Stories about Old Tampico
Doņa Rosita: A Beautiful Woman from France

Photographs and Text by John Todd, Jr.

Boats in the Pánuco River at Tampico
Doņa Rosa la Francesa
Now days, along the Tamesí River, no one remembers Doņa Rosa, a French lady, but in those times, many years ago, people wondered how such a beautiful woman could accept living in the confines of the Tamesí. The answer is that she did it for love.

When she arrived in the port of Tampico, far away from distant France, she met Mr. Miguel Contreras and fell in love.

Soon, they were married, and he took her to live in the little town of San Antonio Rayón where he had his business, a small grocery store.

Don Miguelīs Business
Not only did Don Miguel sell merchandise brought from Tampico in his store, he also purchased local products from the region to sell in his store, such as corn, beans, honey, and even wild animal pelts such as tigrillo, deer, and javelina. He often would go out in his canoe made from the trunk of a large tree to buy from the local people who lived in the nearby swamps and rivers.

When Mr. Contreras passed away, Doņa Rosita confronted the situation, and continued on with his business. She could be seen leaving at 4AM in the morning in Mr. Contreras boat to arrive in Tampico at night. (Remember in those days, there were no motor boats.)

Pageants in Mexico
"Las Pastorelas"
Doņa Rosita was a fanatic of the "pastorelas", or the Christmas plays of Mexico which in those days were presented in different neighborhoods during the 9 days before Christmas in Tampico. She always took her little boy along with her.

As soon as she arrived in Tampico with her son, she would find out where the different "pastorelas" would be held. She and her son were always on the front row in the chairs they had brought, because if you wanted to have a place to sit, you needed to bring your own chair.

The "pastorelas" were held in the patios of homes in those days, and were about the birth of Baby Jesus.

The Plot
The Plot was rather simple, and everybody knew it by heart. First, Lucifer would send his henchmen the devils to tempt men who Christ had come to redeem.

The Seven Deadly Sins
Then Lucifer would begin to spread Mortals Sins around which would be the perdition of man. Then he would call in a squadron of other devils to provoke Ire or anger.

Then Pride was presented, and the devils would run to carry Pride to his heart. Then would come Avarice, Lying, Gluttony, and Lucifer was in charge of Lust. Luciferīs clothing was of made from legitimate luxurious red French "razo".

Lucifer was alone on the stage when Gila the shepherd girl appeared. Lucifer promised her riches beyond imagination, and she agree to meet him just after dawn the next day. When she left, Lucifer sneered at the audience and said, "Her soul is in my power, and she will quickly step to Hell!"

Then others who had been gained by the other devils were presented as being prisoners of Gluttony, Pride, Anger, etc.

Then the portrait of the Nativity Scene with the Virgen, and el Seņor St. Joseph could be seen off in the distance along with a large quantity of little angels telling the shepherds about the birth of the Christ Child.

Later, there would be a procession of shepherd boys and girls bringing gifts of tortillas, cheeses, baskets, diapers, and some were carrying on their shoulders a little newborn lamb. Of course, each shepherd would say a verse as an offering.

Then after the parade of shepherd boys and girls would come the Three Wise Men with their entourage and gifts. And with their arrival, the Pastorela would end.

A Christmas Dinner in Those Days
Then the dinner would begin with tamales, mole, bacalao, most of all rich hojuelas with thick piloncillo honey. In those days imported stuffed turkeys, and legs of pork, were unknown. Little bags of candy and other things were given out, and there was wine for everyone. The people of Tampico have always been splendid in their unequaled fiestas.

In different parts of the city of Tampico the pastorelas were held, each with the same theme but in different forms. Doņa Rosita didnīt miss a one and the last one was on the 24th with the Misa de Gallo (Christmas Mass), "Noel", as she used to say.

On Christmas Day, The Trip Back Home
And, on the 25th, she would disembark in her mighty boat full of merchandise with her heart full of tenderness and moved by the Greatness of the Son of God who was born in a manger.

That is the story about Doņa Rosita, a beautiful woman from France who found happiness in a little village near Tampico on the Tamesí River.

Comments from the Authorīs Son about Doņa Rosita
I was curious about Doņa Rosa and wondered if she had come to Tampico after World War I, thinking that perhaps she may have been from a small town near the front where the war had devastated the French countryside.

Don Hector said that Doņa Rosita really existed, and that she was old when his mother knew her.

He added that when his mother, Doņa Toņa was young she was sent to Paris to study at the Academie du Sacre Coeur, and would write letters to her father in French. He didnīt know French, and would have to wait until Doņa Rosita came to Tampico in her boat to buy merchandise so she could translate the letters for him.

So, Doņa Rosa had come to Tampico long before the oil boom. Maybe one weekend, I will take a drive up to San Antonio Rayon to look for people who may remember this mysterious woman from France.

I wonder if Iīll find much because it was a long time ago. Still people in the countryside in Mexico have long memories, and these legends last for generations. Iīll let you know what I find.

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