ABC News On Campus reporter Xorje Olivares blogs:
If it were up to University of Texas senior Sergio Lara, he would have spent Tuesday night sipping margaritas and eating tamales.
Traditionally, on Feb. 2, Mexicans and Mexican-Americans throw a party for El Dia de la Candelaria — it’s the celebration that follows January’s Catholic feast of the Epiphany, the Day of the Three Kings. On this feast day, family and friends gather and share a rosca de reyes, or “king bread,” which has a plastic figurine either baked or stuffed inside. The tiny doll, representing the baby Jesus, “waits” for someone at the party (the king) to come find it. The lucky recipient is then expected to throw a party on Feb. 2, as has been the case for centuries.
In Lara’s hometown of Brownsville, Texas, he said his family celebrated by attending a church-wide gathering Tuesday, as they’ve done for the past eight years. Lara, however, a religious studies major, didn’t celebrate El Dia del la Candelaria in Austin — he had to clock-in at work, and his friend who initially found the baby in January, Emilio Banda, said he had no intention of living up to his Candelaria duties.
“It was never in my plans to throw a party on a specific date,” Banda, 21, said. “I just found myself out of time, money, and strength, and I completely forgot about it.”
Lara said keeping up with such customs becomes difficult, especially after moving away from home.
“We live in a country where school and work are the two most important things in the lives of most college students, regardless of race,” Lara said. “I'm not saying that these aren't important for me, but in my case, I try to balance these things with my traditions and culture.”
Santiago Guerra, a cultural anthropology professor at UT, said many people are actually moving away from engaging in days of observance, and have even put a new twist on them.
“While I do believe that these celebrations are important events that help to reproduce Mexican-American cultural patterns, the celebrations have already undergone some changes in the U.S.,” Guerra said. Some of these changes include having carne asadas, or cook-outs, instead of traditional tamaladas, where tamales are mainly served.
“My friends and I are very proud of our Mexican heritage,” Lara said. “Unlike most Latinos that I have met, we actually embrace our heritage and enjoy participating in events and holidays that will enable us to promote and conserve the traditions of our culture.”
Banda, an English and theatre/dance double major said he, Lara, and the rest of his friends, had gathered for the rosca celebration in January primarily to “connect to old family roots.” Yet, he admits his family does nothing special for either of the cultural holidays, except pray.
“It's not that I don't care — I was just not brought up celebrating this day,” Banda said. “Religion was always the first and foremost important part of any Catholic celebration in my family, [but] there was never a party.”
UT sociology major Ludivina Ramirez said her family usually gets together for tamaladas, depending on who received the baby and whether they are close by. But, she acknowledged that things have changed since she left home in 2006.
“Students should take part in this, but the problem is that nowadays there is no time to do so,” said the Eagle Pass, Texas native. “College life is hectic and to be honest, sleeping, eating, studying, reading and homework is more important.”
Despite the disruptions, Lara said he hopes customs like this will still be around for years to come.
“I think that most of my Latino friends don't really care about celebrations such as this one,” Lara said. “It's sad to see our customs and traditions being lost in time.”