Magdalena Begins Working at the Park Hotel

The following is part of a book I am working on with “Magdalena” about her life, an autobiography of sorts, translated and edited by yours truly.

After my divorce, I was 15 with a baby daughter. I had no education and other than the months I spent with my husband in a work-barracks, I had lived my entire life in the slums of Hatillo. I had several ‘boyfriends’ in the barrio. One of them, Alberto, told me he knew a place where I could make money having sex with gringos, and he thought I’d be better off with them than fooling around with the local hoodlums. He knew some other girls who worked there, and he knew one of the owners… not well, but a little, at least.

So he introduced me to “B.” I could see that he liked me right away, and he told me I was very pretty, but I was very young and it was a little dangerous for me to be out where I could be seen. He said I could work there but he wanted me to stay in the kitchen, where the dishwasher and cook were. And I said, “okay” and that’s where I stayed. I even had an apron I was supposed to put on in case the police came.

So I went there to work and nothing happened the first two days. Nothing. No customers. “B” would make sure that I left with a little money anyhow. He was a very nice man. So he gave me maybe ten dollars each those first two days. I could tell that he liked me, but he was married and his wife kept an eye on him, pretty close.

The third day he told me he had a friend who had come to town and was staying at the hotel. “B” wanted to introduce us. I said “sure, fine” and “B” brought the guy into the kitchen. The guy looked really strange to me. He wore a big cowboy hat with a feather in it and snakeskin cowboy boots. He had a big beard, was very tall and thin… I thought he looked like a cowboy from the movies.

I can’t remember the guy’s real name but I do remember his nickname. We called him “Chapatin” because he reminded all of the girls of a character in a local soap opera, an old guy whose name in the soap opera was “Chapatin.” He always walked around with a cup of coffee and a cigarette. He wasn’t all that old, when I think about it now, maybe fifty, but I was only fifteen so to me he seemed like such an old man, especially with that big beard and everything.

When we went up to the room, I was afraid. I wasn’t a virgin by any means, but it felt strange to be with a man so much older, and a gringo, too! I had never been with a gringo before. I looked at his big beard and snakeskin boots and thought to myself “Oh my God! What am I going to do? What am I going to do?” I lay down on the bed, but when he got undressed he took out a little p*n*s and I relaxed (laughs). What did I know? I’d never been with anybody from another country. Gringos are bigger than Ticos, so I just assumed they would all have giant d*cks! I was SO relieved.

When he went to lie down next to me he said “don’t worry, don’t worry, I won’t do anything to hurt you.” He could sense that I was afraid. So he lay down beside me and he just caressed me, and we didn’t have sex. He gave me maybe ten dollars to spend time with him like that. We went on that way for almost a week. It was like he was my boyfriend that first week. Anyway, we went on that way for about five days but one day we were drinking beer and I got pretty drunk. I was also beginning to get pretty horny so we finally had sex.
He wanted to spend all his time with me and I think he considered me his girlfriend. I’m pretty sure he must have been in love with me. He spent maybe three months at a time in San Jose then a month back in the States, then come back again.

He wasn’t paying me much for spending so much time with him, although he had lots of money. But he would take me shopping and he would buy me food. It was like I was his girlfriend, and we went on that way for maybe a year or so.

But it didn’t last, of course. When he wasn’t around I got to know other men, and they paid better and they didn’t expect me to spend hours and hours with them. Chapatin didn’t like this and eventually he gave me an ultimatum… if I wanted to stay with him I would have to give up all other men. If I didn’t, he was going to stop seeing me. I said “okay, bye bye,” and that was that for me, but he was pretty broken up about it.
This was just the first time of something that happened over and over with the me and other gringos. They were always falling in love with me and I was always breaking their hearts. It was nothing I was trying to do, but it happened over and over. I was very young and pretty [T. O.: and modest too!] (laughs) Yes, and modest too! But I WAS young and pretty, so I guess I can understand why they wanted me but at the same time, I don’t think they had any idea what I was feeling or thinking… It’s like they didn’t really WANT to know. They never stopped to think how strange it all was for a girl of fifteen or sixteen with no education, who grew up in a shack with dirt floors, to be with old gringos that I couldn’t even talk to.

