26 February 2007

Flag Day Celebration at the Maddox Academy

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)

Photobucket - Video and Image Hosting (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.

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They marched in time with the military drummers, their arms and legs were in exact sync.

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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).

(national Anthem)

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.

Photobucket - Video and Image Hosting

I'm not sure I could handle another one of those.

To see more videos click my youtube link to the right


Grampa said...

Wow! What a school. Reminds me of videos of the schools in China and Korea. You never think about structure and ceremony like that in Mexico. Your great-great-grandfather, Juan Verdugo, told me of a school in New Mexico that was a military school, and he sang the Mexican National anthem to let me hear what it was like. Keep up your good work. Hold the camera steady, and move it very SLOWLY...Love, Grampa

andrea said...

when i read your rewiew of the flag day at maddox academy i could only feel proud.

as an maddox academy graduate, i can tell you being part of the ceremony is one of the most exciting things i remeber from my childhood.

thank you for writing this.

i would love to hear from you in my blog.


Anna said...

I found your review merely by accident and i remembered a great deal of things for i was a maddox ex-student also, its true that the whole event took months of preparation and hard work and sometimes you were fed up with the whole marching thing but in the end when you saw all this amount of people amazed at the ceremony you felt great.
Unfortunately i have to say that this ceremony, which was a tradition, has changed a lot since the legionaries of christ bought the school, the uniform has changed and we don´t sing "god save the queen".. im afraid this might desappear as time goes by, but i'll always feel proud because once i belonged to that school.

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Thanks for your post!
Your description is so vivid and is accurate that has brought back very good memories ... as weird as it sounds. I attended the Academia Maddox from 1966 through 1973, and the only things that changed during Flag Day (Dia de la Bandera -24 of February) were: 1) the “dress” uniform (navy blue, with a blue beret, and white gloves) 2) we sang "God Save the Queen" and several other British war(?) songs such as “Comrades March on the Road of Duty,” 3) the British flag was carried by another "escolta." and it was a higher honor amongst the girls to march with the British flag than it was with the Mexican flag; and last but not least, 4) representatives from the British Embassy would attend the celebration, and we would salute them as we marched by.
The school was founded by Mrs. Jesse Sampson in Mexico City in the early 1900s , and her daughter, Mrs. Doris Angell, kept it going until 1992, when she died. Mrs. Angell, as we all knew her, was a very well educated woman who held a PHD from the University of Wales and another one from the University of Mexico (UNAM). Mrs Angell received the Order of the British Empire (OBE) in 1956 and the Order of the Commander of the British Empire in 1962, from Queen Elisabeth. (Source: Krause, Helen “Carta a Peter Angell” El Heraldo de Mexico. Seccion Sociales. Mexico DF, 4 of July 1992)
After Mrs. Angell’s death, the school was sold to the Legionnaires of Christ (Legionarios de Cristo), a Roman Catholic congregation, and big changes were made, up to including wiping out Mrs. Angell’s name and the school’s history. http://www.academiamaddox.com/nuevo/somos.html

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