Mil Gracias Brother Anton Mattingly, C.S.C.Thursday, December 12, 2019
While in St. Ed’s High School between 1956 and 1961 one’s native language was a problem if one wanted to fit in. The Latinos congregated as a group and those who were not Latinos (white guys?) were in a majority. One of the few ambivalent exceptions were the white Peruvians, Mexicans and this Argentine who spoke recognizable English. And out of all those groups was Richard Mosby, an Austin day student who was black.
One salient exception to all (as he did not give a damn and made it known gently) was Michael East who spoke both languages perfectly and dressed like the cowboy he was and is to this day.
Some like me were quietly ignored. We did not make it as the local whites and the Latinos shunned us for not being totally Latino. There were a few Texas-native Latinos who spoke perfect English and also (very important) Spanish. One of them was in my class and he did not utter a word of Spanish until a few days before we graduated in 1961.
In spite of being a proto-nerd I did manage to secure a couple of dates with the lovely and short Judy Reyes. She pronounced her name “rays” to hide the Mexican heritage of her name.
In those days a few of us had little cash to spare so we would go to barber college on 6th Street. We were warned to be careful as we could be rolled by a spic.
And so life at St. Eds had this happening in a hidden background.
When I had to make an option for a language to study, Lee (Buddy) Lytton III told me I was chicken to take Brother Anton Mattingly’s Spanish over Latin. I wanted to keep my grades high and I thought Spanish would be a cinch for me.
This was not the case. Brother Anton had no problem in having me in his class and being able to have a bigger vocabulary than he had. On every other count I was wrong and Lytton in the end acknowledged that perhaps Spanish was more useful than Latin.
Brother Anton (who was also our 11th Grade floor prefect) taught me good Spanish Grammar which was something I had not had since the 6th Grade. If anything he taught me to write correctly and gave me many of those logical rules for accents and punctuation. He taught me the why of my native tongue.
Because he had a Pentacon-F camera with an F-2 Zeiss Biotar I was able to buy a camera like his with an inferior F-2.8 Tessar with funds I earned by cleaning Brother Edwin’s band room and my job in Brother Hubert’s shop and cleaning the wooden basketball floor in the gym. The camera came via New York, from Olden Cameras for $100. I must point out that it still works perfectly.
I spent many moments in Brother Anton’s prefect room discussing Spanish Lit and photography. I never asked but I did notice that his door was always left open.
In 1991 I read in Esquire that Peruvian writer Mario VargasLlosa was running for president of that country. I convinced Books in Canada to send me there to interview and photograph him. I took it upon myself to read all of Vargas Llosa’s output in Spanish before I went to Lima. At first it was tough but soon it was an easy going. I can only assert that I must thank Brother Anton for that.
|Don Tirso de Irureta Goyena|
My maternal grandfather, Don Tirso de Irureta Goyena, a Manila born Basque man did his best to keep Spanish the official language of the Philippines after the Spanish American War. He lost. But he became the only Philippine member of the Real Academia Española. My grandmother would have been proud of the fact that I now read as much in English as in Spanish.
And that is just one more reason why I believe that St. Ed’s gave me an education to this day keeps me in competition.