I arrived before 9:30 am at the door of the downtown office building, in the elegant business part of Caracas, and went up the 8th floor penthouse. My senator’s office had just opened; after entering, I saw my own desk with 2 telephones, and in his office were another three phones, one of which was red. Another worker in the office explained to me that my place was up front, greeting people when they came in and letting the senator know who was there: were they a client, did they have an appointment, and so on. It looked so simple, and a few days passed with no trouble at all. Then one day the senator announced to me that he had hired another secretary, who would do my work typing and dictation–I was not to worry, my job was just to be nice and greet people, which was more important! Then one day, I think it was my birthday, he insisted on taking me to dinner. We drove off in his big black car after work, off to this great restaurant on the beach in Maiquetia. There were white cloth covered tables lit up with candles, violins playing dance music in the background, and I was perplexed to see all this beauty. He casually asked me what I would like to drink- at 15 years old I had no idea, so he ordered champagne and then asked me to dance!
After we finished dinner, he ordered a special desert, then reached down and pulled out a beautifully wrapped little package. I opened my surprise and it was a gorgeous gold bracelet with a morocota, the 5 Bolivar gold coin, set in 18k gold links, very expensive even back then. I had no idea of its value or what money meant, but everything was so magic and new that I found it all beautiful. After that we went to the car and drove back to Caracas, first stopping in a discotheque or music store; he bought me the record of the music we had been dancing to at the beach, by the most famous “Magic Violins of Villa Fontana.” He handed it to me, but I said no thanks, you keep it, blushing red in the face (I did not have a record player but I didn’t want him to know that). After holding hands briefly, we said our good by, hasta manana. But he guessed my secret.
Next day after work, he asked if he could give me a lift home, since he was going that way. He was a short, chubby man with a sweet smile and elegant manners; i admired his style and wanted to learned how to be graceful and elegant too. As we went out to his car, to my surprise he said, “Would you please accept this,” opened the trunk and pulled up a big box and a package full of long playing records. “I know your mother and your family will enjoy this!” Of course he probably knew about my niece being in the hospital, about our miserable little home, but he never said a word about that. I realized he knew all about us and that, behind the scenes, his hands were working everywhere to help us.
I took the phonograph home, and the records were all my favorites– Siboney, Begin the Beguine, classical music like my sister loved, even some gypsy violin music that my mama loved. Soon
my life began to take a very different turn; we moved to a nice Italian neighborhood, and I met the Cacique woman Maria Luisa Escobar who had a troupe of dancers which I joined. After a little while I decided that I danced good enough to be a star, not a secretary, so I went to the boss of the main government television channel for an interview. I told him I was a prima ballerina at the Ballet Montecarlo that had just played the Caracas theatre, and wanted to be on television! What gall I had, when I think back on it! The nice man put me on on every Friday at 6 pm, my own half hour show of ballet, jazz and pieces like Ravel’s fire.
Suddenly my life was getting very interesting very fast, even if I did not understand why at the time. In Venezuela in the fifties, high society was ruled by the very private old money families, who did not accept the newly rich upstarts. But at the same time, the rich Venezuelan men wanted pretty white girls, not the old blood Spaniards. So here comes this 15 year old young lady with good manners and a pretty face, who looks like she might be accepted by society, at least by the men (their women were not too happy with the competition!) The local Don Juans and playboys were very excitable; once a couple of them crashed their cars while looking at me walking across the street!
Still, Caracas high society was hard to crack. One topic of conversation was how the top society Country Club had denied a membership to General Marcos Perez Jimenez, the ruler of the nation, because he was new money and his power came from the campesinos! . The old money– the Herreras, the Boultons and other patrician families of the day, were all royalty. Eventually I was to meet all of them as I moved on up in society, but life then seems to me moving so slow with time for everything.