Christmas with a Mexican Fan Dancer in Rio

Edelmira Juárez

Before the advent of commercial jets and long distance, non-stop flights, those who knew could take advantage of the circumstances.

After a year in the Argentine Navy, in 1965, I swung a trip on a US Air Force Hercules that took me from Buenos Aires to Panama. This happened because as aide to the Senior US Naval Advisor in Buenos Aires they did me the favour. They felt sorry for me considering that my monthly naval pay was one dollar. From Panama I flew to Mexico for Christmas with my mother who lived in Veracruz.

On return I did the same thing except the Hercules had to stop for a day in Rio. I spent the day discovering the city. Brazilians can understand Spanish very well but that does not work well in the other direction. The fact was that I ended up in a low rate strip parlour near Copacabana called Um Negro Gato.

The cheapest drink was rum so I had rum cokes while watching rather nice Brazilian women take most of their clothes off. One in particular caught my eye. I heard her speak Spanish after one of her performances with feathers. She was what in North America we would call a fan dancer. I called her in Spanish and she came and sat at my table. Her name was Edelmira Juárez. She was from Monclova, Coahuila.

This immediately made our conversation a pleasant one as I had lived for a couple of years in the mid-50s in Nueva Rosita, Coahuila where my mother taught in a two room schoolhouse. I was in her 8thgrade class. We would often visit Mexico City so we would take a bus to Monclova where we flew in a venerable DC-3 to Mexico City.

Both Juárez and I liked the heat but with the lack of Mexican food in Rio she missed her home. She was also melancholy as this was a few days after Christmas. She was planning on returning to Mexico and wanted to work in films there. She knew a young man called Arturo Ripstein who had promised her some work. He was a young darling of the then avant-garde film industry.

We had a long chat about Mexican films and we both agreed we liked Cantinflas but also the Argentine actress Libertad Lamarque who had left Buenos Aires pronto when she had called Eva Perón (not yet Perón) a whore. She was now becoming quite famous in Mexico.

As I left she gave me one of her photographs. I thought I had lost it but just a few days ago while putting old negatives away there was the 8x10.

Link to: Christmas with a Mexican Fan Dancer in Rio

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Into Bunny Watson. I am a Vancouver-based magazine photographer/writer. I have a popular daily blog which can be found at: