Posted by: Project MicroMundo | September 5, 2010

¡Feliz Cumpleaños a Ti!

Hello again from Jessica! I’m going to take a quick break from talking about the band to recount another cool experience I’ve had while here: Celebrating my 22nd cumpleaños (birthday)! My cumpleaños was August 20th, and the Spanish teachers and volunteers threw me a fiesta de sorpresa (surprise party) at the biblioteca! I’m generally not one for huge celebrations, but birthdays here are celebrated with a lot of flair. I arrived at the biblioteca ostensibly for the purpose of lesson planning to find an all-out part already set up, complete with pastel (cake), tostadas con salsa (toasted tortilla chips with salsa) and homemade jugo de fruta (fruit juice) – yum!

Jess, Ronnie

Heidi, Idani, Vera, and Alexia, from our host family, came to wish me a happy birthday.

Spanish teachers

Our Spanish teachers Brenda, Lisbet, and Lesbia serving the food they prepared for the party.

There are a couple notable ways in which the Guatemalan cumpleaños differs from those in the U.S. One is the canción (song) – while it has the same notes and rhythm, it has about three extra verses, including one in which they sing ¡Ya queremos pastel!” (“We want cake now!), and one in which they count aloud from one to your new age. Just in case you weren’t already worried about getting old, you get to hear your age chanted slowly aloud to you by all your friends, and the older you are, the longer you have to suffer!

I thought the party was the end of the surprises, but I was in for one more. After blowing out the velitas (candles), the Spanish teachers informed me that before I could cut the pastel, I had to lean over and take the first bite. I thought maybe this was a case of my insufficient Spanish causing me to misunderstand, but they insisted it was a part of the Guatemalan tradition.

As I leaned over apprehensively, I suddenly felt my face meet cake – the part of the tradition they didn’t tell me was that the face of the birthday boy or girl actually gets smashed into the cake! What a great surprise that was – nothing says “Feliz cumpleaños” (Happy birthday) like getting frosting up your nose!

cake face

My face post-cake

See the video of my face getting pushed into the cake on Youtube here.

After having a good laugh and wiping the frosting from the crevices of my face, we spent the rest of the party platicando (chatting) and comiendo (eating). All in all it was a great way to celebrate, and certainly one of the most interesting cumpleaños I’ve ever experienced!

For my next post I’ll give updates on the band, including the tale of my marching with them in a desfile and the first successful presentation of the Himno Nacional, so stay tuned!


  1. I daresay that’s a birthday celebration you’ll never forget! Great cake diving picture and video…thanks to the person that captured those! And to those who made the memorable event happen!

    i’m glad you got to eat cake!❤

  3. LOVE the way you celebrated – thanks for sharing!!

  4. Love the video! Glad you had a great birthday!

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