Sunday Kind of Love: Maria-Francisca Riaño (Pacha) and Robert Greenwood

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Maria-Francisca Riaño (Pacha) and Robert Greenwood. Photo by Caroline Owens

Once upon a time on a hot summer night in Paris, I met a whimsical, beautiful girl named Pacha. She had a distinct Frida Kahlo vibe and immediately struck me as one of those smart, cool and genuinely kind people who don’t come around too often. We became fast friends and I attribute some of my best Parisian memories to our escapades (my crazy 28-Shades-of-Gray-themed birthday party included!) Pacha soon left us to pursue her passion for all things activism in New York City. By the time I moved back to New York a few months later, I found her living in Brooklyn, head-over-heels in love with a fellow artist named Robert. It’s great to see your friend in love, but it’s even better to see her in love with somebody who looks at her like she is the most amazing person in the world, which is how Robert looks at Pacha. A few months later, Pacha called me to invite me to their wedding. I barely blinked an eye – some things, no matter how crazy, just seem right.

In a city full of people who pretend to be artists and activists, Pacha and Robert are different, because you know that they are not faking it. These are two people who are truly are committed to making the world a better and more beautiful place. A few weeks ago, my creative partner Caroline and I went to Brooklyn and spent a day with Pacha and Robert and to learn about their modern-day Williamsburg fairytale, which we now bring to you.

 

Marina: Let’s start from the beginning. How did you guys first meet?

Robert: I met Pacha at the bar below my old apartment. I went down there to watch the Obama State of The Union Address and Pacha was there watching it as well with a friend. Actually, I don’t think they were watching it, they were just having a conversation and some tea. We were sitting next to each other and then we noticed each other and I said hi…

Pacha: You didn’t say hi!

Robert: No, I said “I’m looking for someone to practice my Chinese with” or something.

Pacha: No, that’s not how it happened

Robert: No? You had lost your jacket, I know that..

Pacha: Yes. Were you drunk?

Robert: No! You had lost your jacket and then I put together a search party in the bar to find it. The bar general was involved and everything…

Pacha: Everyone was involved.

Robert: I shut the whole place down. 

Pacha: That’s when I knew that Robert was someone special. I had gone to this amazing healing session earlier that night and just wanted to tell my friend all about it over some tea. It was around midnight and we didn’t know where to go, so we just went to the first nice bar we saw. We actually thought the bartender was handsome so we sat by the bar, then I noticed Robert and I turned and told my friend “Hmm, there are really good-looking people at this bar..

Marina: What was this bar?!

Pacha: Lake Street on Manhattan Avenue in Greenpoint. We were speaking in  Spanish and then Robert came over to say hi, and then he said something like “I heard you speaking a different language, what is it?”  I think my Latin side came out at that moment because I thought to myself “Oh my God, a stranger at the bar, how cliché…” I didn’t want to speak to anyone even though he was very handsome. So I turned and I said “Mandarin” and he said “Oh perfect, I was looking for someone to practice my Chinese with”. I started laughing and then I started pretending to speak Mandarin, like “Ni ha ya..”  And then he followed, he was like “A-ya-yah..” So we started laughing, and that was it – I knew he was smart, he was fast. We kept on talking and suggested to go outside to have a cigarette, and I went to grab my jacket and it was gone. The jacket was designed by a guy I had dated..

Marina: That’s so symbolic.

Pacha: Exactly, it was a sign. So Robert said “It’s ok, somebody here has it. You’re going stand out by the door and we’re not going to let anyone leave this place.”  And then I saw Robert with his flashlight, looking for it. He was introducing himself to every single stranger in the room and everybody was loving him. I was like  “Wow, look at him..”  So we became friends and I decided to call him the Magic Man. I was not sure if I liked him or not at this point, but I knew he was special and magical. So I started talking to my friends about him without telling them his name, he was just the Magic Man. See, I’m a woman – I remember everything.

