Raúl Guerrero Montemayor, Dec 16, 1926 - Jan 9, 2013Friday, January 11, 2013
My friend Raúl Guerrero Montemayor who was 86 on December 16, died Wednesday, January 9, 2013 in Mexico City. I talked to him on January 7 on Skype and found him especially lively and quick to respond. I told him I had never heard him better. He told me he felt fine.
The last time I saw Raúl alive was December 19 in the morning. He was extremely thin and could barely move on his own volition. I had photographed him a couple of days before but I did not have the heart to show him as I saw him. I photographed his beautiful hands on my mother's red Mexican rebozo. He adored my mother as he did my grandmother.
Rosemary reminded me today when I told her the news something that I have never forgotten. When my mother died it was with Raúl that I did my coffin shopping and it was he who helped me with the funeral arrangements.
A few years before my grandmother had died at a home in Cuernavaca. I have no memory of the funeral. It was Raúl on his bed on December 17th who told me, “When your grandmother died, her coffin was being transported by a couple of very ordinary Mexican men (Raúl used the word “pelados”) and they stumbled. You and I went to the rescue. I cannot but realize that your grandmother, who was quite an uppity old woman would have appreciated that her burial was assisted by two men with class.”
From my vantage point of the chair by Raúl’s bed I could see the open closet door with his row of exquisite shoes, and hanging over them his beautiful suits and shirts. Raúl had class or as my mother would have stated, he was “gente fina”.
But he was not devoid of humour. One time at a party at the house of my Aunt Fermina and Tío Luís Miranda, my uncle had a guest who was an insufferable American who happened to be a Mormon of the worst kind. He refused to even drink Coke. I so disliked this pedantic man that Raúl and I conspired to get him drunk by serving him orange Fanta which we laced with Grand Marnier. We got the man quite tipsy.
Raúl was always careful about his appearance and he was always slim and well toned. But he could really eat. And the place to eat was the Miranda household. The Miranda’s had been a wealthy family in Manila and they had lived in the best section of the city called Forbes Park. When the Japanese army was about to disembark and take the city my Uncle Luís Miranda who was the head chemist at the San Miguel Brewery stated in the parlance of the times, “I was going to make sure the Japs would not drink any of my beer so I sabotaged the plant.” I never did ask my uncle if the Japanese found out. What I do know is that the Miranda family (one girl and two boys) were turfed out of their beautiful home which became the headquarters of the occupying forces. The Miranda family lived all kinds of deprivations and my uncle swore that if they ever survived the war they would never ever experience hunger.
At the Miranda’s food was always plentiful and always the best. If you happened to sit at the table with Uncle Luís he would point at you and bend the first joint of his index finger and tell you that you were not eating anything so you had to eat more and well.
So we had eating competitions that involved my cousin Roberto Miranda, his friend Paco Sandoval, Raúl and yours truly. I could really pack it in. The champion, you would have guessed had to be Robby Miranda who loved to eat. But the champ was always Raúl, who had a habit of showing up, on any day of the week or weekend at about lunchtime or dinner time.
I remember one Saturday or Sunday lunch (there were always many children who sat at ancillary card tables) when we ate various servings of pasta. Then came the T-bones. I remember that I had two. We had the ever present kaning malagkit, Filipino white sticky rice, salad and of course bread to soak up the steak juices. My Aunt Fermina, would have been up all the day before making the dough and waiting for it to rise, which she then flattened and waited for it to rise again. This process to make the Spanish origin enzaimadas was laborious. They were, of course the best enzaimadas I have ever had in my life. The next day after the pasta, the steaks, the salad, the bread, the rice, etc we ate the enzaimadas almost as if the Japanese were about to take the city. The winner that day was Raúl Guerrero Montemayor.
|Raúl Guerrero Montemayor &|
Hilary Anne Waterhouse-Hayward
As I saw the withered shadow of the handsome man that I knew was still the Raúl that I so much loved I again thought of my first doubts on the afterlife. It had all begun in my late teens when I wondered what my mother would look like when I met up with her in heaven. Would she be old? A little girl? A young girl?
When I left him on Wednesday morning Raúl looked at me and could see the tears running down his cheeks. He told me, “No me despido porque nos vamos a ver otra vez.” I will not say goodbye. We will see each other again.”
Until that happens I will remember him as I see him in the pictures here which I must have taken around 1974 when his goddaughter, my daughter Hilary, was about three.