Tales of Retirement in Paradise
|Chapter 4: Meet My Maestro Melchor!|
Polly G. Vicars
Coming from Kentucky where the only people of Hispanic heritage are those driving through on their way to Florida, we moved to México completely ignorant of the Spanish language. (Today, happily there are many folks of Hispanic heritage in Florida enhancing the entire state with their wonderful attitudes, generous spirits and hard working ways!)
|1989 - The wedding of Martha & Melchor.|
|1991 - Yesenia proudly displayed by her jubilant Mama and Papa.|
|1993 - Those precious children were growing up and I loved being with them!|
|1994 - A coconut serves as a ball for little Alex on the beach at Majahuitas.|
|1994 - Miss Mexico of 2010? Why not?|
|2005 - Melchor & Husband with Yesi & Alex in our pool at LaPalapa: Just kids having fun!|
|2006 - Yesi & Alex at her Quinciañera. Aren't they Gorgeous?|
|2007 - Yesi & Alex cut their birthday cake at a party at LaPalapa's pool deck.|
|2007 - Maestro Melchor in his classroom doing what he does best... teaching Spanish to us Gringos.|
|2008 - Martha & Melchor dancing the night away at the Becas Ball.|
In fact, it is well known that Kentuckians are pretty ignorant of the English language, much less "one of them furin tongues." The quest for a Spanish teacher was at the top of our list of "Things To Do." We learned of a gifted young Mexican teacher who worked in a small school where it was said "only serious students need apply!" We seriously enrolled.
Husband and I sat down in a tiny classroom across the table from a handsome twenty-five-year-old man. Of slight stature, he had the mandatory black mustache, black hair and eyes, fair skin, and a welcoming smile that lit up the room. He began our private instruction with patience and understanding. He empathized with our situation, as he had recently learned his near-perfect English in this very classroom.
As the one hour, trice weekly lessons progressed, we began to learn a little Spanish and a lot about this young man. He soon joined a special group of young people consisting of ex-students and children of friends from different times and different places who make up our extended family. (This special group has grown exponentially as Melchor and several others now have children of their own and the fabulous Bambinos along with their wives, girl friends and cousins are now an integral part of our extended family.)
Melchor was born in Michoacán, a state that is famous for its colonial city of Morelia, exquisite crafts, natural beauty stretching from the Pacific to the central Sierra Madres and its warm hearted people. With times bad in his home state, he and his father journeyed to Puerto Vallarta to find work. His beautiful mother and his six brothers soon followed, leaving two married sisters and their families remaining in Michoacán.
Daily, as Melchor walked back and forth from the construction job he found in Vallarta, he passed a sign in a window that translated to "Learn English Here." Desire to learn this language stirred deep within him, and one day he screwed up his courage, went in, signed up, and his life was changed forever.
His gringa teacher said she knew he was "special" from the first class. Soon he was way ahead of the others. She offered him a job teaching Spanish to gringos while he continued with his own lessons. Later he became so skilled in our language, he also taught English to Mexicans.
He was single, but had a novia (fiancé.) The wedding was on hold until he could save enough money to pay for everything. In México, the groom pays for the whole wedding - including the bride's dress. He needed money to hire a large hall, engage a band, prepare a dinner for two to three hundred guests, and lay in beer and spirits for them all.
At last, Melchor, with almost all of the cash in hand, set the date. The whole family leaped into action. Papá raised and fattened a calf to serve for the reception's main course. Mamá journeyed to the nearest big city in a search of pearls and lace and just the right satin for the wedding dress she was designing and sewing. The rest of the family wrote invitations, crafted favors for each guest, and tied satin ribbons to lacy packages of rice.
Finally everything was ready for the big day. Vallarta's uniquely crowned cathedral was decorated with fragrant flowers, the bridesmaids were gowned and giggly, and the bride was resplendent in an elegant gown that would have been a show stopper on any Paris runway.
Here, there is seldom the customary "hush" heard in similar situations in the States. Here, the children romp, the elders confer, and no one worries if things are not quite as might be expected. For instance, Melchor had bought the shiny gold circle that would symbolize his eternal promise to Martha and carefully laid it away. He never thought of it again until he was in the cathedral where he realized he did not have it with him.
Commandeering his brother, they splurged on a taxi and raced to his home to get the ring. Ay! Caramba! He had forgotten the key to the house. He hoisted his brother on his suited shoulders and pushed him through an open second floor window. Ring retrieved, the waiting taxi rushed them back to the cathedral where the romping and the conferring was beginning to make us gringos wonder what the heck was going on. But still more waiting! It seemed that Papá, whose calf was simmering in the pot, ready to provide all of us with a delicious meal, had begun the day with a little celebrating - and then a lot of celebrating. Mamá was having a hard time getting him to the church on time!
