by Richard L. Thornton, Architect & City Planner
One Summer In Mexico – Part Six – June 6, 1972
792 Techwood Drive, Atlanta, GA
The envelope above was mailed Air Mail – Special Delivery from Mexico City on May 30, 1972. It was delivered to a fraternity house on the Georgia Tech campus, near Downtown Atlanta, on the morning of June 6, 1972. The equivalent cost of the postage today would be about $12.40. At that moment I was standing below the cliffs of Ven Island, Sweden and staring at petroglyphs, which were identical to those in the Georgia Mountains. I had been living in Sweden for only three days. I would not read the enclosed letter until May 1974!
On Saturday (50 years ago) we will be visiting three little known archaeological sites in the Valley of Mexico. However, today, it is raining cats and dogs here in Colonia Nueva Santa Maria, so I can’t visit any archaeological sites, I am going to give some closure to Part Five of this series and demonstrate to the newest generation of researchers, how radically the internet has changed our world. Henceforth, the rapidly blossoming romance of “Alicia y Ricardo” will merely be one of the threads in a tapestry of me discovering evidence that would in the 21st century change the ancient history of the Southeastern United States.
The 1960’s and 1970’s was a time of rapid social change in the Americas, but at the time we only saw the political upheaval, not the changes in our own lives. For many, many centuries Alicia’s family had been a minority within the Middle Eastern cultures of Islamic Spain, Morocco and Turkey. Superficially, they were middle class citizens of Mexico now, but behind the scenes retained medieval cultural traditions than differed only slightly from the lands that gave us honor killings of teenage girls. The extended family functioned as an oppressive clan. Alicia was desperate to get away from it.
As stated in Part One, for most people living in 1970, international telephone calls were not an option for regular communications. They were reserved as “special treats” that could cost the equivalent today of $140 for thirty minutes at certain times of day. Thus, while apart, Alicia and I wrote each other at least once a week.
What we didn’t know was that her uncle was paying her family servant to give him my letters or the ones that Alicia had put in the mailbox for me. At that time every middle class and upper class family in Mexico had servants. Sra. Soto had two servants, who did all the household chores from cooking to washing cloths. Her uncle was then paying a private investigator to open the letters without detection, copy them on a Xerox machine and then translate them into Spanish.
By early April 1971, her uncle realized that Alicia was actively preparing to move to Atlanta. He and the other male members of the family clan were about to tear her life asunder. Keep in mind that this jackass had multiple mistresses, he slept with, plus several illegitimate children.
Alicia had taken her American birth certificate to the US embassy. At age 21 she could formally proclaim her American citizenship the moment she was standing on the land of the United States. Prior to then, she would instantly be awarded residency, if she attended college in the United States, had a way to support herself in the United States or if my family sponsored her. The latter option was not a problem. My ten year old sister had accompanied me on a 2 1/2 week visit to Mexico and adored Alicia. Paula called her “your new princess.” My mother had talked with her on the phone and also instantly liked her. By spring of 1971, Alicia was now 20 and less than a year away from being a legal adult in Mexico.
You see, we Creeks have an ancient tradition of women being equal in all things and particularly liking intelligent women. All my female cousins were well educated and little Sis would one day become a Rambling Wreck from Georgia Tech, also. The very traits that were a “negative” for women in Mexico, would be a “positive” in our family.
The game plan was for Alicia to move to Atlanta, where she had a job with Eastern Air Lines waiting for her as an International Customer Support Agent. It would pay the same as a recent Georgia Tech graduate, plus Eastern had offered to pay her tuition to continue her education. Meanwhile, the professors were so impressed by my fellowship that Dr. Arthur Kelly promised that he could get me a full scholarship to obtain a PhD in Anthropology-Architecture – jointly from Georgia State and the National University of Mexico. He said that the profession desperately needed architects involved with their research again. That would enable Alicia and I to travel frequently between Atlanta and Mexico.
That plan all came crashing down, when her mother stole Alicia’s passport and birth certificate . . . then Alicia was kidnapped and taken to a relative’s house in the desert of northern Mexico. Yes, it sounds like some Hollywood movie, but it really happened. At that time, a female under 21 in a Latin American country had very few civil rights. They were considered the chattel of the men in their family, just like in Islamic law.
Alicia was eventually returned to Mexico City. One of my architecture classmates was from Mexico City. During breaks between academic quarters, he would pretend to casually chat with Alicia on the sidewalk in front of her house so there could be some way of passing information. However, in 1972, he only went home at Christmas, since we were both working 24/7 on our thesis project.
Alicia did find out from my Mexican friend’s mother that I was graduating on June 3, 1972. She sent me the letter above, which opened with the statement, “Queridisimo Richard, you are now an Architect – my architect! I am now a woman and I have thought of nothing but you for the past year, despite all the terrible things that my family has done to me. We do not have to get married right now. I just want to be with you, to sleep with you, from now to all eternity. Come take me away my Gringo Tiger.”
