November 18, 2007

Peruvian Cake Pull
Lima, Peru

I attended a wedding yesterday—no, not mine; Tatiana's father has no shotgun wedding in store for me.

It was a point of some mild debate with Tatiana while we were SE Asia. She wanted to attend the wedding of one of her friends, and I'm a backpacker with very little clothing and dwindling funds—I wasn't going to purchase an outfit just so that I could go with her. But clothing issues aside, I told her was happy to attend, as insight into wedding ceremonies in her country was something I was interested in obtaining, as well as wanting to keep her from having to attending the event with a large pregnant belly and no man on her arm.

I had zero desire to wear a suit from her brother or father, as their sizes would be sure not to fit properly. With a little forethought in mind, I ultimately ended up buying a very nice pair of lightly pinstriped dark-charcoal pants in Florida for $22. With this I'd wear a shirt I had in my pack, and borrow shoes, socks, and belt from her family.

Clean nomad

I clean up pretty good for a backpacker, but still was quite underdressed for the event—the class structure Peru practically mandates that people look like money at weddings, even if they don't have any. I don't think it would have bothered me as much if it weren't for our placement in the reception: At the head table, next to the bride and groom (with another couple on their opposite side). Yeesh.

Tatiana's friend is actually an old student of hers, when she was teaching English at a language institute here in Lima. Her groom was an American, twenty-something years her senior. I playfully nudged Tatiana and said: "So, is that what's trendy down here? To learn some English and marry an American?"

What was great about this event was there were no religious overtones. No church sermons or kneeling/sitting/standing routines while my eyes glazed over. The couple walked down an aisle, some brief explication of marriage duties and responsibilities in front of all, a ring exchange, kiss, paper signing, and that was the end of it.

Entertainingly, Tatiana was asked at the last minute to stand next to the couple and translate the Spanish for the groom, before the ring exchange. The entire scene sort of reminded me of one in The Thomas Crown Affair, where Rene Russo's character enters into a formal black and white event wearing a provocative red dress. I've little doubt that her looks, garb, and belly stole more than a few moments/glances away from the bride.

I also love giving a strong "howdy" to people I know are from the United States—it's great to see the expression on their faces; I'd often describe it as shock and/or relief.

Peruvian Cake Pull

One of the more interesting cultural-specific events that occurred at the wedding is referred to as cintas de torta (cake ribbons). Similar to tossing a bouquet of flowers—though used to compliment that event, not replace it—single girls gather by the cake during the reception and grasp at one or more of the white ribbons protruding from the baked cake. Before the cutting of the cake, a group of girls will simultaneously give the strands and pull, and from within the cake a ring will appear (attached to one of the strings). The girl left with the ring will be next in line to be married.

I've never seen such a practice at a wedding before, and wonder if it's simply a Peruvian tradition, South American, or Latin American in general. I asked Tatiana's mother, from Chile, who said that she's never seen the cake ribbon pull outside of Peru.

Researching this further, I've discovered that there's a similar tradition that's established in the United States, in New Orleans, Louisiana. The southern reaches of the U.S. share a slavery heritage with Peru, in that black slaves were transported through Portugal and onward to the Americas. There appears to be some connection between the French, salve trading, and the "cake pull," as it's known in the United States. Interestingly, in the Louisiana variation, the cake has several ribbons with charms attached, baked throughout the cake. The charms can be both good and bad luck, and may represent children, travel, marriage, etc.

Comments:

Maya

November 20th, 2007

In Chile we do that too… once i got a golden gun from one of those when i was with an former boyfriend…. yes, the word is former jajajajajaj

Anonymous

November 20th, 2007

Given that faithful followers of your travels were able to see some of your friend's reaction to Tatiana in these comments, please elucidate us to your reception in Lima. On the surface, you have someone that shows up with no job and one pair of eight dollar pants. My supposition is that your reception really highlighted a bunch of stereotypes of Americans as well as Peruvian cultural expectations.

Paul

Anonymous

November 21st, 2007

We do that in Argentina, but it doesn't work!, I got a ring 5 years ago and I'm still very single ;)
Sil

Katie

December 4th, 2007

The cake thing is pretty popular in the US actually - at least for little girls' b-day parties and bridal showers. Always with charms though, never rings.

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