Pico de Orizaba

Pico de Orizaba
Taken from Huatusco, Veracruz, the closest town to Margarita's family's ranch.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Señor Roberto, I Cordially Ask Your Permission For Your Daughter Margarita's Hand

This photo was taken in April 2004, the first time my mother and Bruce visited us in Mexico
Margarita's father Roberto is 17 years older than Margarita's mother Paz.  They married when Roberto was 33-years-old and Paz was 16-years-old. Paz´s father, Oligario didn't go to the wedding.  Why not?  I don't remember.  I imagine Margarita can answer that question later on. Paz gave birth to 13 babies.  One of them died in the first week.  Margarita was the first daughter and the 3rd child.  She grew up with 8 brothers until Alba was born when Margarita was 15-years-old.  

Paz's brother "Chayo" has 12 children and calls women "breeders".  Her brother Elfego has 10 children.  Her younger brother Gregorio has 5 children, and her brother "Negro" has 2 daughters.  The children of "Chayo" are at war with the children of Elfego.  It's the Hatfields and the McCoys.  All her brothers are alcoholics and the story goes that Paz's brothers turned their father Oligario into an alcoholic too.  A bit strange, wouldn't you say?
Margarita, Roberto y Oligario during an incredible hike

Don't smile Roberto!  Oligario is happy as a clam, no joke!

When I started "dating" Margarita, Paz received me 8 times with a hug and a peck on the neck.  Yes, that was strange.  But, I'm not from here.  If Margarita were Turkish, her father would greet me with a kiss on both cheeks and if she were middle-eastern, it is possible that her brothers (if I were cool with them) would walk with me down the street hand in hand.  In any case, Paz made me feel very welcome in her house.  And Roberto ignored me.  

One day at Las Cañadas, Rejina's (Margarita's only sister-in-law at the time) only and 2-year-old son Alejandro asked his mom in front of me, "Mamá, will Ross be my uncle too?"  Rejina, who is known for being horribly rude responded, "It's possible, but not probable."  But there was rumor that she nagged Roberto every chance she could saying, "I believe Ross is about to ask your permission for Margarita's hand!"  

The April day we visited the ranch to speak with Roberto and Paz about moving to Xalapa together, Roberto said, "I don't know what game you guys think you are playing together...  I don't want to even think about what you would do living together."  Margarita was 28-years-old.  When we asked permission to visit friends on the coast, Roberto sent as chaparone the 15-year-old Rafael.  That didn't work... I was Margarita's second boyfriend and her first in 8 years.  In any case, that April night Margarita was supposed to speak for us.  I wasn't supposed to do any of the talking.  How could I with 3 months immersed in Spanish?  Plus, Roberto and Paz are her parents.  But, Margarita started crying in her mother's arms and minute after minute I realized increasingly that she wasn't going to get up the nerve to speak for us.  Ricardo, the owner of Las Cañadas had kicked me off his ranch in the hope that he had ended the risk of losing his cook.  I had 3 months left on my tourist visa and was looking at my destiny smack in the face.  I needed to know what Margarita and I would create together, how I would accomplish my part.  I have never had the right to work in Mexico married to her.  So, I had to work real hard.  I believed that Margarita and I were going to create something very important together.  But I couldn't start working on my part without her confirming her part.  I couldn't continue living in a dirty room in Huatusco, sharing a bathroom without a light.  I needed a reason to continue in Mexico.  I thought that reason was Margarita.  At that moment I ceased being a tourist.  If we failed that evening, I had nothing more to do in Mexico.  I knew since the first week we met, that I was in Mexico to be with Margarita.  

