March 11, 2005

Cantiflas and Pedro Infante Movie Marathons

My late night friends when my mother was away

By Fanny J. Garcia

I was not there. I only know what she has whispered in my ears as I lay in bed with the smells of Vicks Vapor Rub and Robitussin. My bouts of coughing forced her to interrupt her story. The phlegm would pour out of my mouth as if I was trying to exorcise the years without a father. Maybe if I did not think about it I could ignore that my family was not normal. It was not normal that my mother worked at night. I don’t know if what she says is the truth but I can do nothing else but believe her.

My friend Claudia was more fascinated by it than I was but I indulged her and slowly opened the door to my mother’s bedroom. I peeked in first to make sure it was okay to come in but she did not notice my inquisitive stare in the reflection of the mirror. Claudia and I crept in, sat at the foot of the bed and watched my mother apply smooth and knowing strokes of blue eye shadow unto her eyelids. The fake eyelashes where placed carefully on and then followed two strokes of pink blush on both cheeks. She opened her mouth and applied bright red lipstick to her top lip and then to the bottom one and smacked them together. She saw me staring out of the corner of her eye and playfully winked. This made Claudia and I smile.

She walked over to the bed where we both noticed the shiny pink pants sprawled on the bed ready to be worn. She picked them up and brushed away an imaginary piece of lint, then put one leg on first and then the other. She threw herself on the bed and tried to zip the pants until finally the grooves fell into place and the struggle stopped. Her top was made out of light blue and pink sequins all running diagonally across her chest. Her gold shoes made her look taller than her 5’2 frame. The towel that covered her curly hair came off and she flung her head forward. Her long and slender fingers brushed through her mane and hairspray did the rest.

She was ready.

“Don’t stay up too late” she said, and I watched her walk out of the small apartment on Kraft Street.

I never knew where it was she went. All I knew back then was that it was late at night and I would have to spend another night alone in the apartment we shared.

I resented the care she gave to getting ready and wished she would give the same care to staying home with me at night.

Cantinflas and Pedro Infante were my friends at this hour of the night when my mother was away. I watched their movies on KMEX Canal 34. “Nosotros Los Pobres” was one of my favorites. The story appealed to me. I was a young girl growing up without a father and Pedro Infante played a young father who adored his daughter Chachita. What more could a girl want?

Both men were excellent companions on those long nights when my mother worked. It was hard to turn off the TV and miss out on the movies, so often times I would fall asleep to Pedro singing my favorite songs or Cantinflas doing his funny little dance.

Sometimes I would have dreams. One of my favorites was when Pedro and Cantinflas fought over me. “Yo quiero ser su Padre” Pedro would yell angrily at Cantinflas. Cantinflas was taken aback by Pedro’s stance but he did not give in. He danced around Pedro and did his funny little dance. Pedro did not know what to do with Cantinflas but decided to let him continue until he got tired of cantinflear. When Cantinflas realized that Pedro was serious about being my Dad he decided to stop his cantinfleada and offered Pedro a compromise. “Pues Pedrito como dicen aya en los Unaitis… vamos a compromise… que tal si tu y yo cuidamos a la chamaquita?” Pedro and Cantinflas shook hands and agreed. The smile on my face when they turned to me sealed the deal.

Many times I would wake up in the middle of the night and realized that the Pedro Infante movie marathon that I had been watching before falling asleep was over. In its place were horror movies, or Santo movies. My favorites were the ones about Las Momias de Guanajuato. I tried not to watch them so late at night with no one around me to rescue me from the momias if they decided to climb through the TV screen and drag me kicking and screaming into their movie. But there was nothing else to do and my mother had not yet arrived from work so I watched the momias from beneath my favorite blankie. I was eight years old but I still carried my blankie everywhere I went. She had protected me against many nights filled with las momias, and vampires and things that go bump in the night.

Fanny J. Garcia is an actor, writer and lots of other things. She lives in Los Angeles but grew up in the San Fernando Valley. She can be reached at

Reprinted from LatinoLa,

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