A lawyer had helped her get her passport and birth certificate back. She was ready to fly to Atlanta at a moment’s notice or I could fly down to Mexico City, and we could return together to meet my parents and see my sister again.
There was a problem
The letter arrived at Lambda Chi Alpha Fraternity when there was no one there, but out house mother, Gladys Jones. She had no clue where I was. I was in Sweden. She put the letter in a box of undelivered mail to fraternity brothers. There it stayed for over two years, until some fraternity brother called my parents house to find out where I was now living.
After not getting a response to her letter, Alicia was brokenhearted and decided to move to Paris, where she would get an advanced degree. After my Mexican friend, Alfredo, graduated with me, he eventually returned to Mexico City and eventually thought about checking on Alicia. The servant told him that she didn’t live there anymore. He sent me a letter saying that Alicia was gone. Again, none of this would have happened with the instant communication of email on the internet.
For many years, throughout my life, the Soto’s and I would call each other at Christmas. I asked them in December 1973, if they knew what happened to Alicia. They said that they had not seen her in two years. Rumors were that her family had done something evil to her, but no one in the neighborhood could find out what actually happened.
At the time I finally received the May 1971 letter from Alicia, I was engaged and about the make the biggest mistake of my life. My fiance’ was intrigued by my Pre-Columbian artifacts. She suggested that we go to Mexico on our honeymoon. The Sotos invited us to spend part of our honeymoon in their home!
The senorita in the red Plymouth Barracuda
Forty-eight hours after we were married, the Sotos, my bride and I were sitting around the picnic table in the Soto’s front yard. The backs of the Soto Family were facing the street. Alicia drove by in her red Plymouth Barracuda and waved. She obviously did not see me and my bride knew nothing about her. My heart almost stopped in shock.
A little later, the women decided to go shopping, while Jose’ Soto said that he had to check on something at the office. He invited me along, but I told him that I would take a walk around the old neighborhood. Actually, I could not resist the temptation. I started dialing Alicia’s number on the Soto phone, praying that neither Alicia’s mother nor her maid would answer.
Alicia answered, “Bueno, de parti quien?” I gulped and said, “Alicia, this is Richard.”
She screamed with joy . . . “Gracias a Dios . . . Oh thank you God, you have answered my prayers!” When she settled down, she told me that she had been dating a dentist, but he was nothing. She asked me when I could fly down to Mexico City and take her to Atlanta. I didn’t answer her, but told her that I did not receive the letter that she had written me at graduation until this past April. Then I told her that Alfredo had come by her house in the summer of 1972 and that the maid said that she was gone.
She responded, “Oh yes, I was heartbroken so I moved to Paris to study at a university.” I asked where the university was. It was about two blocks from youth hostel where I stayed in Paris for two weeks in November of 1972. She said something in Spanish then told me that she felt my presence there that month and became so sad that she even thought about killing herself. I told her, yes, I felt her presence in Paris too, but thought I was going crazy.
Alicia started laughing. She told me since last night she had been feeling my presence again. Maybe it was God telling her that I was about to call. She said that she felt so strange that she even did something silly about an hour ago and drove past the Soto house to relive old memories.
I responded, “Yes, I know. I saw you. That is when I realized that you were not gone from Mexico.”
She screamed again then said, “You are here? Give me 30 minutes to pack. We can go up to a beautiful inn I know at the foot of Popocatépetl Volcano. There we can begin our life together! Gracias a Dios! Gracias a Dios!”
Then I had to tell her . . . “Alicia I am on my honeymoon. I thought you had married someone long ago or maybe even was dead.”
The sounds of silence . . . then uncontrolled weeping . . . “It’s my fault, it’s my fault . . . you asked me to come back to Atlanta with you and your sister on a tourist visa, but I said no. I didn’t want your mother to think that I was a puta (prostitute).”
The Soto’s were turning into their driveway. I had to quickly say, “Vaya con Dios, mi Amor.” She said, “Vaya con Dios, Queridismo Ricardo.” I hung up the phone, feeling like the most loathsome man, who ever existed. Did I marry the wrong woman? Whatever the case, I had deeply hurt a beautiful soul named Alicia.
The answer came very soon. Within an hour, my bride had consumed so many cocktails that she was drunk. Actually, she stayed tipsy the whole honeymoon. That should have told me something. However, soon no symbolism was needed to state the true state of affairs. Ruth asked my bride how we met. My bride slurred, “Oh he was the only man I knew with a decent job.” Twenty years later she would tell me the same thing, adding that she never loved me and wanted to cash out on the marriage.
Young people, if you are in a toxic relationship, get out of it as quickly as possible. You can’t make a bad marriage “work.” Things will only get worse when you have mortgages, bills, children or own businesses. Oh and thank God for the internet, because it now enables lovers to stay connected and cheaters to reveal their true nature.
And now again, the last words that I ever read from Alicia’s pen.