The black and white photo shows a young couple on their wedding day. He’s just coming into adulthood at 21, while she’s still in high school at 17.
Nearly six decades have passed since the photo was taken in 1961. The couple’s hair is now white. Their knees and shoulders ache from time to time. But the love and care they promised each other that blessed day is still very much intact.
Cuauhtemoc and Rita Torres of Mission Hills have been married for 58 years. And they’re still deeply in love with each other.
They met in August of 1961 when the neighbor who lived between their houses in East Los Angeles introduced them. They soon started dating, but not without confronting some language issues. Rita, born in the US, and Cuauhtemoc, born in Mexico, admitted that their initial conversations were in broken Spanglish.
“I didn’t speak Spanish and he didn’t speak English,” remembers Rita, 76.
“He used to ask me things and I didn’t understand so I would just say no,” she adds with a chuckle.
But it was love at first sight. For their first date they went to a big dance at The Palladium— Celia Cruz “the Queen of Salsa” was there, Rita remembers.
“I told my niece, ‘you see that guy, I’m going to marry him,’” she said.
Quick Courtship, Lasting Marriage
After the first date, sparks were flying and they started going out regularly. By December – just four months later— they were married.
Cuauhtemoc, 80, recalls the way he proposed.
They were in a car going to a party. “I told her, ‘what would you say if I asked you if you want to get married?’ She used to say ‘no’ all the time. That was the one time she said ‘yes.’”
Adds Rita, “That is one of our recommendations for a lasting marriage. Make sure you want to get married.”
Their wedding day was eventful. His car wouldn’t start, he got to the church late, he forgot to change out of his work shoes that had holes in them, and the people who were making the cake got lost going to house where they were having the party.
“But we survived,” chimes in Rita, who finished high school six months after getting married.
They’ve been “surviving” ever since. They have a daughter and a son, five grandkids and three great-grandkids. They celebrated their 50th wedding anniversary nearly a decade ago while on a one-week trip to Kauai.
They keep active and engage members at the senior club in San Fernando’s Las Palmas Park. Rita helps organize events and meals there, while Cuauhtemoc likes to chit chat with everybody.
They especially enjoy the annual Valentine’s Day events. It’s a time to share with other couples and friends.
They’ve had ups and downs in their marriage, like everyone else. And there was also the occasional fight — nothing major, though.
And they pulled through every time.
“We fight, but at the end of the day, we make up,” Rita said, noting that Cuauhtemoc “has a good nature.”
“He could be mad at me, but at the end of the day he forgets,” she said.
“It’s like a losing battle with her,” Cuauhtemoc said, with a chuckle.
Another of their secrets: “never go to bed mad,” he said. And they always go places together. Parties, trips, financial decisions, bowling — even shopping is done in unison and in accord.
That is one of the main secrets of their long marriage. “Try to live your married life together,” Rita says. “None of that, ‘I’m going with my friends,’ and one goes one way and the other goes another way.”
They’ve never been apart, aside from the times when Rita was giving birth.
“I never stayed out of my house,” Cuauhtemoc said.
And they take care of each other. If one of them is not feeling well, the other will take care of him or her.
Rita had surgery on both her shoulders and Cuauhtemoc has been taking care of her.
“He’s the nurse and the housekeeper, and he doesn’t complain,” she said.
“She gave me a good life all these years and now it’s time to pay back,” Cuauhtemoc said, adding, “being married is a big responsibility.”
They say couples must be ready to face obstacles, accept each other’s quirks without being disrespectful to one another, and know that it’s for the long haul. Even with mundane things. Rita says she doesn’t like what Cuauhtemoc watches on TV and vice versa, but even if they’re watching different shows in the same house, come dinner time, they sit at their table and talk.
After dinner, Cuauhtemoc washes the dishes and dries them.
Another of their secrets: “Put those damned phones away. People don’t talk to each other,” Rita said
“Being by yourself is not good for you. Being alone is a terrible thing,” says Cuauhtemoc, who has seen how widowhood and divorce can wreak havoc on the health and well-being of others.
After all their decades together, they know they ultimately depend on each other for strength, care and love.
“She’s my tower of strength,” says Cuauhtemoc, who then offers the most enduring secret to a long marriage.
“We never stopped loving each other.”