Finally, everyone was in place and those two handsome, wholesome young people were married and married and married - and then married a little more in the mandatory civil ceremony that followed the religious one. Ain't no way those vows could be broken!
The reception, a full course dinner with bottles of brandy on every table, a live band, and hundreds of family and friends with whom to celebrate, was everything a bride and groom ask.
Guests waited patiently to dance with the bride or groom in order to pin to the wedding dress or wedding suit their monetary contribution. By the end of the dance, both bride and groom were completely covered with bills and the price of the band was secured.
The bride was paraded around on hoisted chair, and the same treatment was afforded the aproned groom - long held customs hailed boisterously by the guests. Need I say, "A good time was had by all?"
Our Spanish progressed, and our love and respect for this young couple grew. They worked hard and played hard. We dined on spicy chiles rellenos prepared and served elegantly in their one room apartment. With them, we hiked up the mountain to attend rodeos where cowboys displayed incredible roping and riding skills, swam in the Pacific, played beach volley ball, and dominoes (and consistently lost.)
We learned anew what is and what isn't important in life. After more than an appropriate passage of time, Martha Yesenia Cortez Flores was born. When she was less than six hours old, we got out the old VW van, motored to the tiny clinic where she was born and waited to drive mother and baby home. Joining us were both grandmothers, and various aunts and uncles of all ages. It was a tense moment before we knew who would hold Yesenia on the way home. Somehow, Mamá de Martha ended up with the precious bundle and the rest of us had to be content with individual styles of cooing.
Yesi brought a new joy to all of our lives. Her personality is like a great bouncing bubble that engulfs you in its gaiety. Being a true female, she began life flirting with Husband and started a love affair that grows with the years. Melchor, ever the teacher, is bringing her up bilingual and she can answer many questions in which ever language she is asked.
Years earlier, Melchor purchased a small plot of land on which to build a home one day. When he saved enough money to start, he and his brothers began digging the foundation for a lovely little casa. One of his students, an architect, had drawn simple plans, and Melchor's experience in construction served him well in building his own home. Each time he saved a chunk of money sufficient to buy concrete or sand or bricks, the casa grew.
Sometimes months went by with no signs of progress, but, little by little, with the help of his brothers, Melchor saw the casa to completion. All of us helped with the jubilant move into the spacious new house. Although much work is still to be done, Melchor and Martha are content to wait until they can save the money. No matter, the home is not only sturdy and well built, but, due to Martha's knack, is cozy and cheerful and welcoming.(They have added a second floor as well as a lovely roof terrace. Each of the children has her or his own bedroom and Melchor and Martha are comfortably ensconced in a large master suite. Most of the Cortes family gatherings are held there as it is large enough for all.)
Now Yesi has a brother, Melchor Alejandro Cortez Flores. He, too, was introduced to the outside world at the age of six hours in the old VW van. This time Tia Poli had the privilege of holding him for the ride home. And this time, I'm hoping the flirting will be aimed my way, but you know boys are more backward than girls, and I'm still waiting!
Melchor has indeed done for us what he contracted to do; he has taught us Spanish. We can hold our own hablando with the best of them, but he has taught us so much more. We have learned that all of those "things" we always thought were absolute essentials are nothing more than icing on a cake made of a few basic ingredients - love, family, loyalty, ingenuity, pride, laughter, honesty. The things most of us aspire to - large homes, fancy furnishings, fast cars, beautiful clothes, are just things! The real and lasting essentials of life are the joy, the happiness, the love that exists in a family such as Melchor's.
Melchor, we love you and your family and we thank you for the lessons you have taught us. Qué té vaya bonito! (Melchor and his family remain our closest friends. They truly are family and we still do lots of fun things together. If you want a wonderful experience and a chance to know this master teacher, as well as learn to speak Spanish, he now has his own school, "Spanish School Vallarta" on Calle Viena 209-A. His next class begins on June 9, so give him a call at 224-8917 or 044-322-118-0822 or email him at info(at)spanishschoolvallarta.com. Tell him Polly sent you!)
Polly G. Vicars and her husband of 57 years, Hubert (a.k.a. "Husband") retired to Puerto Vallarta in 1988 and soon became active members of several charitable organizations. Polly is the author of "Tales of Retirement in Paradise: Life in Puerto Vallarta, Mexico" [a sell-out!] and "More Tales of Retirement in Puerto Vallarta and Around the World." Proceeds from the sale of her books go to the America-Mexico Foundation, a scholarship foundation that is their passion.
Click HERE for more articles by Polly Vicars.