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Photo via Magic Man 

Robert: True. So then we hung out a couple of times and then we started talking on the phone, about nothing, for hours. I was traveling for work, basically living on the road. We were talking on the phone a lot and texting a lot..

Pacha: Liking each other’s pictures on Instagram…

Caroline: Modern love.

Pacha: (Laughs) Yes! And then, one night, there was a full moon, and Robert texted me that he was back in the city. He said “Are you howling at the moon or are you screaming at the moon” or something along those lines. And I think I said “Neither, but I would like to be doing both.” The next thing I know, he was picking me up. He grabbed my hand and we jumped in a taxi and he took me to the river. And then, when we got there, this drunk guy decided to…

Robert: Oh yea! We went to the Promenade, it was a really nice night and there were a bunch of people out. This drunk guy decided to impress his friends so he jumped off the pier into the water and tried to swim across the river. Within minutes there were helicopters, coast guard boats, firemen..  Meanwhile, I was in the process of laying on the flirting. I was very nervous and giddy about hanging out with Pacha and concerned about impressing her, so this crazy Die Hard Bruce Willis moment definitely helped. 

Pacha: Then we did a photoshoot in this garden, and we danced.. 

Robert: Yeah we danced to “Gardening At Night” by R.E.M.  

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Always dancing. Photo by Caroline Owens

Pacha: By the time he brought me back it was 3am. Oh, he also tried to convince me to go to his place..

Robert: I realized the futility of that endeavor very quickly. But I was determined to kiss her, so I did…

Pacha: Right in front of my house. My parents had arrived that day and I felt like a kid, sneaking out to go on this date.. On the way back, he stopped me and wrapped his arms around me and said “Pacha, I just want you to know that you are very special.” And I didn’t understand why he was saying that, I was kind of scared. And then, right in front of my house, he grabbed me again and said “I want to kiss you” and I said “OK”. 

Robert: That’s right. Very good kisser she was. At that point we had spoken so much on the phone and had really gotten to know each other. We shared a lot of the same dreams and ideas and I really liked the way her mind worked. Also, she is beautiful, so when we finally got to see each other, it was very powerful..

Marina: What are these dreams and ideas? I am curious because you guys are both from very different backgrounds but I feel like you are very similar as people.

Pacha: Yes, what I really appreciate about Robert was the fact that we share the same values. I remember I once gave you my opinion for a piece on romance and politics for Dbag Dating, and that made me reflect a lot on our relationship, and how we basically want to save the world together. We still spend a lot of time discussing how we could make a better world. I had never really met anyone who shared so much with me and who I fully identified with, you know?

Marina: That’s amazing. So love happened quickly.. Did you know you wanted to get married right away? 

Robert: Yeah, I actually did. It’s pretty crazy. I think I told her on a date very early on that I thought I was going to marry her. She was like “You’re insane”.

Pacha: On our third date! I didn’t know what to say. I thought “Oh my God, is he for real?” I had never experienced this before, besides this guy from Sudan who was desperate to find a wife.. 

Robert: Yea, typically the guy who would do that would be one of these aggressive weirdos. I don’t really see myself as that. I think I was just very smitten with her. I knew the second I saw Pacha that she was cool. Sure, she is beautiful and sexy, but she is also cool – I could tell her vibe. And you know, It’s very hard for me to find other cool people like myself.

(Everyone explodes laughing.)

Sure enough, I got very lucky, and she was cool as I had predicted. She just has such a charming personality and a sweet demeanor. She is a very driven, determined, and sophisticated cosmopolitan person, but at the same time she is just a lot of fun. I just knew that she was very special and I could never find anybody else like her..

Marina: Oh you just wanted to nail her down! We all know Pacha is a free spirit.. 

Robert: Yeah! I just wanted to keep being around her, to keep seeing her. You know, in this day and age the most radical thing you can do is get married. So many friends have decided that they never want to get married and some are getting past the point when they can even have kids.  So I was, like “Let’s advance our culture and go in the opposite direction!” I’m joking, but.. (Pauses to reflect.) You know, it’s a weird thing, that feeling that love is. It drives you to do all kinds of these irrational things. 

