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My young friend Maria celebrated her fifteenth birthday on Saturday night. I felt as though I was back in Oaxaca watching the event unfold: the last doll, the adorning with jewelry and shoes, the first bouquet of roses, waltzes with father, uncles, cousins, a toast to the woman before us.

But this time I was not only a witness to the custom. In the Mexican tradition of guelaguetza, as friends and family, we contributed to the celebration. M and I delivered the cake. Tres leches filled with strawberry composed the base, chocolate with fresh peach was the middle, and white cake with pineapple rested as the top tier.

This night, we ate and drank and cheered and talked and danced, celebrating the intelligent, graceful, and beautiful woman she has become.

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