July 4, 2008

A dance, three dates, and you're engaged

The following is another guest blog from Ed, remembering the good old days of 1950 La Ceiba, Honduras. Oh, my, how times have changed in La Ceiba!

Standard Fruit Company (now Dole) provided more entertainment for their cruise passengers by holding a dance ashore in the company mess hall. These 'tourist dances' were usually well attended, both by the gringos and the tourists. This gave us a chance to stare at them, and they, us. The music was a live marimba band with the usual Latin instruments, guitarrón, cuchumba, serrated sticks, and occasionally a saxophone.

Latin music of the time came from Brazil and Cuba. It consisted mostly of sambas, rumbas and tangos. My first tentative steps on the dance floor were taken here. An older girl who was home from college in the States took pity on this awkward boy and tried to teach me to dance. I guess it helped. But to this day, I still feel awkward on the dance floor.

There were about a half dozen American kids whose families sent them to the US for college and private school. They all came home for the summer in La Ceiba. I was the youngest of them and was adopted as mascot. I learned a lot those summers. When they returned to the States, I didn't have anyone to play with; there were no Americans my age.

My parents didn't prohibit me from seeking locals as friends but, didn't encourage it either. There was a definite social line between the gringos and the townspeople, to the extent that there was a six foot tall page fence surrounding the Mazapan and armed guards patrolled inside from sundown to sunup.

This divide was never more vividly pointed out to me than in this way: Argentina was her name and she worked as a salesgirl in the commissary. I was attracted to her as only a shy teenage boy can be, all moon eyes and foot shuffling. She accepted a date to the local movie. My mother drove us and the dueña (chaperon) to the movie. The chaperon was a complete surprise to me and my mother. But, this was the accepted dating form. No chaperon, no date.

Well, we had three dates, and my parents stopped it. I couldn't date Argentina again, or even hang around the commissary. The reason given to me was that after three dates, this implied to her parents that I wanted to marry their daughter. This made no sense to me, but few restrictions from my parents ever did. Marriage!! Hell, I could barely dance. There was, indeed, a difference between us and them.

The chaperon thing remained in place on other dates and even social visits to another local girl. Elena was a student at a private school in New Orleans and home on summer vacation. We'd sit on the front porch, talking, with the
dueña in the background...who understood not a word of English. Elena's parents must have been a little more enlightened about the date/marriage problem. It was never mentioned by my parents again.

Thank you, Ed, for another peek into the past. Ed's other guest blogs are Planes, trains, and motorcycles in 1950 La Ceiba and Remembering 1950 La Ceiba.

I've really been enjoying these guest blog articles! How about you readers? If you would like to submit a guest blog article, it will be greatly appreciated by me and my two bum fingers. Send it to me at my email address in the "About me" section at the top of the page. Photos are welcomed, too. Don't worry about formatting or spelling − I'll take care of it. You can send it as a text file or just include the text in your email.

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