When people ask how I met my husband, we both giggle and smile for it is an unusual story. Our Fiesta romance began at the 2012 Pre-Fiesta Tea hosted by the Native Daughters of the Golden West, Reina del Mar Parlor #126 at Casa De la Guerra. I dressed in my usual Fiesta finery, head-to-toe in flamenco polka dots, black and white with red accents and red flowers in my hair. At one point in the program the mistress of ceremonies asked the descendants of the old Spanish families to stand up when their family name was called. As a 10th-generation Ortega descendant, I stood up at the appropriate turn.
My husband-to-be, Boris, would never have attended such an event (a tea party!) if it weren’t for a mutual friend, Betty Dominguez. Betty is a Native Daughter and also volunteers with Boris at the Dream Foundation’s Flower Empower program. She invited several of the Flower Empower folks and Boris decided to join in, not knowing what he was getting himself into. When I stood up, denoting myself an Ortega, Boris said to Valerie, one of the Flower Empower ladies, “Wow, she’s cute!” Val told Betty and then the whirlwind happened. This comment got all of the ladies chattering!
At the end of the event, Betty called me over to meet Boris. She introduced us thoroughly, leaving no tricks up our sleeves. We hit it off instantly and exchanged contact information. Upon learning that Boris enjoyed volunteering, my mother, Diana Vandervoort, immediately asked him to be on the Noches de Ronda Committee (the Fiesta Courthouse show, which she has directed for many years). He said “Sure!” and agreed to come help out. He even attended one of my lunchtime flamenco performances with Zermeño Dance Academy at La Cumbre Plaza near where he worked at the time. All of the younger flamenco girls were giggling and asking, “Is that him?”
At the very end of the Friday night of Noches, Boris’s last available time to help, Boris asked me if I’d like to go on a date. “I thought you’d never ask!” I said. We went to El Paseo for dinner the following Friday. Almost immediately we each knew that the other was “the one.” We were married less than two years later on April 19, 2014 and are currently pregnant with the 11th generation. Now, we both assist my mother in putting on the Courthouse show as I have retired from dancing for the time being, for obvious reasons. In addition, I am now an Associate Director on the Old Spanish Days board, following in the footsteps of my mother and grandfather, who was El Presidente in 1969.
To top it all off, my grandparents, William and Dorathy Russell, also met during Fiesta in 1939 at one of the street dances on State Street. They were married more than 60 years and directed the Courthouse show for 20 years before my mother. Boris and I will follow in their footsteps and eventually take over the show from Diana when she is ready to pass it on.
Fiesta is truly a family affair for us — it is in our blood and embedded in our hearts. Viva la Fiesta Romantica!
Thea Palencia is an associate board member of Old Spanish Days.