Margaritaville

One early evening last week, Mike and I went again to ‘Sol Luna’, the restaurant we visited with Mattie the day we got married. The patio of ‘Sol Luna’ is always beautifully shaded, assisted by large hanging baskets of lush green foliage. At this hour, the restaurant was heaving and a happy din of chatter rang around. A smiling waiter brought us blue corn tortilla chips and delicious salsas made from serrano and chiplote chiles. Mike and I ordered the same dishes that we had eaten on our marriage day – small tacos filled with bean, cabbage and avocado; enchiladas stuffed with lobster, red snapper and shrimp. Mike drank his favourite Dos Equis beer and I a Margarita, of which Mike had a sip. ‘It has too much tequila in it,’ he remarked. ‘It’s still good,’ I smiled, though I noticed that after just a couple more sips I found it difficult to enunciate my words and my voice sounded very loud in my ears.
The best Margaritas in San Antonio are actually made by Mike. They have just the right amount of tequila and they are neither too sweet nor too sharp. He occasionally makes them when we are having a barbecue. Mike got his well-thumbed recipe from an acquaintance in Austin. I’m usually the one who hand-squeezes the juice from the limes; Mattie used to do this until she became bored by the procedure. Mexican limes are much sweeter than other limes but if the finished result is still a little sharp, we add a few drops of agave nectar to our drinks, which Mike pours into recycled Mexican glasses that have a band of navy blue around the rim. I like a little salt on the rim of my glass.
Whilst the chicken is grilling, Mike and I sit down with our drinks and pass the time of day with Mattie. It is a nice way to wind down after a day making the inevitable trips to Lowe’s – the DIY store up the road – and overseeing our workmen, Jorge and Nico. Last Saturday, we invited Jorge and Nico to have a drink with us before they left for home. These Mexican men are two of the nicest people you could meet. Jorge hails from a town called Musquit, close to the border. He is quite tall and handsome, wears a small beard and a baseball cap turned backwards, and speaks excellent, heavily accented English. Jorge goes to church with his wife early each Sunday morning, is sensitive, well read and learns German in his spare time. He also has a small terrier whom he dotes on and even equips with small boots during rainy weather. I like to think Jorge would be a poet in another life.
Nico has one of those faces I think Robert Capa would have liked to photograph. It is a timeless face. His skin is dark and sun-roasted, he has big white teeth, a perpetual smile and always wears a straw cowboy hat. Nico hardly speaks English even though he has lived in San Antonio for many years, so Jorge translates for him; Nico’s six grown-up children are all perfectly fluent. Nico’s smile is broadest at the end of a working day, when Mike offers him a beer. He was thrilled with an old sixties wine cabinet we were about to throw away. He said he would store his tequila in it. Tequila, Nico grins, is his religion.
When the two later left, Mike said he feared we would likely lose touch with them once their work on our house is done. It struck me that neither Jorge nor Nico has much money; they live very simply on the Mexican (poor) side of town – and yet they always seem pretty happy and contented with their lot. The same goes for the other Mexican workers who pass through our house – the tiler, the plumber, the glass and mirror man … What a good antidote these Mexicans are to our over-commercialised western world.

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