La Temporada de los Huracanes en el Valle ~ Hurricane Season in the Valley
Growing up on the border by the sea in Brownsville, Texas we had to deal with the seasonal threat of hurricanes, year after year. Like most kids, this meant fun, it was a time to be out of school and to hunker down with los primos y toda la familia. (our cousins and the entire family) We all had a role to play: Dad was in charge of logistics and boarding up the house along with my brother Baltazar. Mom and Tía Mary quickly began to hervir huevos y papas, (boil eggs and potatoes) in case the electricity went out. I never really understood the correlation of electricity and cooking since we always had a gas stove.
Every household that we knew had a stash of (5-gallon water bottles) un garrafón, numerous tuna cans, can opener, boxes of matches, batteries, a transistor radio, velas, flashlights y más. These provisions were what I called the “end of the world provisions.” My parents had one too. These provisions were sacrosanct and were to be used only when we were under a hurricane watch as we all camped out at my Tío Rudy’s T.V. shop on Boca Chica Boulevard; behind the rancid smelling Lopez Supermarket. It was a solid brick structure y había mucho piso (and there was plenty of floor space) for all of us.
On the local newscasts, there was video footage of bare shelves at H.E.B. with la raza frantically buying up all the bread, water and batteries. My Mom would chime in, “gente escandalosa, que no saben planear esa gente bruta,” (scandalous people that are so dumb not to plan ahead) she scoffed disgusted with mi gente (my people) who are known for procrastination. She would continue her rant at the television, “¡la gente desidiosa me choca!” (procrastinators really irk me)
Our hurricane days and nights spent at the T.V. shop were filled with funny jokes, board games, and countless family stories. I remember that our conversations lasted well into the wee hours of the morning. Then, my Dad or Mom would announce, “¡Yo, me despido del aire!” This was code for all of us to lie down, shut our mouth and go to sleep. My cousins and I would giggle under our sleeping bags and make fun of the grownups. It was almost impossible to stop laughing. These were happy times.
Mom made sure we all prayed together as a family. She openly prayed that the hurricane would hit us in the USA and not “la gente jodida de Matamoros, México.” (the less fortunate in Matamoros, Mexico). She, like most Brownsvillians had a special kinship with our sister city to the south. I mean, most of our friends and employees were from Mexico. We shopped, bought gas, went out to Gracias Restaurant for all our special occasions. Border town communities will always be intertwined no matter what. These memories will forever be safe in my heart.