It’s the feast day of the La Virgen de Guadalupe, one of the most important days for a Mexican, especially one was raised by Guadalupanos. I’ve written many posts over the years on December 12th. This post about one of my favorite moments during our wedding Mass has been sitting in my drafts. I thought it was fitting. Sorta.
During my 2004 solo trip to Mexico, I reconnected with dozens of extended family members. I stayed in Guanajuato with my dad’s cousins for a week and then took a bus out to Mexico City where I stayed with another aunt and cousin.
Fabiola and tía Rosa had moved to Mexico City a year or two before so that Fabiola could study canto at the national conservatory. I was impressed by Fabiola’s beautiful voice and her budding career as an opera singer, but I was more impressed by her. I had met her once or twice when I was much younger and barely remembered her, but you wouldn’t have known that since she was so welcoming. Fabiola and other aunts, uncles and cousins made me feel like I was in my second home. They became the main reason Guanajuato is now one of my happy places.
While we weren’t sightseeing around el D.F., Faby and tía Rosa recounted the stressful experience of obtaining a visitor’s visa. In 2003 Faby had been accepted to an opera workshop in Oregon. She was worried that her visa application would be rejected at the consulate. The process is quite unpredictable even when the applicant has all the required documentation and more. Faby got lucky, in part because she demonstrated her singing talents (I may be making that up, but I like the idea of her singing at the consulate). The official was so impressed that she granted Fabiola a visa good for ten years.
This was a big deal to both Faby and tía Rosa as it meant she could go to her workshop, future workshops/contests and could come visit family. I thought of myself. “So this means I have to get married within ten years so you can come and sing for me?”
Faby feigned offense that I would only invite her so she could sing.
“No, no, no, I’d want you there even if you didn’t have an amazing voice.”
Faby was cool with it and we made up, but I never forgot the conversation.
I kept in touch with Fabiola over the years. If I was in Guanajuato or she was in LA for an opera contest or wedding, we’d hang out. The last time I saw her was in 2010 for some family weddings. She sang “Ave Maria” at tía Anita and tío Juan Carlos’s wedding. I recorded it and still get goosebumps listening to it again. Being rather emo, her voice makes me want to cry. [Watch on Youtube]
After Sean and I got engaged, she congratulated us and then offered “te iré a cantar a LA!” If that could happen, it would be amazing.
In the spring, we made arrangements so she could come out for the wedding. I spoke to Michael, the organist/music director, and planned the music for the ceremony. The church allows a soloist, but I couldn’t have Fabiola sing the entire Mass. We planned times for her to rehearse and made sure Michael knew that Fabi would sing the Schubert version of Ave Maria in B flat.
Faby arrived on Thursday night as planned. On Saturday, as dad drove me and Lori onto the church grounds I could hear her rehearsing from the car. I snuck in to the sacristy (staging room of sorts for the priest, altar servers) and waited. As I waited Michael came in and offered his impressions.
“Your cousin has a beautiful voice. She almost brought tears to my eyes.”
He rushed out again to be ready to play the entrance march and I went back to trying to keep calm by chatting up the brother/sister altar server team.
I loved our bilingual wedding Mass. It was the most important part of the day. Sean and I thoughtfully chose the readings and spent time selecting the music with Michael. My dad was with us when we planned the music and offered his own suggestions since he has tons of experience in that area.
After the entrance I took my place next to Sean at the kneelers in front of the altar. We had our backs to all our guests except Fabiola since she was sitting by Michael and the organ. Her smile instantly calmed my nerves and made me feel happy.
After the first reading by my cousin Beatriz, Faby sang for the firs time. She and Christine (official cantor) switched off singing the verses of the responsorial psalm in English and Spanish. It was lovely. Even better, despite our bilingual set up, our guests were singing along. I tried to sing too, but couldn’t hold notes very long thanks to the tight bodice of my dress.
Traditional Mexican Catholic wedding Masses include the adoration of the Virgin Mary. This takes place almost at the end just before the presentation of the bride and groom. The newlyweds take a bouquet to the Virgin Mary statue and take a moment to say a prayer and ask for her blessings in their marriage and life. As a lifelong Guadalupana (devotee to the Virgen de Guadalupe) I’ve always loved this part of wedding Masses because of the intimate nature of the moment, but also because a soloist sings “Ave Maria.”
As Sean and I slowly walked to the small shrine and said short prayers, Fabi sang the long version. According to dad, she was asked to sing the shorter version but objected saying, “I didn’t come all the way from Mexico to sing the short version.”
Fabi was amazing and made me tear up. Not only was her voice perfect, but it was even more meaningful to me that she took time out of her busy performance schedule and master’s classes to come sing for us. I may have had a chance to get to know her over the years, but she’s only met Sean once. I felt incredible love and joy from family throughout our wedding day, but the love I felt from Fabi singing and sharing her talent was different.
And because she’s awesome, Fabi sang “Si Nos Dejan” for us later backed by the mariachi. My cousin knows me. I adore that song.
She also sang “Caminos de Guanajuato” with my dad but I missed that somehow. I hope it’s on the video!