A Colorado couple discusses their history together
In light of Valentine’s Day, La Vida Latina presents the story of a Denver couple who have relied on honesty as the foundation of their 52-year marriage.
German Alvarez did not immediately fall for his wife of 52 years, Francisca, and from her perspective the feeling was mutual. The two met for the first time in their hometown of Brownsville, Texas.
“We met at a church function,” said Francisca. “I didn’t really think much of him at the time. I was with my friends and he kept trying to come over with his friends and impress us. I remember he was very animated, but I think he believed he was a lot more charming than he really was.”
German, on the other hand, noticed Francisca had an effect on him from the beginning.
“I don’t think it was love at first sight, but I do remember the hairs on the back of my head would stand up every time she talked to me,” he said.
Being children of Mexican immigrants in a U.S. border town just miles north of one of Mexico’s most populous cities, Matamoros, both German and Francisca had similar backgrounds, which allowed them to foment a long-term relationship over time.
“When we met I was 17,” Francisca said. “He was one year younger, but that didn’t matter too much to me. I don’t think I ever considered him as husband material. He didn’t have much of a plan for the future, but there was a nice quality to him, the kind that gives you confidence in a person. He was honest.”
After what Francisca described as a series of “group dates” consisting of her friends and German’s friends going out together, the couple had their first official date a little over a year after meeting.
“It was a disaster,” German said. “My family didn’t have a lot of money, actually neither of us came from money, so the plan was for me to ride my bike to her house and her dad would chaperone us for the night. I was run off the road by a car on my way to her house and skid into a barbed wire fence. My best slacks got torn up and my right arm was bleeding so bad that I had to tear off part of my slacks to use as a bandage for my arm. I probably should have biked to the nearest hospital, but I didn’t want to miss our date, so I kept going.
“By the time I got to [Francisca’s] house, I was 15 minutes late with torn slacks, a blood-stained shirt and a bandaged right arm.”
“My dad did chaperone us that night,” Francisca added laughing. “Right to the hospital.”
The couple married in 1965 after several far more successful dates. Francisca was 20, German 19. Shortly thereafter they had their first child, Yesenia, and Francisca made a bold decision: she told German she wanted to move to Colorado. The decision was not popular with her husband or their families.
“It was very un-Latina of me,” she said smiling. “In our town everyone knew everyone else and all the neighborhood married each other and went to work at the same shops with their dads and uncles and brothers. I wanted to break that cycle.”
She added that they made it work, mostly due to German’s ability to compromise.
“I think it could have been the kind of decision that breaks a family apart, if he weren’t willing to follow me,” she said. “But he trusted me and took that leap,” she said.
German said that what fueled his decision to follow Francisca to a state they new nothing about with a baby in tow was her faith in him.
“When I proposed I was doubtful that she would say, ‘yes,’” he said. “I knew I wasn’t husband material and that she could do far better, so I asked her if she would take a leap of faith and be my wife. When she turned around and asked me to do the same thing so she could go to nursing school in Colorado, I couldn’t say no.”
German and Francisca Alvarez have now celebrated 52 years of marriage, three children, nine grandchildren and two great grandchildren. As for advice, they stand by what has kept them together for over five decades.
“No matter how difficult it is, be honest,” Francisca said. “Never keep secrets, never hide your feelings and always speak the truth.”