Lieutenant Love: A Day in the Life of a Female Jailer

Published as “Straight Talk With Lt. Love” in The Fayetteville Observer on Thursday, April 25, 2002 as part of the Cape Fear Chronicles monthly series.

Juan Diego
Five-year-old Carolina Granados (left) and Jacqueline Ambriz, 5, prepare to perform a traditional Mexican folk dance to celebrate the canonization of Juan Diego at Saint Raphael the Archangel Church on Falls of the Neuse Road Wednesday evening.

Seeing all the makeup and hairstyles, dresses and jewelry, one knows that even the little kids comprehend how important this day is. They do not stand still for long, preferring to whirl and twirl in their special costumes, yet even when they do, the energy does not stop.

Mexico had been preparing for one year for the day the Pope would declare the first Indian from Latin America a saint, and this church had been preparing for one month. But it means as much to the Latinos in the United States as it does to those in Mexico. About one thousand celebrants crowded Saint Raphael the Archangel Church to celebrate Juan Diego who, according to legend, in 1531, witnessed an appearance of the Virgin de Guadalupe, Mexico’s patron saint.

Nearly 90 percent of the Latinos in the church congregation are from Mexico, and the others are from the Dominican Republic, Columbia, El Salvador, Honduras, Bolivia, Peru, Chile, and Guatemala.

Hector Velazco, pastor associate (associate pastor) at Saint Raphael, who together with Padre (Father) Shay Auerbach arranged the celebration, said that people from all countries, including the United States, joined in the celebration.

“It was an opportunity for unity for the culture, for the people of Mexico, because there are different cultures inside of Mexico.”

Fifteen-year-old Gabriela Macias (right), her cousin Melissa Macias (left), 11, and the rest of their party wait in the lobby of First Baptist Church in Smithfield before the quinceanera ceremony celebrating Gabriela’s coming of age begins.

After years of waiting for her 15th birthday, plus six months of planning, Gabriela Macias’ moment has come. She turned 15 on December 26, and her quinceanera, a coming-of-age ceremony in Mexican culture, has come.

“I’m excited,” said Gabriela. “Surprised. I was waiting all these years for them to do this. I am glad that all my family’s here and my friends.”

Family is a central theme at the quinceanera, and it affects all of the members involved. For Gabriela’s cousins, Melissa, 11, and Maria, 12, it makes them more excited for their own ceremonies.  For Cruz Macias, Gabriela’s father, this is his first and only child to celebrate quinceanera, since his other three children are boys.

“I am excited and happy,” reflected Macias. “…also a little sad. A quinceanera is a tradition in Mexico, when a lady comes to 15 years old, to celebrate. It is giving her a step forward. First she’s a girl, then she’s a teen. Every girl is waiting for that moment. That’s what makes this different from any other birthday. To be able to reach this age and not take up with a boy at an early age,” explained Macias.

“We also thank God for that moment,” continued Macias clarifying the significance of the celebration. “That she has reached the 15 years old. This is the way we appreciate[d] Him,” concluded Macias. “We celebrate like a big party.”

The Macias family, Luz and Cruz and their children Gabriela, 15; David, 12; Jonathan, 7; and Cruz, 6, moved to North Carolina from Monterrey Mexico, about 13 years ago. They lived in Selma for the first four years, then moved to Pine Level and have lived in Smithfield for the last six years.

Gabriela said that the family came here to be with their extended family.

“My uncle Jessie Macias was here and he wanted us to come,” she said.

Fact: According to the Pew Hispanic Center and Brookings Institution, the Hispanic population in the Triangle region grew 1,180 percent from 1980 to 2000.

I composed these photo columns in 2002* after the 2000 U.S. Census data was released and disaggregated. The report demonstrated a great increase in the diversity of the Triangle region (Chapel Hill, Durham, Raleigh and Eastern Wake County) in North Carolina. My objective was to highlight this diversity positively, through celebrations, and thus inform readers about different cultures and changes in their local communities.

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