Greg and I finally (finally, finally!) visited San Antonio. I had become embarrassed by our ignorance as people from the north were constantly asking us about this city. Yes, we’ve lived in Texas for a year and a half, and yes, we live just 80 miles from San Antonio, and yes, we have a San Antonio guidebook sitting in our family room, but NO, we haven’t been there.
We started our tour with a visit to the Riverwalk and then strolled over to El Mercado, a section of town known for its Mexican markets. I became skeptical as we walked toward El Mercado. We saw few people on the street. We passed a Goodwill, an immunization clinic, and a pawn shop — signs of a less-than-thriving community.
And then we reached the two-block El Mercado square. We stepped into a different country. Vendors hawked sombreros, candy, and art. Mariachi bands played. And many people waited in line to eat at the two restaurants in the area. We stopped outside La Margarita and debated our chances of getting a table within the next half hour. I watched one woman after another approach the hostess and speak to her in Spanish. We were losing precious minutes, falling farther down the waiting list. I started to wonder if the hostess spoke English. I turned to Greg with a look of panic.
“Are we allowed to speak in English?” I asked.
“Yes,” Greg said, as though my question were ridiculous. “The sign is in English,” he said, pointing to the restaurant sign.
I thought maybe I should speak to the woman in Spanish. I certainly know enough Spanish to get a table for two at a restaurant, but my accent is bad. I didn’t want to speak my halting Spanish in front of this crowd and see their pitying smiles. I worked up my nerve and approached the hostess.
“Hi,” I said.
“Hi,” she said curtly.
I requested a table for two, and seconds later we were escorted inside.
As we ate lunch, I felt like people were looking at Greg and I. They knew we didn’t belong. They probably laughed at us, asking for our water in English. We were the immigrants here.
We’re still not sure whether we visited San Antonio yesterday or took a wrong turn and ended up in Mexico.