Two weeks ago Alberto wrote a formal letter to visit Angelita at home. Last week he got a reply from the father-in-law that he was accepted. Boy oh boy, is Alberto excited? He is no longer the enamorado (boyfriend) but her “novio” (fiancé). It was like a dream. Now he will be two long hours with her every night. He will be able to hold her little hands. He might be able to caress her arms, and perhaps even still a kiss or two every night. He will be able to talk to her parents and convince them that he is the right “principe azul” (prince) for their daughter.
At Angelita’s house there are new curtains, a freshly scrubbed wooden floor, and two newly varnished chairs. The children have been instructed that they must be in bed by seven p.m. and not to interfere with their sister. Angelita has put on her “chorros” (curls), which her novio loves so dearly.
Alberto, on the other hand has put on his nice black pants, which he normally only uses for Easter. He is wearing a long sleeved shirt that is tucked in, and a white handkerchief sticks out from his back pocket. (That was the sign of a “catrin” (gentleman)) He goes to the store to buy some P.K and Spearmint chewing gum to treat his novia. He also purchases a bar of chocolate for the mother-in-law, and this is an expensive buy at 25 cents for a bar.
At 7 p.m. he is standing at Angelita’s door. Tulita Rosado, the mother, greets him and welcomes him in. Angelita shyly says “good night” and they both sit down in the company of Ramon and Tulita Rosado for a brief chat. It is like ice- difficult to even pick a topic, but you know Tulita. She can go for an hour non stop.
Ramon lights up a Colonial cigarette to feel more comfortable. Alberto shares some chewing gum and after a while both parents leave them for a moment of privacy so that they can get to know each other well, which was what the visiting period was all about. Whenever Alberto would get the opportunity, he would steal a kiss from his novia.
After a two-hour period, the mother would start to walk about busily indicating that it was time for Alberto to leave. Of course Alberto is wise and gets the message, so after a brief kiss, he bids everyone good night.
This courtship would go on for about two years. During this time he would not be allowed to enter the girl’s room. He could not go to parties and dances alone, but always chaperoned by the mother or close relative like an aunt. Travel to Chetumal alone with the girl? Forget it! Kiss in public? Oh no! That would be disrespectful to the family. During this time he had to be seriously planning to build his house in preparation for marriage because according to the “suegras” (mother-in-laws), “EL QUE SE CASA, CASA QUIERE”. (He who gets married needs a house)
Courting a girl 25 years ago was romantic, meaningful, and the proper thing to do. Everyone got to know each other. There were some relationships that broke, which was good- better then than after marriage. Many broke because they could not tolerate the “suegras”. But many suegras were adorable. Do you know the heartbreaking part? It was when a fisherman had to leave the village for ten days on a fishing trip. Heard about weeping hearts? And before I close, here is one just for the record. The longest visiting time for a dating couple was 8 years. That was dating 25 years ago.
- by Angel Nuñez, Columnist