215 San Antonio, TX: Angels

Paul at Blue Star's San Angel Folk Art wore black plastic glass frames and had tan skin and short hair. He modeled a blue shirt. "My family moved here 13 years ago from Mexico." He spoke fluent English with no accent. "This store is devoted to Mexican folk art and to those people and arts that are indigenous to the area. It is not devoted to those who just want to get a little more color in their lives. I have been in the collector's circle. I was dealing with art collectors, and, for some, it becomes a life and not just a hobby. They all are trying to scam each other. They want to put their name in front of a painting's name."

"San Antonio is important because it is a border land. We're over fifty percent Latino now. If you're getting at San Antonio, you have to look at that."

San Antonio's downtown municipal market had been transformed into El Mercado, which hailed itself as "the largest Mexican market outside Mexico." Paula had told me, "I remember being a little girl when I came here to Texas, and I loved going down to the market, because you could buy all kinds of items that were from Mexico. It's like you're stepping back in time into you're in another country. Green pastel arches on the Mercado's adobe siding led to a curved Spanish tile roof. Young boys snapped firecrackers on the pavement. A 12-year-old girl in tennis shoes Irish step danced to the South American Andean (NOT Mexican) music that played out back on speakers and from live musicians. Tattered flags atop the building looked like the flag must have looked after being shelled, shot, and wind-whipped in the Alamo.

At a store called Angelita, I spoke with the large woman behind the counter while she tidied in bright pink lipstick and black eye shadow, draped in a light gray smock above which hung a silver choker. "No," she answered my question. "I grew up here, and we knew everybody on the block and everybody on the next block. Some of the old [she pronounced it "ode"] neighborhoods you wish were more isolated. My parents live in their same neighborhood, but they no longer go out after dark, and they have to lock their doors. The gangs are really bad in San Antonio. Every citizen should have a gun, and those gangs ought to get the death penalty." With that, I strolled back out past the angel dolls and books on positive thinking.

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