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Bound by love, living by traditions

Salvador and Margarita Avila, founders of Avila's El Ranchito, have been married 65 years.

May 06, 2011|By Lauren Williams
  • Salvador and Margarita Avila celebrated their 65th wedding anniversary last month. The two opened the El Ranchito restaurant chain in Southern California more than 40 years ago.
Salvador and Margarita Avila celebrated their 65th wedding… (Courtsy Avila family )

NEWPORT BEACH — The story of Salvador and Margarita Avila began long before they started the Avila's El Ranchito restaurant chain in Southern California.

The two met in the small colonial town of Guanajuato, Mexico, in the 1940s. She was 21 and he was 22. By the standards of the time, it was considered late for someone to marry in their early 20s.

At the end of April, the couple celebrated their 65th wedding anniversary, but 87-year-old Salvador was hospitalized for more than a week in the days leading up to the milestone. Family members worried that he wouldn't be able to celebrate the occasion April 26.

Salvador told the priest at his hospital bed to give him his last rites, that if he was to die, he just wanted to be beside his wife, daughter Maria Elena Avila said.

Salvador recovered, and was able to come home days before the anniversary. He and his 86-year-old wife celebrated it quietly, holding hands and eating dinner together.

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The early years

The beginnings of their relationship were far from conventional, at least by American standards. Dating for Salvador and Margarita followed Guanajuato tradition, with the local women walking in a circle around the large gazebo in the town square. Each was accompanied by a family member.

Men would buy a gardenia from a flower vendor and give it to the woman they had their eye on, said Maria Elena, who runs the Costa Mesa location of El Ranchito on Placentia Avenue.

The two never kissed before their wedding on April 26, 1946. Margarita remembers Salvador as being very forward for touching a lock of her signature curly hair before the marriage. Guanajuato conventions at the time forbade most contact between couples.

Their wedding was modest, with just a few relatives from both families present. The two came from humble beginnings and, following tradition, Margarita wore all black on her wedding day. Black was reserved for women of little monetary means; only women of material wealth wore white.

The two wasted no time in starting a family and considered seeing a specialist after not conceiving three months into their marriage. But eventually they began their family with twins, then went on to have four more children.

In 1958, the Avilas moved to the U.S., and Salvador began working 14-hour days at various factories in Southern California.

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