded as if I had just run 10 miles. I didn't know what to think and when Toño's mom asked me if I taught it was pretty I told her it was a little weird for me. We don't even use uniforms in our schools (public schools, obviously) and the only time I've ever seen marching and complete obedience and conformity was when I went to see the Marines graduate in San Diego.
Of course, these things aren't wrong or bad but the horrifying thing about the ceremony was that girls were getting dizzy and being taken out of formation, others were fainting and being carried out. They were all taken into a room behind the bleachers, given fruit and juice and sent back out several minutes later. A few girls were standing too far from the bleachers and were taken to classrooms. One girl began convulsing. These girls are between 7 and 18 years old. The younger ones are completely unable to stand in the blazing sun (I'd guess it's been in the low to mid 90s for the last several weeks) for hours in the middle of the day. I'm sure many of them hadn't eaten breakfast yet and none had pockets to keep candies or small fruits in case of emergency.
Poor little girls.
After the ceremony we got together with Jimena's friends and went to breakfast. Delightful little girls.
I'm not sure I could handle another one of those.
To see more videos click my youtube link to the right
26 February 2007