Pacha: On our third date, Robert took me to this Italian restaurant here in Williamsburg, Aqua Santa. He told me “You know what, I want to do this and that in my life, and I also want to marry you and have kids with you. I would love to spend the rest of my life seen by your side.” And I was like, “Oh my God, what? What are you talking about? Is that how you speak in the South?” I didn’t know if it was a joke, so I just said to myself “do nothing” and I changed the subject. I played du… I played Donald Trump. But, to be honest with you, I thought that it was the most amazing thing a guy had ever told me. It didn’t feel like he was bullshitting me. 

Robert: At one point we were getting more serious so we decided to get these tattoos as a way to express our desire to be together.. These are engagement ring for us. But I think we proposed to each other in many different forms,  many different ways, like we have done it 10 or 15 times to each other..

Pacha: No, I do know how he first proposed. We have this thing with full moons. The first time we kissed it was a full moon. Then the next time we met it was also a full moon – that’s when the magic happened. Then, two full moons after we had first kissed, we were having the most romantic date. We went to Central Park and the Guggenheim and then to the Plaza. Then we came out and it was a full moon again, but this time it was a red full moon and it was also an eclipse!

Robert: That is right! That’s so crazy that we saw an eclipse. We were standing by the Apple store and looking at the eclipse through the canes of the building. There was the fountain and the sun was going down. It was a beautiful moment and I said “I want to propose to you.”

Pacha: And we kind of got married right there. 

Robert: Yes.

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Night of the eclipse. Selfie via happy couple.

Pacha: The next day, I had an appointment at the tattoo shop to get my tattoo that I had been wanting to get for the past eleven years. I had a paper with all the explanations on why I wanted to get it, it was like a ceremony for me. Robert volunteered to come with me and then.. 

Robert: I hijacked your tattoo experience! 

Pacha: He was like “Oh, do you mind if I get the same tattoo as you?” I was like “Ok sure..” I handed him the paper with the meaning, which was very mystical – it means red electric moon, but it also symbolizes unity and infinity. I asked him if he was sure if he wanted to get the tattoo. And he was like “Yes, this is going to last forever!” He was very passionate and serious about it. I was so use to all these assholes and there he was, proposing to me and telling me how he wanted me to be tattooed on his arm forever. So we got these tattoos which are like our rings. Look, I actually fit inside of his perfectly.

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The perfect fit. Photo by Caroline Owens

Robert: It’s like “I protect you, you are inside of me.”

(Marina and Caroline collectively “awww.”) 

Marina: You guys make me want to fall in love.

Pacha: You will! We got our tattoos and then in December he came to visit my family in El Salvador. It was really beautiful. He got along so well with everyone, especially with my brother. My father was also very proud and excited about Robert – I think he felt that I was protected. It all just felt right. Then Robert ask my father if he could marry me. 

Robert: He was very welcoming and respectful of my wishes. It was interesting, he immediately told me that you have to make a home, a place for yourself. He started showing me all these small knick-knacks and pieces of artwork and little plates with engravings.. He said that “these are the memories you need to build, the things that connect the two of you and your history together.” He was basically giving me advice on how to ground a relationship and be in it over a lifetime.. 

Pacha: My parents were happy, because I thought I was never going to get married. Well, that’s what I used to say… 

Caroline: Was that because you didn’t believe in marriage, or you just thought you wouldn’t find The One?

Pacha: It’s not that I didn’t believe in marriage. I think I just decided a long time ago to have this mindset so that I could live a happy life without stressing about that, just living like a free spirit.. It’s self-defense, I think.

Marina: I used to do that too. Let’s talk about your wedding, which was amazing. 

