OCTOBER 12, 1821
two of the de la Vegas’ young Indian servants to remove Don Diego from
Moneta Esperon’s bedside after he asked Don Cornelio why he was so
distraught over Moneta’s fainting spell. The stricken look on his
future father-in-law’s face spoke volumes. The young de la Vega
belatedly realized that Don Cornelio had been crying.
Diego knelt down
at her side and tightly held Moneta’s fevered hands to his lips. Por
favor, he ardently prayed, My God, what in Your Most Holy Name is
wrong with my betrothed? Doubts regarding this arranged marriage
filled his thoughts ... it is as if Father and daughter share some
terrible secret. But before he could ask Don Cornelio any further
questions, Bernardo and the other de la Vega servants insisted that
Diego meet his father in the patio. Once there, his father busied
himself with pouring both Diego and himself glasses of Jerez.
Diego cocked an
eyebrow. “Presently, I am not in the mood to celebrate--Father, please
tell me what ails Señorita Esperon, or I shall again ask Don
pulled Diego toward the garden. “BE QUIET, DIEGO! I do not want the
servants to hear!”
His son broke
loose from his father’s grasp. “Then I think that you had better
tell me the truth!”
“I said to lower
your voice! “ Then his father said in a more gentle tone, “por
favor, I think that you had better sit down. “
‘”No, I am not
going to sit down! Are you going to tell me now?” Diego asked his
father. A horrible thought suddenly struck him. “Father .. Moneta, she
is not going to die, is she?“
His father sighed
audibly. “Diego ... do you remember Ricardo del'Amo?”
Ricardo del'Amo have to do with Moneta... “ Diego stopped talking when
he saw the sympathy overlaid with grief in his father’s eyes.
her previous fiance ---Ricardo del‘Amo--- he is the one who
... abused Moneta.” Don Alejandro whispered to him.
little girl that always wanted me to be her El Cid, her hero!
Innocent, wide-eyed Moneta, the only who truly understood how much
the loss of my mother in my childhood traumatized me since she also lost
her own madre in childbirth! Now to suffer the humiliation of
having your trust and your person violated by your own fiancé! That
animal--” he thought to himself.
Then Diego shouted
“’ABUSED‘? POR DIOS, HE ASSAULTED HER! I SHALL
KILL HIM! I shall ...”
Diego’s shoulders. “Please, Diego, calm yourself! This situation
calls for clear thinking! Drink some more Jerez,” his
father said as he poured two more glasses. “And I order you to drink
all of it! Diego, I just cannot understand Don Ricardo! How could he do
this horrible thing to Moneta?”
“When you are as
shallow and unprincipled as Ricardo Del’Amo, such an
unspeakable act would be as easy as breathing.“ Diego muttered
sullenly. “SANTA MARIA! My dear Moneta!” He added, his voice
“You have every
right to be upset, Diego! But now you have a fiancée’s feelings and
health to consider! Worry about Ricardo later!”
“You ... do not
have to be concerned, my father. Ricardo is just not worth killing.”
Diego ceased pacing up and down the patio. Finally, he sat down, held
his head in his hands and allowed tears to tumble nakedly down his face.
“That is good to
hear, my son. If it is any comfort to you I wanted to horsewhip him
myself! Now Diego, since circumstances have changed, ah, regarding her
suitability as a bride for you, I shall most certainly understand if you
wish to void the marriage contract.”
raised his head. “I appreciate your desire to protect my feelings,
especially after the debacle with Anna Maria.“ A grim look of
determination replaced the soul wrenching but self-pitying tears shed
just moments before. “If you will excuse me, father, there are things
that I must do now!“
are you going?”
“Why to see my
please. After you visit Moneta, come to the library where we can decide
what is best for everyone in this.... predicament. Do not act out
of pity, my son. That is all I ask.”
“Of course not,
father,“ Diego said over his shoulder as he bounded up the stairs to
When Bernardo came
downstairs a little while later, he signed to Don Alejandro: “Diego
told me that Ricardo del’Amo hurt Señorita Esperon?’’
That subject is closed for discussion -- for now. Please fetch Don
Cornelio and tell him to meet me in the library. “According to Diego,
we now have a wedding fiesta to plan rather quickly!”
Despite the anger
and despair filled atmosphere, Bernardo smiled to himself. “Fear
not, my beloved masters, God wounds all heels and heals all wounds!”
Diego gazed down
at the pale face of Moneta Esperon. No wonder she acted so nervous in
the garden earlier today! he quietly thought, to be used and then
discarded as if you did not matter even as a person must be the worst
form of torture. Dear sweet Moneta, I promise that I will do
everything I can to make your future life as Señora de la Vega as good
as I can possibly make it! I swear this before the Blessed Virgin!
