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WRITES OF PASSAGE

AT BETO AGUIRRE'S NEWSPAPER, ALL THINGS ARE RELATIVE.PRESS FOR SUCCESS THE AGUIRRE FAMILY RUNS A NEWSPAPER AND A RESTAURANT. BUT THERE'S MORE TO THE STORY.

Virgil Aguirre passed that initial test, but he was by no means home free. "He didn't drink or smoke, but his dancing was terrible," Rosa Linda recalls. "He danced the mambo too fast. I thought: I don't think I'll dance with him again."

Despite the protests of her sister Hortensia, now a co-owner of El Noa Noa restaurant, Rosa Linda was happy to leave Denver. She had her future planned: Although Mexico boasted few female sales magnates, she would become an Avon lady, as well as a sort of itinerant beautician. "I was born to sell," she says. "Right away I won a promotion about how many bottles could you sell of Avon bubble bath. I sold nearly five cases. I went to every neighbor, and I told them all, `If you buy two of these and bathe in it every night, you will get lighter!' This was 1967, remember, and I could get away with murder."

By 1969 she yearned for more lucrative pastures. Lured by the American economy, she returned to Denver for good. One of the first to welcome her back was Virgil Aguirre, who began bringing Rosa Linda presents and cards. Soon they were dating regularly, although exactly what happened on a date was a matter of contention.

"Back where I'm from," Rosa Linda explains, "you don't hold hands, you don't kiss a boy on the first date--or the second or third or fourth date--but Virgil, he'd gotten used to all these mushy, mushy things. So I told him: Sit there, keep your hands to yourself and talk to me."

Twenty-four years of marriage, one business and five children later, it is not unusual to find Rosa Linda and Virgil sitting in one of their own booths, still talking--and there is still plenty to discuss.

Shortly after Rosa Linda and Virgil married, it occurred to Virgil that he could not "raise a family and a newspaper at the same time." This realization didn't stop him from trying, though--until the week he told his father to take the printing money to Mexico and his father used it to buy drinks for his Denver friends instead. "That was it," Virgil recalls. "I gave up and went to work in construction. I thought, I will bury my pen ten feet underground and just make a living. Everyone thought I'd last about three hours, but I kept on for thirteen years."

During this time Beto abandoned Antena and began producing La Gaceta de Antena, which he calls "a regular magazine of life and truth." For at least a few issues, these subjects were enough to interest even Rosa Linda, who contributed a series of articles on nutrition, including "Proteins, Key to Life" and a think piece comparing dry beans to their canned counterparts. Beto wrote the rest of the paper himself--veering between exposes of dirty politics in Michoacan and opinion pieces such as "The Controversy of Success," inexplicably illustrated with glamour photos of Rita Hayworth, Dorothy Lamour, Vivien Leigh and other circa 1940 stars. At one point Beto even printed his own phone number, not as an editorial contact but as a potential spiritual counselor.

"I am prepared to resolve the questions that everyone has," he wrote, "and I want to improve your intellectual and spiritual life. Whether you are man or woman, if you have been badly treated, or have not been able to have good romantic relations, or have had bad luck--consult me and I will find the right advice for you. Talk to me about the unlucky star under which you were born, or your sexual relations, work or love. I am here to serve you. Remember, nobody but you and I need to know--our relationship will be absolutely secret."

Clearly, Beto carried on, but as the years passed his paper shrank. By 1983, when the Denver economy collapsed and Virgil lost his construction job, there simply wasn't enough Gaceta to support two men. Virgil went back to his old printing press looking for work, haunted construction sites and even offered himself as a dishwasher, but he could not make ends meet. "We spent eight months on welfare," Virgil says. "We were ashamed of needing it."

Oscar, now 22, is the only Aguirre child old enough to remember those tough times. "Dad said this: You want something, you pay for it," he recalls. "I bought my first bike that way, collecting cans. It was a dorky bike, but I'll never forget going over to my friend's house with it, knowing it was mine; I paid for it. I remember going to some government thing for free Christmas presents--otherwise we wouldn't have had any--but I don't remember thinking it would last long."

His father was not as optimistic. "It wasn't just the toys," Virgil says, "because after that they sent us to eat a free Christmas dinner at Currigan Hall. We ate the food, but I thought, Lord, give me the opportunity, and I promise to you I will feed people, too. And then it was like the Lord said, okay, let's see if you will."

Virgil was not accustomed to making deals with the Lord. "I was always going to church, but not him," Rosa Linda remembers. "He used to say, `You really prefer three hours of church to three hours with me?' And I would say, `Oh, yes.' He had these weird ideas, and his father was worse, but I told him, look, without God, you can't do nothing."

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