A jeweled dress offsets youthful bronze skin and a smile reflecting three generations of family and friends who gather.

Gifts in hands, stories to tell of the big life she’s lived in a mere 15 years.

This clan has celebrated with pots of boiling frijoles, thousands of avocados squished into guacamole, slow roasted pulled pork, and chicken with mole from recipes brought over the border since her first birthday.

Marie Gewirtz

Marie Gewirtz

Now, 187 chairs are covered in hand-stitched fabric carefully tied with pink satin ribbons. An auntie is the mastermind of the décor. Homemade three-tiered cake with pink frosting, tiny recently cut rose buds ascending into full-blossomed aromatic flowers accented with white baby’s breath as they spiral. Pink everywhere, even the shirt of her father to match her dress for the first dance.

Layers upon layers of love are woven into this exquisitely orchestrated Quinceañera, the Hispanic tradition of celebrating a young girl’s coming of age. Head chefs (also aunties) direct friends in cutting vegetables into salsa, fruit into edible art, polish glasses for toasts, string lights for dancing under stars on this Russian River Valley vineyard. A venue offered by yet another auntie of sorts. Twenty-two tables stretched across the golden light of a wine country autumn evening.

To witness this celebration take form is a reminder of the miracle that happens when people come together with love. This party is more than a celebration of one young girl. It is a tribute to the richness of families who cross borders in search of better lives for their children. The willingness to do whatever it takes to earn success. The astute awareness of being given a chance to be more than circumstances allowed for in one’s country of origin.

With backbreaking toil and solid family values, parents guide the next generation. Resilience and a willingness to never give up ensure anything is possible. Before we begin to take it all for granted. To assume it’s our right. Before entitlement sets in.

The honored 15-year old studied her family well. Her diligence has earned her a scholarship to a prestigious, private, college preparatory high school. She will join her brother and cousins in being the first generation in her family to receive a college education and aspire to a career once unavailable to her ancestors.

A young woman who has danced since a child, she gathered friends to perform choreographed dances for her guests. When was the last time you attended a large gathering where the host performed with a talented dance corps?

I am drawn back to this Saturday night in wine country. Three generations celebrating: crisply ironed shirts, fastidious grooming and joyful hearts. Couples dancing with the intimacy that comes with decades of marriage, cherishing each other and the community they nurture in Sonoma County. Divorce is the exception in Latino families.

The mother-daughter dance — a moment of such enormity knowing the dedication and sacrifice it has taken to raise this child in a foreign world of unlimited prospects. Reverence settles in the cool breezes of this Russian River Valley evening.

Wine country. Immigrants. A success story so big I had to share it. The obvious connection to wine being that this celebration took place in a vineyard.

The not so obvious connection: The willingness of immigrants to work the land makes it all possible. Wine country, where we stand together, inclusive. Where our children belong to all of us. In wine country so much is possible.

Marie Gewirtz represents wine and food clients with marketing and communications in Sonoma County and throughout the world. She can be reached at winewords@sonomawest.com.

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