The Courtship of Maria Rivera Pena

Olivas, Daniel A.

Editore: Silver Lake Publishing, 2000
ISBN 10: 1931095450 / ISBN 13: 9781931095457
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Riassunto: Loosely based on the author's grandparents' migration from Mexico to Los Angeles, The Courtship of María Rivera Peña details the courtship, marriage, and family life of the cook Beto and the beautiful waitress María.

Estratto. © Riprodotto con l'autorizzazione. Tutti i diritti riservati.: Beto bounded up the church steps while athletically dodging the slower congregants the way a talented high school quarterback might do if the playing field were planted on this sacred ground. Beto stopped just within the large, wooden doors. His eyebrows jumped up and his nostrils flared. Beto smelled what he, at first, thought was perfume but, after about three or four seconds, recognized the sweet cinnamon smell of pan dulce mixed with something else, something certainly female and young.

Beto spun around and his shoes made a sharp squeak on the tiled floor. He looked down the steps toward the sidewalk and saw a pan dulce stand that he had not noticed ever before. The stand was a rickety affair with two large wooden wheels and two large wooden handles, like an oversized wheelbarrow, painted a garish green that is the style of such stands in Mexico. Jutting from the top of the stand was a glass case where various types of colorful and sugared pan dulce hung or sat piled on the bottom. A wad of wax paper was stuffed in a corner of the glass case and at the side hung a Hills Brothers tin, filled with coins, which was upside down so that the miniature, strolling Turk drank his coffee while standing on his turban. Several children fought for a place in front of the stand hoping to get the best piece of sweet bread that would make a very fine breakfast.

Behind the pan dulce cart stood a young woman who could be no older than eighteen. To Beto, she looked like any of the many "Virgins" who populate the large and small churches throughout Mexico. Though there was only one Virgin Mary, the mother of Jesus Christ, Mexican villagers had a strange habit of creating their own Virgin with a special name and distinctive dress to adorn their respective churches. Most of these Virgins looked like an Indian maiden with long black hair parted in the middle and with dark, shiny skin. Some of the bigger cities made their Virgins look more Spanish with lighter skin and little noses. Because she stood no taller than five feet, the pan dulce woman was also no bigger than some of the Virgin statues. She wore the simple clothing of Mexican women including a shawl that hung almost to her little sandal shod feet. Her face was as implacable and perfect as any church Virgin.

Beto had never seen her before. Who was this Virgin of the pan dulce? Beto laughed to himself. "I'll bet there aren't pan dulce Virgins anywhere in Mexico. Only in the United States." He tried to discern her essence from her looks. Was she as good a person as she appeared? "No hay rosa sin espinas," his father used to say. There is not a rose without thorns.

Beto was all cat from this point on: he squinted in the morning sun and slowly, without a sound and in a graceful sideways movement, came down the church stairs and up to the front of the pan dulce stand. The sweet smells filled his nostrils and his heart beat strong within his chest.

"Good morning," he offered almost in fear. He spoke in Spanish as did most of the Mexicans in Los Angeles unless he had to communicate with the gringos.

"Good morning." Her voice was stronger and had more timbre than most young women. She gestured to the pan dulce.

"A concha would be good this morning."

Beto had an evil streak. Though a "concha" was a sea shell-shaped pan dulce, it was also slang for a woman's private part. He regretted his play on words the second it escaped his lips.

"They're wonderful. Two for a nickel." She appeared to take no notice of the double entendre and Beto felt relieved.

In an effort to make up for his misstep, however, he gave her a dime and said: "I'll take four and save something for tomorrow."

She held the dime in her hand and said nothing but looked at Beto.

"What's your name?" Beto ventured.


"I'm Humberto Isla Velásco. But people call me Beto."

As he said this, he realized that his hands shook and he felt a little ill. This surprised him because he had been with many women and they were always a part of his life. Beto was not normally a "romantic" man. He also loved variety and enjoyed anything from a short but deep kiss from a beautiful and well-bred young woman to an hour with a sturdy, energetic, and willing country girl. Beto tried to compose himself.

"Why aren't you in church?" he asked.

María looked down and turned red. "I have to work."

Feeling embarrassed for asking such a stupid question, Beto closed his eyes. The pan dulce's delicious, sweet fragrance commingled with María's and enveloped his face. He felt warm and his head began to spin the way it did when he drank too much. Beto suddenly felt a sharp pain on his forehead and heard a loud crash. Before he could sense what had happened, Beto lay on the sidewalk surrounded by broken glass and pan dulce bounced and rolled about his head and blood dripped down the side of his face into his mouth. Beto heard a shriek and many voices calling his name before he lost consciousness.

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Dati bibliografici

Titolo: The Courtship of Maria Rivera Pena
Casa editrice: Silver Lake Publishing
Data di pubblicazione: 2000
Condizione libro: very good

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