So the custom 25 years ago was to write a formal letter requesting permission to visit a girl at her home and the father would write back either with a letter denying that permission or accepting. Finally here is the long awaited approval letter about a week or two after it was mailed, sorry I mean sent with a little boy (and it cost 25 cents special delivery; the same cost of a local stamp today).
“Estimado Alberto”, (Dear Alberto)
I received your very cordial letter requesting our kind permission to visit Angelita at our house. You will be happy to know that both my wife and I are very happy and proud that both of you have decided to make formal your “noviasco” (courting period).
You may start coming to our humble home as of Monday, December 5, and visit from 7 p.m. to 9 p.m. We would like this “noviasco” to last about a year to a year and a half since we have another daughter, Amparito, who has an “enamorado” (boyfriend) who might start to visit in a year’s time. I trust you will behave in an honorable manner and respect our house.
Boy oh boy! Alberto is so glad to receive the news on Saturday night that he invites his friends for a “parranda” (spree). He buys a bottle of rum and some Coca Colas, and his friends meet downstairs of the Adventist Church by the beach for their party. There is fun and laughter and a lot of jokes made on Alberto. Later that night, they go on a “serenata” (serenade). Angel is there to strum the guitar and Joe is there to play the accordion. Lucky for them, Felipe and Roberto are there and they know a lot of songs (rancheras) They take their serenade to Angelica and Dianita and Carmelita and all the other “novias” of the guys in the group, but not to Angelita. You see, Alberto does not want his fiancé and especially the future “suegros” (in-laws) to know that he was in a “parranda”. He wants to be his best self for at least one more month or two to gain the respect and esteem of his in-laws.
Angelita is also excited. She gets the news from her father that he has conceded to her boyfriend’s request to visit her, so she dreams like an angel. The next day she will iron all her clothes since she will need a different one every night to impress Alberto. No more walking about the house from 7 to 9 p.m. in her ragged T-shirt or nightgown. Se also plans to go to dona Raf to put on her perm because “a su novio le gustan sus chorros” (her boyfriend likes her curls).
The father will re-varnish or re-paint two chairs for the “novios” and the mother would change the curtains and clean the “sala” (living room) for Monday night. Everyone is excited. The parents and even the Angelita’s younger brothers and sisters are excited for Alberto will bring chewing gum, candies and at times chocolates as treats when he comes to visit. But Angelita is the most excited. They have become novios and from now on they will be in each other’s company for two long hours every night as long as the boy was in town, I mean in the village. They both know that now they must “cut off” all other relationships with other boys and girls. It means that now other girls will not flirt at Alberto because now he is committed. If there is a dance and another young man would come to ask her to dance, she must refuse because now she has her “novio”. And if there is a dance and Alberto is out of the village, she will not attend because she now has her “novio” and she must be faithful to him even before marriage.
Exciting and romantic, isn’t it ? Exclusive dating was a very formal and serious matter. Consequently, the marriages were very stable also. Good family life did it twenty five years ago. In the next issue we will see what happened during the actual dating. Stay tuned to Ambergris Today and Twenty Five Years Ago for this exciting episode.