Pacha: Our wedding was perfect. We came back from El Salvador and got our license but then I went traveling. Then, a couple of months later, we were talking and realized that our license was about to expire. It was on a Sunday, and we got married the following Friday.

Marina: That’s crazy. 

Pacha: Yeah, everybody was like, are you out of your mind?! My parents couldn’t come, neither could his mother. We just wanted a place to have a special dinner with our friends. The Jane Hotel immediately came to my mind, I love how beautiful and relaxed it is. So that was it, we did it there! Fifteen people came, we rented a room that looked like a ship cabin that had only one single bed.. 

Robert: We had a blast. 

Pacha: Yes! Do you remember the woman with the purple hair?

Robert: Yes, we went to City Hall and the lady that officiated the wedding had a purple high-top fade with a lean on it. She had probably performed thousand of these weddings, but you could tell that there was something spiritual about her and what she does with her job. So at one point she was giving me the lines and I was repeating them back at her, and she said “No, look at her!” and pointed to Pacha. That was a funny moment.

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Looking the right way. Photo by Daniela Vesco

Pacha: City Hall was awesome. I never expected that. There were so many happy people there.. Also, I guess we were dressed differently from everybody else, I was wearing this white tunic and Robert was wearing Converse.. So people started asking us if they could take pictures of us! 

Marina: They thought you guys might be rockstars so they decided to take pictures, just in case. 

Pacha: Oh, and we were leaving, there was this homeless woman by the courthouse. So there we were, these newlyweds, and we had this poor old homeless lady with all of her stuff standing  behind us .. I didn’t notice that until I saw the picture!

Robert: Yes, it was a classic New York picture.

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The homeless lady did not make the cut. Photo by Daniela Vesco

Pacha: It was the happiest day. I used to hear people say that about their wedding day and I never really believed them.. But then after ours, I understood the feeling. I seriously think that that was the happiest day of my life. 

Robert: It was mine too. It was a magical day. That’s the thing – sometimes you just have to be a kid and be alive and follow your gut and your heart, and life can be a magical thing.

Marina: Has anything changed since then? Anything different from just dating? 

Robert: (Puts on infomercial voice) Let’s see, for everybody out there, the sex just gets better, alright? It’s amazing how much more time you have on the weekends. The trips get more amazing, I noticed myself getting more in shape, I’m eating better.. There is no downside, people! 

Pacha: (Laughs) Well, for me, even when I had myself convinced that I didn’t believe in marriage, I still had all these fears and questions in the back of my mind. A friend actually once told me how worried he was about me, because he thought I was going to end up being this crazy artist with a million cats, that I was going to be that cliché. I would hide that fear, deep inside, that I was going to end up alone. So when we got married and it all happened so fast, it almost felt like Christmas morning. As my gift, I had gotten myself a partner, a partner in fighting crime. How awesome is that? Like, if I’m going to adopt cats, he’s going to be there with me! He’s going to be the father of those cats. 

Robert: There are really no downsides.. I think marriage is super powerful.  You can allow yourself to get cheesy about stuff. When you’re a guy, your life is usually about “How can I conquer the world? How can I get as rich as I possibly can?” And then you get married and suddenly you get really excited about taking cheesy vacations, like a road trip to Niagara Falls.. 

Pacha: But we always talk about how we are not going to save the world – not conquer it! 

Robert: Yes, save the world. 

Pacha: Together.

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Brainstorming on saving the world. Photo by Caroline Owens

Marina: What are some cultural differences?

Robert: Well let’s see ok, she thinks it’s ok to make a blanket statement about all things American. Like “Stop being Homer Simpson!” 

Pacha: I love Homer Simpson, I just don’t want to be married to Homer Simpson. So if I see Robert being lazy, I’m always like “Let’s do something!”

Robert: And I say “Stop making this into a telenovela! This is not a sitcom!” 

