My parent’s 50th wedding anniversary celebration in Mexico was a large affair, as we all knew it would be. The friends and relatives that had been accumulated over decades were all there. My parents had rented a huge auditorium and Mariachi bands strolled among the guests.
i had had some misgivings about the whole thing so I chose not to attend. But even I was surprised to hear about the gunfight that nearly broke out at the end. Well, not completely surprised. My misgivings started when I heard that they had invited my cousin Alejandra.
Alejandra and I had grown up together. Our families would go on picnics in the countryside. While the adults drank beer and gossiped, us children would run out to play among the trees, running in circles, teasing each other.
My clearest memory of Alejandra was that she was, even at a young age, averse to playing any game of equals. She always wanted to be not a princess, but a Queen. Her favorite game seemed to involve her ordering us about while she remained obsessed with her own power and beauty.
“You, Raul, you are a lumberjack!” she might say, “go chop wood for my fire because I am cold. And stop staring at me! I know you are all secretly love in with me.”
As we all grew older, she did not change. We grew apart but when we did meet, the Alejandra I met as an adult was a woman who was frustrated with life, who felt that she had not been properly given what she deserved. Her first husband, Alberto, was a meek man whom she ordered about. Together they tried to build a business - what kind of business is not clear to me still. But I heard through family and through their friends that she was feared and she also becoming richer. She had been throwing her money around town, letting everyone know that she was on her way to being the Queen she was meant to be. She threw lavish parties. Her and her husband had children together, all lame in some way, the broken products of a broken marriage. The children were all bullies. They feared their parents and expressed this frustration by tormenting others.
I only knew about her in later years because of my mom. My cousin Alejandra had grown up without a mother. And so she had attached herself to my mother. The feeling was mutual as Alejandra was my mother's god-daughter and , to my mother, the daughter she never had.
And so it was my mother that told me about the big house that Alejandra was building, about how Alejandra said that if my mom was ever in any trouble that Alejandra would protect her. She told me about the power that Alejandra’s name carried. It is not true that anybody feared my mother but it is true that nobody dared to offend her.
There was that time too that Alejandra went to prison. Mexican federal agents had surrounded her house and taken her in. The charges were extortion and theft. By this time Alejandra had built for herself a small empire, an empire built on illegal logging, land extortion, smuggling and likely much, much more. Men - large, frightening men - carried out her will.
Alejandra was sent to a women’s prison. Although I tried to talk her out of it, my mom went to visit her in prison. Later, I couldn’t help asking her what she had seen. She told me that it was like a family party. When my mom arrived, Alejandra had prepared a reception for her in the prison courtyard, even the guards attended. Somebody roasted a pig and a mariachi band played. Other prisoners and their families joined in too. At the center of this grand feast, receiving thanks and adoration, was my cousin Alejandra. She looked as free and powerful as ever, my mom remarked, except that she could not actually leave.
Eventually, a high-powered lawyer got her released. Out of curiosity, I remember looking him up online. There were photos of him at home, scenes that looked like any other domestic scene, except he was also caressing his pet lions. This lawyer argued successfully that Alejandra’s rights had been violated.
After her release, she found a new man. This man was a German living in Mexico who went by the name of Wolfgang. I do not know if that is his real name. He was well known as a high powered criminal defense lawyer. He was a large man with a large black mustache. Together, he and Alejandra made a striking couple. My mother has a photo of them together. There she is with her tight satin dresses and high heels and he in a black suit, beaming. It was well-known that Wolfgang carried a large silver pistol wherever he went, engraved with the pistol’s name: Little Beauty.
Last I heard they were living in an enormous old hacienda in the Mexican countryside, a large compound patrolled by guards. My mother went out to visit her there once and said that it was like visiting a monarch. The estate, as she described it. had a private lake where they all went boating and had feasts with food and music.
Alejandra's first husband was still out there somewhere. He was jealous and ,wounded by her, wanted her back. He had been trying to approach her for years but with her guards and secrecy, she was impossible to pin down. But he too had heard about my parents anniversary party, had heard that Alejandra would be making a rare public appearance, and knew that this was his chance.
So, this is how it all went down. This is how it was told to me,
Alejandra and Wolfgang arrived only mid-way through the party. My mother knew that they had to be seated like guests of honor at the table with her and my dad. They had also arrived with a group of 6 or 7 men. So they had to find yet another table for these men who all wore big coats, sat quietly in the corner, always nervously looking around.
Everything went smoothly until near the end. There was a commotion at the front door. It was Alejandra’s first husband, Alberto. He had arrived with a few men and was walking into the hall, an uninvited guest.
“Alejandra,” he says,”it is nice to see you again.”
“Get out of here!” Alejandra replies “This is my godmothers party, You will leave,”
From what I was told, at this point Wolfgang was moving his hand toward his gun. Alejandra’s men at the table were suddenly all very attentive and other wedding guests were starting to quietly slip out the doors.
“Oh come on! “ Alberto says “I just came to dance with you. Won’t you dance with me Alejandra? Won’t you dance with your old friend?”
“Ok one dance.” she says and reassures Wolfgang and his men. It is ok. Everything is going to be alright.
And so they danced. Alberto held her close and they danced cheek to cheek, her high heels flying around as the Norteña band played 'Tu Mi Chiquitita". Wolfgang eyed them strangely, nervously fondling his Little Beauty.
By now, most of the guests had disappeared. Soon Alberto departed too, along with his men. At the end of it all, Alejandra explained to my mother. “I am sorry, godmother. I was ready to shoot that man but I did not want to ruin your wedding anniversary.”