First Love Forever

By Mimi Pollack

For some people, your first love or passion can be hard to forget. This passion may be related to love or work. In the case of widower, Rafael [Fallo] Mareyna, he had two first loves which were painting, something he left and came back to many years later, and his late wife, Dora. Mareyna and Dora were married and devoted to each other for 66 years until her untimely death last year. Today, he takes solace in his painting and at the age of 87, it keeps him going every day.

Mareyna, nicknamed Fallo [pronounced FAYO], was born in the state of Veracruz in 1930. His parents were Polish Jews who arrived in Mexico in 1924. They moved to Mexico City a few years later as times were hard and they were struggling immigrants.

As a young boy, he attracted his teacher’s attention with his natural ability to draw. He began to paint with oil and continued painting for the next 15 years or so, exhibiting in different galleries in Mexico City, Monterrey and he even had a show in New York City while he was in high school. He studied with Bardasano, a Spanish artist known for his classical paintings. He also studied under the renowned Canadian born, Jewish Mexican painter, Arnold Belkin, who later became a good friend.

However, it is difficult to make a living as an artist and as was the social norm for Jews in Mexico at that time, he decided to follow a more traditional path, especially after he married the love of his life, Dora [Dorita] Sorokin. They had two children, and he needed to provide for his family, so he left art to pursue a more lucrative career, using his degree in accounting.

For almost 30 years, he provided very well for his family. He first worked at a family owned business that produced bed frames. In 1963, he teamed up with a German Jewish refugee , Luis Rosenfeld, and together, they opened up one of the first private stock brokerages in Mexico, Bursamex, S.A. Rosenfeld was much older and after his passing, Mareyna became the sole owner. Bursamex was very successful and when Mareyna decided to retire in 1992, he sold it for a handsome profit.

He did not paint for all those years, so his art was put on the back burner. However, he still retained his bohemian heart and befriended many of the local artists in Mexico. His daughter, Becky Guttin, recalls many a night when she was growing up where her house was alive with all those artists and bohemians, exchanging ideas and showing off their work. She grew up among those friends that he socialized with and inherited her father’s love of art.

Guttin later went on to become a successful artist herself as an adult and her father then delighted in her world. In fact, she was also the conduit for helping her father rekindle his old passion.

In 1998, Mareyna and his family moved to San Diego to begin a new chapter in life, and he began to feel pangs for the passion he had left behind. In 2005, his daughter invited him to come and work with her in her workshop. Not only that, unbeknownst to him and much to his surprise and delight, she had kept all of his old art furniture, including his easel, so he was able to dive right back in.

In addition, she later rented the space next door to her workshop on Miramar Rd, and now, they each have their own workshop side by side. Mareyna’s workshop is chock full of his paintings and creations. He has had several exhibits over the last few years and has a new one coming up this spring. His art keeps him going both mentally and physically. Having a good sense of humor helps, too.

Finally, along with art and family, he also identifies strongly as a Jew. He has not forgotten the struggles his parents went through or the anti-Semitism he felt as a child in school in Mexico. He is a strong supporter of both the ADL and AIPAC and donates to them on a regular basis as well as to the Red Cross, especially when there are natural disasters. One of his proudest moments was in 2017 when he became an American citizen.

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