‘One Weekend’

Last Saturday our former workman, Jorge, came to finish off some odds and ends. He was last here in the summer, and I think both Mike and I felt rather nostalgic seeing him again. ‘Wow!’ Jorge said, on entering our house, and I recalled that in those days the place had been a mess. Since then, our Saltillo tiles have been restored to their original peachy-brown, the walls have been ‘re-plastered’ and painted white, the fireplace in the main reception area tiled in creamy-beige Mexican stone, and the garage converted into a rather handsome family room.
Mike and Jorge worked all morning long, and during a lunch break of sandwiches and beer, Mattie remarked how much it seemed like the old days – ‘except that Nico [Jorge’s workmate] isn’t here!’ I am not sure whether Jorge is in the US legally, but I do know that his son, who was born here, is. Over lunch, Jorge announced proudly that his son will go to university this year to study engineering. Though Jorge has not had the chance to do more with his own life, he is one of many poor Mexicans in the US doing all they can for their children.
The following morning Mike, Mattie and I set off for an area south of Downtown San Antonio, for Sunday breakfast at Mirador, a charming old Mexican restaurant decorated with Diego Rivera prints. Afterwards, we drove round some of the Spanish Missions, built by Indians in the 1700s. There are five of them: the Alamo in the centre of San Antonio; the remaining four in gently sloping fields to the south. Around each, there is an unexpected air of tranquillity.
Monday was Martin Luther King Day, a public holiday that coincided aptly with Barack Obama’s inauguration. I quickly finished preparing the pizza we were to eat for lunch then settled down with Mike and Mattie to watch the ceremony. The main thing I took from Barack’s speech was his emphasis on equality for immigrants and minorities – and I thought of the likes of Jorge. The highlight, for me, of the whole ceremony was the recital, by an American of Cuban descent, of a poem entitled ‘One Today’. I felt the poem was an anthem to America and found it quite emotional, especially his reference to the ‘impossible vocabulary of sorrow that won’t explain the empty desks of twenty children marked absent today, and forever.’
Judging by the hats and coats, it was obviously colder in Washington that San Antonio, where we are currently enjoying temperatures in the early 70s and the sky is a ski weather-blue. During my walk in the park a couple of weeks ago, I saw thirty or so black vultures sitting on the low branches of a couple of leafless trees by the creek; against a cloudless blue sky the sight was truly one to behold. I had never before seen vultures in such close proximity and with their short hooked beaks, black plumage and wrinkly skin they reminded me of feathery versions of Fagin. I am not sure whether they migrated here for the winter but it struck me that many of us in the US are migratory birds of some sort!