Stories From Old Tampico
Nieves: The Girl who was Abandoned
And Lived Happily Ever After

Photographs and Text by John Todd, Jr.

The Boom!
Men Arrived Alone in Tampico
The men who arrived who came to work at the port of Tampico arrived alone, without families

They knew it would be a real adventure because they didnīt know if they would succeed or fail.

Perhaps it was better that way because they wouldnīt expose their wives or children to the difficulties of such adventures.

And many couples were formed living simply in "unión libre"

Nieves and the Superintendent
And, so it happened that the Superintendent of an Oil Company met Nieves, a beautiful young girl, with almost a regal bearing.

But sometimes there are unexplainable things that frequently happen in life, and she was left alone with a little daughter.

Left for an Ugly Woman
In fact, he left Nieves to live with a woman who was incredibly insignificant and ugly! Some said that the woman had bewitched the Superintendent with "toloache", or moonflower, since there was no other explanation.

But, Nieves worked tirelessly washing clothes for others or doing housekeeping work to support herself and her little daughter. But she was always clean and stood out in spite of the poor clothes she wore.

The Love of Her Life
She was an honorable woman, and one day the temptation presented itself with another Superintendent. He had money, a pleasant personality, with time they both fell in love, and eventually moved in to live together. But they couldnīt marry legally because Nieves was married by both the church and civil law to the man who had left her.

It was later heard that Nieves and the Superintendent went to live in Veracruz.

Nieves Returns as a Changed Woman
One year later, Nieves returned to Tampico. And now, she was a different woman and stayed at the Hotel Imperial, which back in those days was the best hotel in town, and also the most expensive.

As soon as she got settled in the hotel, she took a "coche" (with horses, they used to call them "Victorias".) and she gave the coachman the address of her "comadre" Concha, the godmother of her daughter who, during the dark days, would always help her.

When she arrived at the house of Doņa Concha no one recognized this elegant woman as poor the unfortunate Nieves "La Abandonada". She now wore an elegant wide brimmed hat that was popular in those days, immaculate gloves, and jewelry in profusion. Around her neck was a heavy necklace of gold with a medallion of the Virgen de Guadalupe, studded with diamonds. And on her fingers were several rings that radiated with rays of light.

Her New Life with the Superintendent in Veracruz
Once she was recognized, and with the admiration of everyone, she passed into the small living room and sat down to tell them the story of her life with The Superintendent.

As soon as they arrived in Veracruz, The Superintendent hired a professor to teach her how to read and write. The professor also taught her about history, literature, and foreign languages. The Superintendent hired an instructor in manners who transformed her into the elegant lady they were astonished to be looking at.

Her daughter was placed in the best religious school in the city of Veracruz. They also had a French nanny who not only gave her a detailed education, but taught her French! Nothing was lacking. The Superintendent simply enjoyed making her happy.

But, she said that she had never forgotten! And that she had come to kill that Goya woman who had crossed her path to take her husband away.

"Yes," she said, "I have returned because I have now enough money to never set foot in jail. My husbandīs lawyers have been instructed to pay whatever bond is necessary to set me free."

Naturally, because in those days Tampico was very small, the news of the arrival of Nieves spread like wildfire, and the first to hear the news were Goya and her lover. It was said that she trembled with fear as she climbed on a horse that was found for her so that she could run without stopping to Altamira.

Of course, Nieves moved heaven and earth trying to find Goya, but it wasnīt possible to find her. The bird had flown away.

A Clean Slate
Nieves understood that it would be useless to continue looking, and decided to do what she told her comadre Doņa Conchita she would do: wipe the slate clean and let the Lord take care of the matter.

But, she didnīt want to leave without going to the market where her husband now had a stall. There in front of the whole world, and in a loud voice so that everyone could hear, she told him:

"You left me for a wretched washer woman with the face of a starved witch. On the other hand, I found a gentleman to take your place, a complete man with as much moral as well as material value."

"Look at how I dress, and look at my shoes. Look well to see if you recognize your wife!"

The man was livid, but did not raise his head. When she finished, she left the market not once losing her dignified, graceful manner, and regal bearing.

An Aristocratic Life in Mexico City
The next day, she left for her destination, and never returned to Tampico. From Veracruz she went to live in Mexico City in one of the palaces along the Paseo de la Reforma.

As time went on, her daughter married a lawyer who was from the mellowed aristocracy that surrounded Don Porfirio Díaz, president of Mexico in those times. The Lord had taken care of the matter.

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