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Churro Meets Jalebi in an Indian-Mexican Wedding
Indian Americans and Mexican Americans share a love for food, family, and spirituality. Both cultures know how to work hard and party! Churros and jalebis add flavor to the ceremony!
No wonder attending a wedding that brings together these heritages is nothing short of fun. On the shores of Santa Barbara, the bride Hima Bindu Potu and the groom Eli Garcia brought their friends and family together to lasso their new relationship.
A Cross-Cultural Ceremony
During the ceremony, a Lasso, a rope made either of rosary beads or jeweled ribbon and flowers, is draped around the bride and groom’s shoulders in the symbol of eternity (in the shape of a figure 8) as they read their vows.
The Indian version of this unity lace is the knot in the scarves that link the couple during the saath phere, as one follows the other around a sacred fire. The groom leads the bride six times around the fire while the bride leads the groom for the last circle. Completing the saath phere (7 circumambulations) makes them man and wife.
“Walking sometimes behind and at times, letting the spouse take the lead are the right steps that make for a successful marriage,” grinned a friend.
La Callejoneada (the Wedding Parade)
In a Mexican wedding, as in an Indian wedding, a walking and dancing celebration takes guests from the ceremony to the reception. Giant mojigangas, papier-mâché puppets towering 10 feet in the air, twirl along with the dancing party visually announcing the callejoneada.
A decorated donkey or burro, wearing colorful paper flowers, pulls a tequila cart along in a Mexican wedding procession. Some Indian wedding processions feature a female horse with the groom sitting astride her.
Both processions follow a traditional band belting out rocking tunes for the wedding party to dance to.
Music in both cultural traditions
As Hima and Eli completed their vows in an arbor of pink roses, the wedding party headed to the open bar and reception area. The mariachi band struck up a tune. In uniformed clothes similar to the red uniform worn by wedding bands in India, they sang joyous songs. Friends of the bride’s father danced to the band and had song requests of their own.
The band obliged and switched to La Bamba. Transported back to their own weddings in India the parents’ friends joined right in. La Bamba is played at most Indian weddings as it has a catchy rock and roll tune.
La Bamba, originally, is also a dance performed at Mexican weddings. The bride and groom tie the ribbon on the floor into a bow with their toes, before the La Bamba song ends. In the 1960s, Ritchie Valens translated and set this 18th-century folk song from the Mexican Gulf Coast, to a rock and roll tune .
The band played another requested tune and with a guzzling of wine and twisting of bodies, the two families celebrated the union belting out the chorus “Tequila!” at the top of their lungs.
“Traditionally, Mexican weddings include mariachis arriving after the reception ends, but we decided to get the party started at the beginning of our reception!,” said the groom Eli, surprised at his newly-acquired family’s exuberant embrace of the Mariachis.
Speeches began after dinner.
The wedding party danced to plenty of popular Hindi film songs, as well as salsa, cumbia, and bachata tunes. Everyone joined in the groom’s party’s favorite dance Caballo Dorado – Payaso de Rodeo.
When Jalebi Meets Churro
Dessert tables stacked with sesame-coated candies, churros and jalebis lined the hallway. The melt-in-your-mouth Tres Leches wedding cake, traditionally made with three types of milk, tastes like the Indian dessert, ras malai, or cheesecake soaked in a milky creamy sauce.
The Money Dance
Cash gifts are popular in both traditions giving the celebrating families a helping hand.
In some Mexican families, the money dance forms part of the wedding celebration. This was not so at Eli and Hima’s wedding. Male guests pay to dance with the bride and female guests to dance with the groom. The newlyweds use gifts of money for their honeymoon or to set up their new home.
It is customary at most Indian weddings, for the guests of the bridal party to give envelopes stuffed with cash to the bride’s mother.
From the beautiful beach ceremony to a grand mariachi entrance and scintillating reception, the bride, Hima shared how it all came together.
Weddings in both the Indian and Mexican cultures last up to two days, said Hima.
“Before we reached Santa Barbara for the wedding, the bridal party and Eli’s family met my parents, friends, and family.”
In the Indian equivalent of the ‘hen’ (bachelorette) night or henna night, girls dance, sing, and have a good time. They decorate each other with henna and write the groom’s name on the body of the bride for him to find.
However, over the years this evening has expanded to include both sides. It is now just called the Mehndi night. Friends and family look forward to this festive evening that kicks off the wedding. Hima and Eli took pictures with friends and family. Hima’s mother gave the ladies a gift of tinkling glass bangles from Hyderabad and a sweet fruit.
