Rancho Grande wedding, and the Lone Gringo (Part One)

Yesterday we talked about a banquet in the Tuscan countryside. Now where did I experience another banquet ‘en plein air’? Ah yes! In Mexico. Let’s turn the clock back to 1963.

It all began in San Miguel de Allende. We rented a villa situated on a hill overlooking the historic town (declared a national monument in 1926 and now a World Heritage Site). There I painted mostly watercolours, on the patio. A few times a week I took a narrow path down to town, for art supplies and mail.
Near the Zocolo and La Parroquia, (Church of St. Michael the Archangel) was the “Cucaracha Bar”. Pedro the owner was a very large, heavily moustached fellow. He had mastered the art of getting “borracho” and then sober again by drinking pure Tequila.
Before heading back up the hill, I’d always stop for a Cuba Libre con limon. Pedro and I got to know one another well and exchanged languages. I learned Mexican, and he some English from me, all in his own ‘feliz’ manner.
One day, Pedro invited me to his daughter’s wedding. What an honour! I knew he owned a rancho. On the appointed day, early in the morning we drove off in his green truck. After about 30 kms we reached a kind of “moat”. He drove right through it, the truck submerged almost halfway in water.
When we came to the other side, I saw a rancho grande situated on a slight plateau like a castle. The moat was horseshoe-shaped with an opening at one end, which is how their cattle and horses entered the property.
The wedding preparations had begun on all fronts. Outside was a very long table covered with a white linen tablecloth and flowers. Remember the film “Con Agua y Chocolate”? Well, that’s the way the kitchen looked. Mama, who equalled Pedro in size and stamina, was busy with the preparations.
The ‘boda’ or wedding would occur in the private Chapel on the ranch. A well-known priest was invited to perform the ceremony and blessings. The bride was beautifully decked out all in white, including elegant white cowboy boots. Rainbow-coloured ribbons were attached to her blue-black hair under a white sombrero. The groom was also in white, from top to toe.  

Each rode a Pinto and prepared for a procession towards the Chapel. Everyone, (except the parents and priest who were already at the Chapel) including the rancheros, formed two lines through which the bride and groom proceeded. (Tradition called for the bride and groom to part ways, then unite again at the Chapel).
Halfway the groom fell off his horse. He was soused! Borracho. Since this was Rancho de Vacas (cattle ranch), he had the luck to fall right into some evidence left by the cattle. His spotless white attire was covered with spinach-green and brown coloured splatters. He tried to get back on his horse, but was too drunk. Finally he made it to the chapel, but not before the rancheros dosed him with pails of water. Need we say what he looked like? And to top it all off, the bride, her fiery brown eyes blazing, rode over to the groom and smacked him hard on both cheeks. (Much to the amusement of her father, Pedro.)
I thought for sure the wedding would be off.
But no. Although Mama, the bride and the groom’s parents (and the priest) were not amused, the groom had by now sobered up a bit and the ceremony would carry on. Next post we hope to share with you, the fiesta banquet surrounding the ‘boda’.