To me, it was like they were almost from another planet. I had fun, for sure. I was making money, drinking, having lots of sex and doing some drugs. But their whole world was so different than mine, other than that we were both in the Park Hotel. I was barely past being a little girl and I’m lying next to this big, tall, skinny, old, blond guy who wears snakeskin boots and a cowboy hat with a feather in it! He had his fantasy. I guess they all did. Maybe they were hoping to find some sweet little girl who would have no mind of her own and would fall in love with them. But whatever their fantasy was, the real me wasn’t that fantasy. I looked like their fantasy girl, maybe, but they were never MY fantasy, and they never seemed to think about that.
It’s been thirty years since then and I have met a lot of gringos since then. But when I was fifteen, it was all new to me, and the only gringos I knew were the guys who came to the Park Hotel. As far as I knew, they were typical of gringos everywhere. When I think back, I realize they were a pretty strange group, not really typical gringos. But they were the only gringos I knew. There were some nice guys who seemed pretty normal to me, but there were a lot of very weird guys too. If I had to judge back then I would say that way more than half of them were alcoholics, or just weird in one way or another.

I drink myself and I liked to get drunk sometimes and get high, but I don’t start out drinking the first thing every morning and drink all day like a lot of those gringos did. They were more like my mother than the were like me. I don’t think they ever thought about what I wanted in life, but it was DEFINITELY NOT to spend all my time with an alcoholic I couldn’t even talk to.

[Note: There’s a saying, popular in Costa Rica among the ex-pats, that two types of gringos (single male) come here: the unwanted, and the WANTED (by the law).]

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  1. Tom, I'm not certain if this is meant to be a make believe story or real. But it sure sounds real to me. I do believe that we who go, or live in Costa Rica, too often never think about the feelings of the girls. If nothing else this article should cause us all to think about it a little. No need to mention my own experiences, because I don't think women in CR act much differnert than women in the USA. In big cities especiallly you can find women that need money. And it's them that are easy to take advantage of. They may not like what they do but they do it to survive. In a way I respect that, because they dot what they have to. I, like many take advantage of their situations. So I'm certainly not trying to act high and mighty. But I think treating women with a little respect will often get a man a lot more than a few dollars. I personally like women a lot. I mean I like them. I shouldn't explain more, otherwise you'll think me preaching, I'm not. All I know is my dollar goes a lot further when I treat them nice. Good luck to all who are listening.

    • The story is what was told to me by the 'subject' of the book we are working on. I have know her well and have never found her to be a liar. I know several friends of hers who have substantiated the parts they remember of her life. I have no reason to doubt her, although memory is never perfect for any of us.

      The book has been a difficult process, as the 'memoirs' are scattered and disconnected and I have to keep it all together somehow. But it will be finished eventually, even if incomplete. There is a lot I am unable to put here because of restrictions on what I have to avoid. I can't be graphic here or use certain words, for example. The book will have none of these limitations. Thanks for reading.

  2. I remember the old Park Hotel. It was an experience like no other. The floor show was unique.

  3. GJ Magellan says:

    Those are the kind of stories that make you analyze what kind of explorer you are, excuse me I don't like mongers it makes us seem like animals, I like explorers.. But I find there are many type of guys that I meet on my travels and like CaliDave said you have to have a genuine love for woman, all of them, we can listen to there stories but we all have them to. But what I think we all love most is the game, the lies, the truths, those little spontaneous moments of happiness that you get when you set on new land in a new place, the banter, the conversation, and in some cases the truth.. You know why I'm here. I know why your here so, let's have fun and if were really lucky maybe we can be friends.. WITH NO JUDGEMENTS..

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