He bent to kiss
the now peacefully resting Moneta. Diego wearily straightened his broad
shoulders, muscled from years of rigorous fencing, and walked toward the
door. “Come, Bernardo, Crescencia can take excellent care of Moneta
while we speak with Dr. Perez.” He bounded impatiently downstairs;
desperate to know how long it would take for her to fully recover. As he
entered the library his father motioned for him to take a seat across
from Dr. Perez.
“Of course, you
do understand Don Diego“ -- Dr. Perez said as he nodded to both Dons
Alejandro and Cornelio-- “that her recovery will largely depend upon
herself - her will to live, and your attitude towards her!
“Exactly what do
you mean Doctor?“ Don Diego stiffly asked, certain that he was not
happy with the strange tone of this conversation.
turned to his son and said quietly. “Diego, most men would not accept
the fact that their fiancée had become pregnant before their marriage,
especially if the child were not his. At the very least, her family
would send her away in disgrace to live out her days in a nunnery.“
“Your father is
correct, Diego,” Dr. Perez nodded his agreement. The physician looked
into Diego's eyes and saw the fierce resolve there. “However I do not
believe that is the case regarding Moneta and Don Diego. She has a very
strong will to live and ..”
shall always take excellent care of her!“ Don Diego exclaimed and then
directed his gaze from Dr. Perez, to his father and finally to Don
señores. I shall return tomorrow to see Señorita Esperon before
midday. And, Diego, as I had already told Dons Alejandro and Cornelio,
she must have total and complete bed rest for the next two weeks!” Dr.
Don Cornelio put
his arms around Diego shoulders. “I know that you will take excellent
care of Moneta. She deserves the very best husband and in my eyes, you
are one of the finest young men I have ever known!”
Diego. “When Moneta accepted my proposal of marriage I assumed full
responsibility for her welfare.”
Diego!” said Don Alejandro. He noted the concern and love glittering
in his son’s hazel eyes. “Cornelio, would you excuse us for a
viejo! Con permiso, Alejandro, Diego.” Cornelio said.
accompany me to the library, Diego.”
It was Don
Alejandro who now paced the library floor. “Diego, I must seriously
consider the consequences to the family name and honor if you are
determined to fulfill the marriage contract with Señorita Moneta!”
rose. “None of this sordid affair is Moneta’s fault. And, father,
believe me when I say that I am worried about the family honor.”
“I compliment you on your principles, my son, Still, Diego, Ricardo
has proven not to be a rational man!”
Diego nodded in
agreement. ”Should Ricardo make a public nuisance of himself, I
promise you that I shall deal with him properly!” He rose to embrace
his father. “IF necessary, I shall publicly acknowledge Moneta’s
baby to be mine, although I am quite aware how this may adversely affect
our family’s honor and reputation. After all, are we de la Vegas,
gente de razon and caballeros of the highest rank, and we always do the
looked at his son with the utmost pride. “I ... am very proud of you,
my son. A lesser man would have tossed out the marriage contract if his
fiancée.... ah.. is discovered not to be a virgin...“
shall see, everything will work out. Con permiso. I must check on
Moneta!“ Diego sat down in a side chair to remain beside his fiancee
for the rest of the night. Periodically he would caress Moneta’s
fevered forehead with a cold cloth. He felt ashamed that he ever
complained to her about Anna Maria ’s icy dismissal of his love. “That
accursed ill-begotten ganallo, Ricardo del'Amo! Ricardo, I
promise to the Lord God above, that somehow, somewhere you will pay for
your crime!” He whispered into the soft candlelit air. Then Diego
took Senorita Moneta’s delicate hands into his own and bowed his head
Dons Alejandro and
Cornelio had decided to have an intimate marriage fiesta, inviting only
a few close friends from the hacendados in Los Angeles and
Monterrey. Diego had suggested that their wedding be celebrated on
November 3, three weeks from the announced betrothal or almost six weeks
before this year’s opening traditional Christmas celebrations. These
celebrations, or Posadas, always commenced on December 16 of each year.
Since the de la Vega family usually had an elaborate nacimiento (a live
staging of the Christ Child’s birth), both Cornelio and Alejandro felt
Diego’s and Moneta’s wedding should be smaller in scale than usual,
but as properly festive as possible. But Diego insisted on a
“public” ceremony, he did not want to marry Moneta in secret.
remained somewhat unconvinced. “All of Los Angeles knows about my
Both de la Vega
men looked up from Don Cornelio’s draft of Diego and Moneta’s
“As I once
explained to my son, Cornelio, a gentleman does not pay attention to
besides the fact that I love her, Moneta deserves as fine a wedding as
our padrinos and madrinas can produce,
eh?” Diego said mischievously.
father-in-law-to-be beamed at Diego. “Gracias, my son, gracias!”
The nuptial day of
Don Diego de la Vega and Senorita Moneta Munoz Esperon was bright and
sunny, although it was rather too cold for Moneta’s taste.
Unfortunately, she awoke with an extremely upset stomach, and her fair
skin looked even paler due to loss of sleep and appetite.
Luisa Elisa Farino Torres, told her that she was just experiencing a bad
case of nerves, but the two women knew the real cause of her unease. By
Moneta’s calculations, she was almost two months pregnant.
Luisa patted her mantilla into place. “There, there. My daughter,
everything will be fine. And to answer to your unspoken question, no,
your ‘condition’ is not obvious.”
Moneta hung her
head. “Gracias, Madrina Luisa. “It is just--”
either Diego or you can say or do will stop those estupido
loose tongues in this pueblo. Be thankful that you are not marrying that
porco, Ricardo del’Amo!”
“You know that I have loved Diego since childhood and I believe him
when he says he is not marrying me out of pity.”
“Don Diego is a
true caballero, a man of the highest sense of honor; and
besides that, my dearest Moneta, he loves you.”
the orange blossoms in her hair, which symbolize chastity and purity --
and as far as Moneta and her family were concerned --she had every right
to wear these flowers. Doña
Luisa placed her bridal bouquet of the same flowers in addition to some
white and pink roses in her hands. And, as her final advice to her
godchild, Moneta, Doña Luisa offered a special prayer for a joyful, long and
fruitful union for the bride and groom.
Don Diego was more
nervous than he thought he would be on his wedding day. He tried to
fasten his collar tie himself several times but gave up when Bernardo
took pity on him and finished the job. According to traditional custom,
Diego was wearing a tucked white shirt, which was richly embroidered in
silver, white and gray thread sewn by his fiancee, Moneta Esperon.
grinned and signed to Diego [My friend, you look exceedingly
handsome today! I hope that the both of you will be very happy
dearest best friend. I know that we shall."
[You do realize
how much your life will change, eh?] Bernardo’s eyes glinted with
“Sí, and for
the best. Come now, it is time for our journey to the wedding. Are you
certain my bow is proper?”
his hands on his hips in mock severity and arched his eyebrows.
Diego rolled his
eyes. “Never mind! Father, I trust that Don Alfredo, my padrino
has done a wonderful job in staging the wedding?”
His father slapped
Diego on his back. “Spoken like a typical nervous groom!” He stepped
back from Diego to admire his clothes.
wedding suit, which was a deep teal blue in color, was embellished with
tiny pearls and Austrian crystals, with the lapels of the jaqueta
edged in silver thread. The same pattern was repeated along both sides
of his pantalones.
tightly “No, actually, I am beyond being nervous; I am truly
"That is only
natural. Ay yi, yi! The wedding music has already begun! And here comes
Moneta now. "
Don Diego could
not believe how beautiful Moneta appeared to be this morning. “So
the old wives’ tale was true; pregnancy gave her an air of serene,
sweet maturity,” he said to himself. Her entire being glowed,
she radiated love. Love for me! he marveled. Somehow I
know that when I reveal my alter ego to her, Moneta will understand far
better than the immature Anna Maria ever would or could.
leaned over to him and remarked, “Is she all that you expected her to
be Don Diego? "
everything that I want in a woman and more. Moneta is perfection
itself.“ He replied, unable to take his eyes from her veiled face.
began the wedding by making the traditional sign of the cross over the
groom’s head. Diego responded by kissing the cross. Then the priest
blessed Moneta and she also kissed the cross. This act represented the
couple’s vow of allegiance to each other.
Don Diego’s padrino,
Don Alfredo, gave thirteen gold coins (arras) to the
couple. The groom placed the white satin pouch containing the arras,
to Father Felipe, who blessed them. Diego held the coins until it was
time to offer them to Moneta to symbolize her sacred place as mistress
of his household.
Dona Luisa then
approached Diego and Moneta, first draping Diego with an elegantly and
intricately decorated pink silk and satin cape in the shape of a rosary,
the lasso, and then she looped it over the bride’s shoulders.
They wore this symbol of their eternal unity until the end
of the wedding, when Moneta received it as a memento of her special day.
For their vows,
Diego pledged to be Moneta’s principal source of strength, protection
nourishment and direction. Moneta promised to give him obedience,
pleasure and consolation in times of sorrow.
“By the Power
vested in me by the Holy Trinity, I now pronounce you man and wife!“
Father Felipe glanced up from the Sacred Sacrament of Matrimony Chapter
of the jewel encrusted and leather bound Holy Missal, which was so
weighty that it took two altar boys to hold the book for Father Felipe.
“Señor Diego de
la Vega y de la Cruz, you may now kiss the bride!”
precision and care, Diego parted the mantilla from Moneta’s face and
bent down to begin the personal celebration of his marriage. Only much,
much later, when she lay in the arms of the man she had vowed to wed
since childhood, did she remember how especially tender his wonderful
hazel eyes were as he kissed her for the first time as his wife.