It started in
Puebla, Mexico where I was pursuing my serious hobby of Spanish language
and literature with a professor from the University of the Americas.
I finished my studies and was leaving Puebla for San Miguel de Allende.
There I was going to attend the famous Escuela Ecuestre riding school.
A winsome young Mexican girl behind the desk at the hotel noticed
that I was waiting to check out. She was doing her hotel management
studies in an on-the-job training program. She knew you dont
keep a customer waiting, so she jumped in to get me checked out. We
talked only a couple of minutes about my upcoming visit to San Miguel
The upshot was that I later sent her a picture of me on a beautiful
horse going over a five-foot-high jump.
The picture was so dramatic that she mounted it on her desk at home
and looked at me every day for the next five years until we got married.
She was only 16 when I met her. Being from a very nice traditional
family she had not had any serious affairs with anyone else.
Our courtship was not a very fast-paced one; it was mostly by mail.
She didnt write very often, but somehow our destiny prevailed.
I did everything according to the rules; there wasnt much choice
because of her conservative upbringing. But her mother and father
were both internationally aware people who made each step toward matrimony
a discovery and a pleasure.
The highlight came with the engagement ceremony, the asking of her
hand from her father, known as pedir la mano. Since this was a key
event, I had to make a special trip to Mexico a minimum of six weeks
before the marriage. I had to bring a bouquet of flowers for my fiancée
and a little collection of gold coins signifying that I was financially
responsible for this marriage. Leticias wonderful mother helped
me locate these traditional coins.
The ceremony itself took place in the drawing room of Leticias
home. About 35 family and close friends were sitting in chairs along
the walls of the room when I arrived. The chairs were arranged so
we were all facing each other, Leticia and I in one corner and Leticias
father, Dr. Escobedo, in the opposite corner.
There was animated conversation for a number of minutes and then suddenly
it began to get quiet. People started looking in my direction. It
was time to make my move. I stood up and in a short Spanish declaration
asked Leticias father for her hand. In the excitement of the
moment I forgot some of my best lines.
Dr. Escobedo saved the day by replying in his very educated Spanish,
using almost poetic sounding phrases, saying all the things that I
wanted to say. At the end, he gave his permission for her hand in
marriage. After I put her engagement ring on her finger, she went
around the room showing her ring to her close friends. Her father
proposed a toast, a brindis. Brandy glasses appeared for everyone
to toast with.
Just at that moment, in came the mariachis. A word about mariachis.
During the several years when Napoleon ruled Mexico and his nephew
Maximillian occupied the Mexican throne, a number of French words
and customs came into use.
The French word for marriage is written the same as in
English, but pronounced a bit differently. That is where the mariachis
get their name. Its the Mexican pronunciation of the French
marriage. They started out playing for weddings. So it is now most
appropriate to celebrate an engagement with mariachis. By the way,
also during that short French rule some very nice elements of French
cuisine were introduced into Mexico for which I am thankful. Leticias
mother makes several delightful French dishes.