Pepe Arciga

July 22, 1957

Usually, advance press releases dealing with anyone’s mammoth or secretly puny celluloid projects begin this way:

So-and-so Productions take pleasure in announcing the filming of
another 12-reeler to star so-and-so…. It might be pointed out that
our producer, So-plus-So, has had much affinity with the people where
the picture is being filmed…”

That is how run-of-mill press releases go. Sometimes they wind up
forgotten in wastebaskets. Now let’s look in on still another fanfare
which struck closer to home. Me.

Here’s what it says:

“Dave Crown’s Coronado Productions is preparing a telefilm, late this
summer, based on the dramatic and colorful career of Kenneth Beldin. An
innovation will be the usage of Spanish and English language.”

After several checking attempts I’m unable to tell whether “Dave Crown’s Coronado Productions” is or ain’t.

On the matter of Kenneth Beldin, I don’t have to check. Years ago I met this man. To the end of my days I will never forget him.

He is tall, very gaunt and not unlike movie character Mischa Auer. His
face always had the look of a man tortured or consumed by inner powers
telling him to go out into the wilds and look for something.

I first met him around 1939. At the time I was employed by the National
Railways of Mexico in Mexico City. Desk and field job interpreting for
visiting Americans.

He had been hired by the railway to cook up suitable travel brochures
which would help attract more turistas from the Eastern Seaboard, then
considered lush territory.

So he was hired. Overnight he disappeared from sight. For days none of
his acquaintances or bosses heard anything about Beldin. Police were
alerted. The American Consulate as well.

Nearly two weeks later he popped up sporting a beard about the same size as that which now hangs from Ernest Hemingway.

His complexion, originally a pale tan, had turned yellowish. His
cheekbones seemed to have increased in bulk and the man’s light brown
eyes were crisscrossed with countless little red veins.

Kenneth Beldin, the writer-researcher, had done what few brochure
writers ever do when amassing material for their travel pitches. He had
actually thrown caution to the winds and set up shop in the
gosh-darndest villages in the state of Guerrero, where civilization was
something the dwellers wanted no part of.

And to complete the job of going native, not only had he picked up Spanish but also a good smattering of Zapotec dialects.

Indians, to Beldin, were the most fascinating thing in life. For hours
he would sit on his veranda talking to them, trying to solve their
inscrutability and making every effort to be liked by them.

His obsession was to prove, beyond a single scientific doubt, that
Mexican Indians had settled in Mexico after centuries of migration from
the Orient.

Now married to an Indian maiden named Xochitl, Kenneth Beldin has
earned for himself a niche that weighs–and then some. Recently the
official organ of the medical profession in Mexico told this:

“Scientists from the U.S. and other countries travel to exchange ideas
with him (Beldin). He has the undying gratitude of generations of
children in our nation. He will go down in history as “The Apostle of
Sesame Meal.’ “

About lmharnisch

I am retired from the Los Angeles Times
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