La Paloma de Nuestra Alma


by Marcela Davison Aviles

August marks the fourth anniversary of a milestone – my own wedding anniversary and the brief moment when all Californians enjoyed that right after the California Supreme Court held in support of the marriage cases brought by the City of San Francisco.

Before the marriage litigation made commitment ceremonies an oxymoron, my wife and I exchanged vows at the mission in Sonoma. That was in 2003. When the opportunity came in 2008 to “get legal” we almost decided not to proceed – we figured our commitment ceremony was just as important, if not more. That was the day we made our commitment to each other, under the watchful eyes of the painted saints of the mission (now a state park with a great art collection of paintings of every mission in California). We didn’t need the state to validate it for us – our community of friends and family did.  And the saints.  Just like back in the day.

But when we had the chance to “get legal” we decided, why not?  It’s always a good thing to repeat your vows.  And so, we remembered what we love about each other a second time. Now we celebrate two anniversaries every year.

Prop. 8 overturned the decision of the California court and many in the LGBT community expressed the opinion that one possible reason was the support for its passage in the Latino community.  Yet, while California continues its journey, Mexico enacted Latin America’s first gay marriage law in 2010. Perhaps in this, Mexico’s lawmakers determined to follow the wisdom of Chavela Vargas, Lucha Reyes, Frieda Kahlo, Bárbara Rey, Ricky Martin, Benjamin Bratt, Lorenzo Herrera y Lozano, Linda Ronstadt, Pedro Almodovar, Emanuel Xavier, Aurora Guerrero, Caetano Veloso  and many other Latino/Mexican/Hispanic  artists and writers who, in their work and lives, invalidate Prop. 8.

This clip from Almodovar’s  “Talk to Her” (2002) – a film which presents a magical kaleidoscope of mixed gender roles, loneliness and intimacy, and the survival of love — reveals Caetano singing the classic “Cucurrucucú Paloma” by Tomas Mendez.  Almodovar’s  dream both humanizes and conjures the struggle for a life Prop. 8 can never deny.  In this world, our love for family and tradition is carefully caressed. In this world, as in reality, our once and future meanings of identity and romance, honor, and roots, are cupped, lifted up, released:

A lot has happened since I met my wife:  9/11. The crash of 2008. I lost my Mother. Pam lost her brother. Our kids grew up into lovely, generous, funny, fascinating human beings. We look at them and shake our heads, wondering how in the hell did we manage to create such miracles. Our old friendships deepened. New friendships were discovered, and they illuminated our mutual faith in the human heart, with all of its complicated foibles, wisdom, petulance, love, and above all – optimism.

I guess you could say that our marriage is like the wall in our kitchen. When we moved in to the first house we bought together – the house where we live today – we decided to paint one wall in our kitchen.  We looked at swatches – we were only going to paint one wall to create an accent in an otherwise mundane white kitchen – and the color had to be just right. We knew it in our heads – a sort of mustard, golden color – the color of theMt.Diablohills in summer. We found the swatch, and gave it to the painter.

After the paint dried, we came into the kitchen and looked at the wall. Somehow, “golden hills o fMt.Diablo” became “mango.”  


Mango is not what we expected.  Every time you look at that wall, it’s a surprise.  And – a bit exotic.  It’s slightly off kilter, yet deeply satisfying.  But we’ve grown accustomed to the face of our kitchen, and wouldn’t change it now for anything. We love our mango wall. It’s us – Pam and me: slightly off kilter, yet deeply – deeply – satisfying.

Marcela Davison Aviles is an author, lawyer and CEO of the Mexican Heritage Corporation and Executive Producer of VivaFest, a leading Latino cultural festival of Latino music, theatre, education, film, new media and the visual arts.