Eli’s family is Christian and Hima’s Hindu. Two wedding ceremonies doubled the fun.
“It was a very busy time. Finding clothes for two wedding ceremonies with less than six months to plan! Essentially two weddings! It was very chaotic, but we were able to find all the clothes, jewelry, shoes, etc for both our families and the bridesmaids/groomsmen and find the perfect color scheme for the Christian wedding. My main requirement was the bridesmaids’ dresses be purple since it’s my favorite color,” said Hima.
Hima’s mother Kiran selected exotic silk sarees for the soirée. The men wore matching Indian attire. The color-coordinated wedding party looked dapper in Indian silks.
The jewels and sweet-smelling jasmine flowers that adorned Hima on her wedding day were flown in from India. A long plait of hair hung to her knees as she walked past the seated guests. A lengthy religious ceremony followed. Eli sat patiently as the priest chanted Sanskrit mantras. Years of practice of sitting in church came in handy.
Mexican culture has practices that date back to its pre-European days, from the Mayans and the Aztecs. A rich cultural heritage dating back centuries is a sine qua non of both cultures.
Roti Quesadilla to Churros & Jalebis
Mexican-Indian marriages have a rich history in the United States .
In Yuba City, a restaurant run by the descendants of Indian-Mexicans, serve Indian naan topped with rich, melting queso cheese. Interracial marriages between the two communities date back to the early 20th century. By 1940, according to Professor Karen Leonard of UC Irvine, records show nearly 400 families of Indian men and Mexican women.
“In some cases the descendants are not aware of their Indian heritage. Many people with the last name Singh walk into my clinic for treatment. They have no idea their last name is an Indian one,” says Dr. Ajay Sandhu in San Diego.
In the early 1900s, about 2,000 Indian men lived in California. About one-third married (or re-married) after settling in the state. Nearly 80% of the men were Sikh, and while the rest were Muslim. They came from Central Punjab to California on ships via British Hong Kong and Vancouver in British Columbia in Canada, according to Professor Karen Leonard of UC Irvine. But the Immigration Act of 1917, followed by the Supreme Court judgment in the United States v. Bhagat Singh Thind case, ended the legal status of Indian Americans. They could not own land in the United States any longer.
Mexican women stepped into the hearths of Indian men and rolled tortillas and boiled rajma beans. They made a home in their hearts and lives.
“When they’d show up at the county record office, they could both check ‘brown.’ No one knew the difference.”
The Indian-Mexican generation became known locally as “half and halves”
A Modern-Day Mexican-Indian Couple
When asked about their life together as a couple Hima smiles. They have known each other since their freshmen year at UCSD. Their love story didn’t begin until the end of senior year.
After graduating Eli and Hima planned a date trip to Disneyland. The day was perfect. They enjoyed the rides and shared some of their favorite desserts which included churros and dole whip floats.
As dusk descended, they sat in front of the castle. Just as the fireworks shot up in the sky and a shower of glittering lights floated down towards them, Eli asked Hima to be his girlfriend officially.
Hima doesn’t find great differences in the coming together of cultures. Both families love hosting parties despite the cleanup, she smiles. They share the same values.
At home, Indian or Mexican cuisine does not dominate says Hima. They prefer “Asian stir fry!”
Mexico City & San Miguel de Allende
San Miguel de Allende is a gem, nominated for a Pueblo Magico and a UNESCO World Heritage Site. It won a spot on the 2021 World’s Best Awards as the world’s best city. The closest airports are Queretaro (86 km away) and Mexico City (272 km away). The recommended mode of travel to San Miguel de Allende is by bus. They are comfortable, with wide seats, individual video screens, and a great choice of movies, music, and Spanish programs. The double-deckers offer a 180° panoramic view. Book the tickets online with the help of your host in Mexico City.
Where to Stay
Luxury Hotel The Four Seasons, Mexico City Av. Paseo de la Reforma 500, Juárez, Cuauhtémoc, 06600 Ciudad de México, CDMX, Mexico
4-star hotel Mexico City Marriott Reforma Hotel Av. Paseo de la Reforma 276, Juárez, Cuauhtémoc, 06600 Ciudad de México, CDMX, Mexico•+52 55 1102 7030
Budget hotel– El Patio 77. Whatsapp contact Elvia Chaparro +52 55 81226340
San Miguel De Allende
Where to Stay
Casa de la Noche Organos #19 | Centro San Miguel de Allende | Gto. Mexico 37700 Contact US & Canada: 831 373 8888
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