Pacha: Oh yea, that’s true. That’s what happens when you put together a so-called actress and filmmaker. Life becomes a movie – well, depending on the perspective. To me, it’s a movie, to Robert, it’s a telenovela. And I’m like “No, that’s actually like a documentary where I’m from!” 

Marina: Have you become more accepting of the American culture?

Pacha: I never ever thought I was going to marry or even date an American guy, and I love it. I don’t know if it’s the culture or just Robert and the way he was raised, but I love how much less dramatic he is. I’m used to Latin men with all their jealousy and chauvinism and drama. But I love my independence and Robert respects that. Sometimes I think I go too far, because I ask him to let me have the house for a few hours, but he gets that I need my alone time and my time with my girls. I think that might be a cultural thing, him being more calm.. 

Marina: Yea, less possessive. 

Robert: I think being married to a Latina has taught me a lot. There is this sense of community, this idea of experiencing everyday things with one’s friend and family that is so different from the US. Pacha and her friends really appreciate coming together for a meal, and I have learned from that. I also really like that Pacha has an interesting perspective on music and an expanded sense of aesthetics. I have always enjoyed the European culture, whether it be films, music, or art. It was always something that I craved and that is definitely satisfied in my relationship with her.

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Photo by Daniela Vesco

Pacha: Yes, I don’t like generalizing, but I always had this idea of Americans being more square in certain ways.. What I found amazing about Robert was how knowledgeable he was, how he had this urge to constantly expand his knowledge. He’s probably one of the most interesting men I have ever met. (Looks at Robert.) I fell in love with your mind. 

Robert: I fell in love with your mind too.  

Marina: Any advice? 

Caroline: Yeah, for us. 

Marina: I just want to hang out with you guys, because I feel like this rubs off. 

Pacha: I think the most important thing is to just let it flow. What was different about Robert from any other guy I had dated was how easy it was for me to communicate with him. I’m usually shy in the beginning, but with him I felt so comfortable. There were these moments when I would start really  liking Robert and I would go back to the past and start comparing it with my previous relationships. Every time I had to tell myself that this one was completely different, nothing like the ones before, so I should just forget about the past and let it be! And then it was so fluid that we got married in no time! 

Marina: Wait how how long did you wait exactly?  

Robert: It was almost a year. We met and got married a year later. 

Marina: Honestly, that’s not that crazy. Back in the day it was usually like that.. 

Pacha: Yes! Don’t waste your time over thinking – when you know, you just know. I remember on the day that I was getting married to Robert, I struck up a conversation with this cab driver. When I told him how long we had been together, he said “Oh that’s perfect! I married my wife after 6 months!” He explained that if you spend years with a person before getting married, there is nothing new about this person once you do. The more people I spoke to about this, the more I realize that there is something to it. 

Marina: Plus you guys are not kids. You had both dated before, you had the experience to know when something was right. 

Robert: I think the most important thing is knowing how to have fun. Some of my friends are so confused about their relationships.. That’s when I ask them “But do you really enjoy hanging out with her?” Find someone who you really enjoy being with, someone who makes you feel good. This can mean all kinds of things – that you can be super attracted to them, or you guys can tell funny jokes, or you guys can take a scuba diving class together.. Whatever it is, when you’re doing it, you need to have a good time. That’s the key. 

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Fun first. Photo by Caroline Owens

Caroline: Also, people tend to overthink their relationships so much. Like you said – if you enjoy the person, let it flow. Don’t make it more difficult.

Pacha: Exactly, it has to flow. If something as simple as writing a text gets complicated, or when you have to ask your friends advice on what to wear or what to write, that’s a no-no. But if you meet someone you can go anywhere with, someone you can say to “Let’s go have a vegan hotdog!” and the guy happens to say “Okay!”..  It’s like “Yes mothafu***, THIS GUY IS FOR ME!”

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Remember – vegan hot dogs are the ultimate test. Photo by Caroline Owens

Follow Pacha’s awesome Instagram here

Explore Robert’s work here and follow him on Instagram here

Peep our BTS here

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