San Valentín

Photograph — Alex Waterhouse-Hayward

It wasn’t until I was 15 that I first used a phone. In my boyhood Argentina (a third world country even then) by 1951, when I was 9, my mother bought a refrigerator from a departing American. I remember that the fridge had the compressor on the top. It was with that fridge that I made my first Lime Jell-O. Before that the “hielero” would come once a week and he would place a large block of ice in our icebox.

In 1953 I was invited to the house of the daughter (her name was Susan Stone) of the CEO for General Motors in Argentina . It was there that I saw my first TV. She sent her father’s Cadillac to pick me up at our humble home.

It was not until the early 70s that globalization began to affect the holidays of other countries. I remember some kids in the street in Mexico City wanting me to give them money,”Danos nuestro halouin.”

But it was in 1957 when I was in the 8th grade of a small one room school house in Nueva Rosita when I discovered San Valentín. The school was were the children of the engineers of the American Smelting and Refining Company learned an American curriculum. My mother was the teacher.

I hoped against all hope that the lovely Anna María Ramos who was in the 7th grade would send me a valentine card. She did but I was too shy to acknowledge it!

Valentine’s was special even in my high school at St. Ed’s in Austin. It was a boy’s school but I never received a card from the cute and very short Judy Reyes who was a cheerleader. From my vantage point of the school band, where I played the alto saxophone I would sigh when she would jump at football games and reveal her underwear.

Now Valentine’s day has little meaning for me. This morning I brought breakfast in bed for my Rosemary but since we do this every day it was not in any way special.

Thinking on how I would illustrate this I immediately knew I would find the picture of Salem holding her heart-shaped pillow.

I have a memory of my grandmother complaining about a friend she had when we were in Argentina. It seems her friend was a miser and pushy, too. She was called Valentina Perez.

Originally published at