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  • In 1963 when President Kennedy was shot I was 14. At the time I was an exchange student living with a family in Culiacan, Sinaloa, Mexico. I was sent there for the year to live with the Castaneda family to teach their 8 year old twin girls English. The patriarch of the family, Jose Luis, owned a hotel in the city and wanted his girls to learn the language so they could speak with tourists who visited. This all came about because a friend of my father's in Tucson, where we lived at the time, was a relative to the Castaneda's and asked me if I would be interested in going. I jumped at the chance! At 14 I was eager to test my wings and somehow I got my parents to agree. My father flew down with me in September and would leave to go back home in a few days when he was satisfied that the situation was suitable for me. I remember the meal we had on our first evening there in the hotel restaurant which was on a hill overlooking the city of Culiacan. As an appetizer they served us what looked to me to be the tiniest chicken legs I ever saw. We soon found out they were frog legs. That so impressed me (and not exactly in a good way) that this is the only thing I really remember about that evening. My father was impressed with Jose Luis and felt that I would be cared for so he left to go back to Tucson. Suddenly all the bravado drained out of me and I felt terribly homesick for a week or two. It was my first time away from home.

    I attended a private school while there but in the afternoons and evenings I would attempt to teach the girls English. They were a lot more interested in playing or having me polish their nails than studying, but I managed to teach them a little English nonetheless. I made friends with the housekeeper who was just a few years older than me and she showed me around the city, where to shop, where the post office was and so on. As it turned out, this arrangement lasted only four months because of a sudden illness in their family, but I was there in November of 1963 when President Kennedy was shot in Dallas.

    Jose Luis called me from the hotel when I was home from school for my afternoon break. This was quite unusual and as I took the phone from the housekeeper I was nervous. What had happened? He very gently told me the news. I felt incredibly sad and lonely all of a sudden. I was young and far from home and this terrible thing had happened. I remember feeling physically sick and just wanting to be home in the States with my family. The Castaneda family was very sympathetic and understanding, though, and that was a great comfort.

    The situation gave me the opportunity to see first hand how much love there was in Mexico for the young American president. It truly seemed to me that all of Mexico mourned the death of President Kennedy.
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