The More Things Change…

2 October was National Night Out in the US, its aim to promote neighbourhood spirit and police/community partnerships. The head of our own San Antonio neighbourhood had planned a get-together at Mamacita’s restaurant, a short drive away. It is a popular Tex-Mex eating spot, though I am surely not the only person who finds the life-size Davy Crockett figure, playing a fiddle on an overhead stage set, bizarre to say the least!
The highlight of this fun evening was the appearance of our own San Antonio Mayor, Julian Castro, who, as well as wishing our neighbourhood well, urged us to vote for his proposed 1/8% increase in city sales tax for improved early school teaching. A popular, highly articulate Democrat in this mainly Republican state, Castro literally sprung onto the national stage this autumn when Barack Obama invited him to make the keynote speech at the national Democratic Convention in Colorado.
Mattie was particularly thrilled to see Castro at our gathering, and at the end of his short speech raced to get his autograph and photo.‘I know your brother!’ she excitedly exclaimed.‘Do you, how come?’ he asked, with a big smile, and Mattie replied that he had visited her elementary school to talk about careers. Castro and his identical twin lawyer brother (who is aiming for Congress this year) come from a poor, single parent family, but worked their way through the San Antonio school system to gain scholarships to Stanford and Harvard. ‘Where are you from?’ Castro then asked Mattie. ‘From England,’ she beamed, and he informed us that David Cameron had invited him and a team of businessmen to the UK in November. I then told the Mayor how much we had enjoyed his keynote Convention speech, at which point Mike turned round, with a grin, and announced: ‘You do realize I’m the only one of the three of us allowed to vote?!’
The 38 year-old Hispanic mayor is of a far more diminutive stature than one would have guessed from his Convention appearance, but this is compensated with a big, rich voice and plenty of enthusiasm. On Saturday evening, Mike pointed out to me the former mayor of San Antonio; Henry Cisneros was standing in front of us in the ticket queue at a local cinema. Much taller than Castro, the chisel-featured Hispanic had once also been the darling of the Democrats, working his way up to Clinton’s Cabinet. An extra-marital affair, Mike said, put an end to his career; and I remarked, quietly of course, how many high-flying political careers finished that way.
The former mayor sat on the opposite aisle to us during Ben Affleck’s ‘Argo’, a film about the CIA attempt to free six of the US Embassy hostages in Tehran. Not a particularly good film, in our opinion, though its timing was apt, given the recent attack on the US Consulate in Benghazi. One had a certain sense of déja-vue.

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