Days after finishing college in the summer of 1972, I ran away from my parents’ home in Houston, Texas to Lima, Peru. I don’t remember if I could identify Peru on a map at the time; but details, right? When one is young and in love, one will go anywhere to be with the loved one.
The American boyfriend and I met in 1969, but it wasn’t till the winter of 1971 that he suggested that we live together to see if we were serious. Sounded about right to me, but first I wanted to finish college. So I went to the University of Georgia to complete my degree at the Henry W. Grady School of Journalism.
Five classes later in June of 1972, I packed one suitcase and told my parents I was going to Lima, Peru, “for a visit with my boyfriend.” I thought it was just a visit. In the rearview mirror of my life now I view it as the beginning of an adventure.
Despite my father doing his pedantic Charlton Heston declamation that I was “going to Hell!”
Despite my friends telling me going to Lima, Peru was nuts; therefore I must be nuts too.
Despite having no money to buy an airplane ticket, my solar plexus tweaked I was on course. So I believed then, and know now, that I was.
“Well,” fairly spat my father, “I’m not going to drive you to the airport.”
Given neither I nor my boyfriend could afford my airline ticket to Peru, the boyfriend’s father came up with the cash. It was part of the The Deal. My boyfriend’s father desperately needed help with his small chemical plant in Lima, Peru. My boyfriend said he would–if his father would pay for my airline ticket. When I arrived, we’d both live in the family home in the boyfriend’s bedroom in “together in delicious sin” (to quote Sally Bowles of Cabaret). For as seen in the recent film Roma, at the time it was very much the custom for multi-generations to live together in one home.
After an overnight flight from Miami on LAN Chile to the international airport in Lima, I expected to see a smiling boyfriend. Exiting customs and immigration, I only saw a sea of dark haired people. Then I saw her, my boyfriend’s mother with her long red braid wrapped about her head.
I was thrilled to see her familiar face, but where was Gary? In Ecuador Gary’s parents said. Lesson number one about living abroad. You cannot get a work visa to work in a country while in the country. Who knew? Now, I did.
Gary returned that night. As winter turned to spring–below the equator the seasons were reversed, we decided to get married, Where else to do so, but where we were lived, in Lima, Peru? Just a simple civil wedding sounded fine to me, after all, my father still viewed my spousal choice with all the disdain his bitter born-again Christianity could muster.
But Peru didn’t offer simple civil weddings. To be civilly married the parties involved had to follow the steps to do so.
Step number 1 in this officially Roman Catholic country was to publish the bans. Everyone had to do this no matter their religion or lack therein. The El Peruano newspaper clipping from Wednesday, November 4,1972 reads like Jane Eyre storyline. If anyone has any knowledge why fill-in-our individual name cannot be wed they should contact “O. Alfredo Amanzo Morla, Jefe de los RR. CC. 273507“. In case Gary or I had a spouses or spouse scattered all over the country, this was their opportunity to stop the wedding.
Step number 2 were municipal permits from the municipality.
Step number 3 were health certificates. I remember an Xray, but not much more.
Step number 4 was having our domicile checked out by P.I.P., the Peruvian Investigation Police.
Step number 5 was a police residency check. We chuckled to imagine what the police might have thought of our living in the same house in the municipality of Magdalena del Mar. Probably not much, living at home was the norm in Peru for single people.
Step number 6 was to prove we were soltera/soltero (single) with a certificate from the U. S. Embassy. How handy that one of our invitees for the small wedding of about 35 people was the son of the American Ambassador.
Step number 7 was validification of our our birth certificates by the Department of Justice. Certificate, translation and more fees.
Step number 8 was the point of this. Being civilly married to my boyfriend in the living room of his family’s rental home.
Even my parents deigned to attend.