I looked at Margarita clutching her mother and I started talking in my 3 months of Spanish.  I talked for what I believed was an hour.  I began with, "I didn't think we would come to this so soon.  But, I guess we have no choice.  I love your daughter.  I respect her and I respect the two of you.  I wouldn't do anything to harm Margarita, nor to shame you.  The idea of living together is to create a life together.  But, if that means I must ask your permission for her hand today, then that's what I will do.  I wish there was someone bilingual who knows me all my life who could tell you who I am.  I wish there were a way I could personally show you what you need to know about me.  But that is impossible..."  At this time Paz is crying, pounding her forehead and pulling her hair.  I am horrified but I continue.  I say something I wish I had never said, although it makes little difference because it never occured.  I said that I would even convert to Catholicism and marry Margarita in their church...  But how can you convert from a religion you don't follow?  I converted a long time ago.  And now I have my own developing religion without walls and without publishing companies.  Had I gone through with the conversion classes, I would have become more resentful towards Margarita than I would later become.  Resentment is almost as dangerous for a relationship as is betrayal.  I said that I would be willing to live on the ranch if that was necessary or possible.  I said that I didn't have children nor a wife and that I wished for them to believe that I was being 100% sincere with them, which I was.  And then, suddenly Roberto said, "adelante" (go ahead with it)...  

I don't know if Roberto understood everything I said, or if he was tired listening to my poor Spanish.  I believe that there were a bunch of miracles that occurred from the time Margarita and I met to that point of explaining to Roberto and Paz.  One of those miracles was understanding everything that Margarita told me about herself and her family in the first 2 months of knowing each other.  

I guess I could say that I was surprised and relieved by the outcome.  But then I became horribly angry with Margarita and her mother for putting me through that situation.  I felt humiliated and foolish.  So, I walked out of the house and sat on a pile of cinder blocks below a tree infront of the house ruminating in the darkness.  I thought that I should just pack my stuff and leave.  But I didn't.  So many times.  And I never left.  Since May 15th, 2003, Margarita and I haven't spent 24 hours apart.  

The following day, Margarita's oldest brother Alejandro (Rejina's husband) looked for me in Huatusco.  He wanted my promise that I wouldn't mistreat Margarita.  He said a bunch of things that I didn't understand, probably because I didn't have to understand what he said.  Truthfully, it took years to understand Alejandro and Roberto's accents.  Probably because of television and the local public schools, the local accent softened greatly and the younger children stopped speaking with waves; imagine the words undulating as they come out of Alejandro's and Roberto's mouths.  The difference was that Roberto has very few teeth in his mouth.  So, his form of speaking is like a mumble.  I surprised myself this year when I realized that I understood most of what Roberto says to me...

Margarita was 7-years-old when electricity came to the ranch.  That was in 1982.  Immediately with electricity came the television.  I will mention later on what I believe happens to a society not prepared educationally, politically, socially nor economically when it changes suddenly from a manual society to an automatic society.   

Margarita has mentioned quite a few times that I was fortunate; that in many other rancher families, her brothers would have busted my head open for "dating" her.  

Margarita and I were married infront of a judge civily July 10th, 2003.  I wanted the date for my birthday.  But we couldn't arrange for that.  The only people who came to our "wedding" were Roberto, Paz, the non-identical twin 9-year-old girls, Erica and Iris, Margarita's first sister Alba, her brother Nicolas (who was one of the witnesses), the other witness who was someone I was helping with English, his wife, his "American" boss who was paying me and his boss' young son and his boss' pregnant Colombian wife...  The non-family members didn't want to go back to the "house" where we lived to celebrate.  I had cooked for an army.  I thought some of Margarita's brothers would come to Xalapa with their parents.  But I was wrong.  No celebration, no gifts, nothing...  Well, there was a lot of talking behind backs, inventing stories...  But that is a different story.  I have photos from the "wedding", but the album is buried somewhere and I haven't dug it up.  The only family members smiling were Margarita and I.  

One month later Immigration told me that I had to leave Mexico and return with a renewed 6 month tourist visa.  The immigration worker told me that I could go to the U.S. and return that same day.  Or, if I didn't want to separate from Margarita, we could go to Guatamala.  And that's what we did...  And that's what we did...  And that's what we did...  Does it seem that I am repeating myself?  Well...  

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