Every child raised in Mexico, at one point in their lives, wanted to be a part of La Escolta.
La Escolta, the Color Guard, is a schools most honored tradition. Students audition, earned high grades, and impeccably follow school rules, just for a chance to be awarded a position in the coveted Color Guard. It is a position of such honor that only the best students are allowed to be placed on the roster. It comes with the responsibility of after school rehearsals, hours of marching and learning the routine and highly specific steps. But it is an honor and every student knows it.
In most schools, there is a square open courtyard. This space is used for school assemblies and functions and, in all of those, the Color Guard is present to help the attendees pay their respects to the Mexican flag. It is a highly visible position and the students on La Escolta are expected to keep their uniforms pressed, their gloves white, and their posture straight. And they do it with honor and a gleam in their eyes. They know their job is an important one and they take pride in performing it to the best of their abilities, which is, coincidentally, expected to be perfection.
“Firmes, Ya”. I had the honor of serving as an alternate one year on my school Color Guard and I can still hear the commands in my head. It’s amazing how some experiences remain with you and how much they shape your perspective. The requirements to gain entry into the Color Guard were so strict that it made all the kids aim at perfection. Well, maybe not ALL the kids. But most of us worked incredibly hard to earn the grades and conduct reports necessary to qualify.
There are six posts in the school Color Guard. Four students go in the front, two in the back. Each student has a role to play, from the Sergeant/ Commander to the flag bearer. With individual roles, responsibilities and steps, each student perfects their craft in unison with their team mates. The result is a beautiful presentation of the Mexican flag.
Every Monday, after dropping our school bags in the classroom, we would all walk down to the courtyard, single filed and silent, to attend the school’s weekly assembly. We would line up, by height, and form a perfect square with our classmates. Each classroom would do the same until we all formed a U shaped assembly group. Our proud parents would sit, looking at their well coifed children, proud to be a part of these traditions. The climax of the assembly and La Escolta presentation is always the recitation of the Mexican pledge of allegiance and the singing of the Mexican National Anthem (if you want to read the words in Spanish and English you can find it here).
Today, I get to re-live all of these traditions through my daughter. Her language immersion is going splendidly and, last week, I found out just how much of a cultural immersion she is receiving as well. Out of the blue, during dinner, my daughter announced that she wanted to join La Escolta. She wants to be a part of that very special group, a part of the honor and traditions, that is the Mexican school Color Guard. I know how she feels. And knowing that she feels it too makes this temporary move to Mexico worth its weight in gold.