What calls for special attention is that Anderson Paz and Ray Chala’s wedding was not only the beginning of their life together, it was the happy ending of their long-distance relationship.
Paz was an ER physician in the Brazilian city of Manaus. He met Chala in 2014 while in the United States for a monthlong internship at UC San Diego.
“San Diego is four hours ahead of my hometown,” said Paz, 28, who is from northern Brazil. “Ray would always leave me a good morning message at night. We were communicating like that every day. There were tons of messages. This was our strategy to keep the bond and the flame burning. It was crazy!”
On May 22, Paz flew to San Diego — exactly a year after they had met. Their wedding was three days later, on the beach in front of Hotel del Coronado.
“That was the first spot where we walked together, so it was symbolic to have the ceremony there,” said Chala, 46, a Realtor. “In Coronado, the way the sun sets to the right, over Cabrillo, reminded us of how the sun sets in the same direction in Rio. It felt kind of like home for him.
“We’ve gone to Brazil, Italy and France to see each other, and of course, the United States,” Chala said. “Officially, Anderson has one more step to become a permanent resident.”
“Now we’re waiting for the interview to prove we have a bona fide relationship,” Paz said. “Then, hopefully, I’ll become a permanent resident.”The University Heights couple’s beach wedding was small, with about 25 friends and family attending. On Sept. 26, they had a larger party at a friend’s home.
At both events, the Pulseira — the Brazilian tradition of wish ribbons — played a role.“When I went to Brazil in December, we traveled the country together for a month,” Chala recalled. “We were at an old church where people tie wish ribbons to the fences. We tied our wish ribbons to our left wrists. Each had three knots and we made a wish for each knot. We put the ribbons on each other’s wrists on New Year’s Eve. We kept them on until the ceremony, when we cut the ribbons. Our wishes came true when we exchanged rings.”
At the September party, they brought wish ribbons for their guests in rainbow-flag colors with the couple’s last names and messages in Portuguese. The elegant cake served at the party was from European Cake Gallery, with “Mr. & Mr.” cake toppers designed by a friend.
The couple wore white shirts and beige pants to both events and asked their guests to wear colorful clothes.
The Andre Monari band performed Brazilian music at the party.And Jazz singer Diana Krall sings an English version, called “Quiet Nights.”
The couple integrated a key line from the song into their vows: “Until the final flicker of life’s embers.”
Paz is studying for exams to obtain his U.S. medical license, a process that may take two or more years. Chala is continuing to learn Portuguese.
“I’ll try to become a permanent citizen of Brazil, so we’ll have similar status in both countries. Then, adopting kids from Brazil should be easier,” Chala said, adding that Brazil recognizes same-sex marriage. Even so, their relationship was not embraced by all.
“I was born and raised in a small city,” Paz said. “It’s far from Rio, which is more gay-friendly and open-minded. When Ray visited my hometown, people would stare. I came out to my friends and family. They now acknowledge my relationship. There were a lot of sad moments along the way. I lived 10 years in one year.
“Our connection to Brazil will always exist. In Rio, nobody would be bothered by a couple of gay guys hanging. In San Diego, nobody cares about that, either. It’s safe to be who you are. We feel lucky.”