Botica Guerra

When I was living on Laredo Street, the place to go for normal ailments was the corner drug store. It was Guerra’s Drug store located on the corner of S. Pecos and Guadalupe Street.
The owner was Fernando Guerra and he had been there a long time before I was born. He had the distinction of living among us in the same neighborhood. He was known throughout the barrio. People would come by the drug store to talk with him besides buying their medication.
My mother would take me to see a doctor who also worked at the store in a little room in the back. It was convenient because he would write prescriptions for the pharmacy which was also located within the store.
My visits to the store was always to buy some candy. When nobody was looking I was able to grab some tootsie rolls and just pay for the ones I came to buy. Sometimes they would see me and just give me the candy. First off it was a penny a piece and not worth the effort to call the police. Fernando was that kind of man.
When I turned 13 Mr. Guerra offered me a job as a delivery boy. I would go by after school and worked until they closed. My main job was delivering medicine to those who could not pick them up due to their illness. My wife now tells me that I delivered medicine to her grandmother once or twice while she was living on S. Leona Street.
My other responsibilities were to sweep the floor before we close. This was done by pouring an oil based compound on the wooden floor to absorb the dust then sweeping it up. Mr. Guerra also wanted me to clean the windows from the outside using a product called Bon Ami which left a powdery film on the glass which I promptly wiped it off. This was a daily ritual.
I learned a little about his family. He had two sons who worked with him in the pharmacy doing odd jobs. He also had a brother, Oscar, who had his own drug store on S. Flores Street. I know about Oscar because I was farmed out to him for a few days. I didn’t like it because It was too far to ride my bicycle and he didn’t use me as a delivery boy.
I made friends with Fernando Guerra Jr. while he was there working with his dad. He and I were about the same age and we sort of grew up together in that environment. He became the Director of the health department in San Antonio and I made a career in the military.
I also learned a few tricks of the trade while working there. At certain time during the week I was sent to the stock room where I would fill little bottles of water and label them Agua Florida. Those little bottles were used to put medication which was either liquefied or crushed so the patients could drink it with a teaspoon.
While Mr. Guerra was away on vacation, he left his assistant in charge. For long distance deliveries, it would require him to take his car. However, he asked me to go in his place using my bicycle. The address was on E. Hays Street which I took a long time to get there and back. It was almost closing time and I still had to sweep the floor before I left. Mr. Guerra found out about it and gave him a tongue lashing that he never forgot and the assistant took it out on me by giving me more work.
While I was attending Lanier High School, Mr. Guerra allowed me to participate at all school events which did not affect my work schedule. I was already in the drill team and rifle team which required practice time after school. I would go immediately to work at the drug store until closing time around 9:00pm. This was every day and weekends except Sundays.
I was fortunate that Mr. Guerra was an understanding guy. I told him that I was not going to work during my senior year so I could prepare to graduate. He agreed and we parted ways. That was the first time that I had all the time to myself. However, before that happened, I had joined the Army Reserves and was going to weekly drills at Ft. Sam Houston and that was taking some time. And that’s another story!

Christmas 2019

How was your Christmas? That’s what people ask me after the Christmas holidays. I wanted to say, “fine, we had a lot of gifts and I got what I asked for on my wish list” It wasn’t true. The reality is that I haven’t finish celebrating the holidays because we still have one more event that we still celebrate, the Three Kings or the Epiphany on the first Sunday in January.
Let me explain. My Christmas starts 9 days before Christmas Day. There two things that we do during that time. Every night we have a “Posada”, This is a reenactment of Mary and Joseph looking for a place to stay in Bethlehem after a long journey. People dressed up as Mary and Joseph going from house to house, knocking on doors and pleading for a room with the owner denying them a place to stay because they have no vacancy. So when they visit the last house, they are jubilant and the owner has a nice meal or refreshments for the pilgrims.
So, when we do have a Posada, it is well coordinated as to which house will be denying entry and whose house will be the last house. The host would have already set up the food and drink. The most important thing is that it is not church sponsored but made up by parishioners who want to continue this tradition which has been going on for hundreds of years by different families in different Catholic churches throughout the country in Mexico and the United States. The script and songs are the same. It has been handed down generation to generation.
The other tradition we go to see is the “Pastorela”. This is also a play about the shepherds who were visited by Angels and told about the Christ Child. It is a long play which last two or three hours and all the players are men and women who have played different role and have memorized all their lines.
The Pastorela was designed by the Bishop in Mexico to teach the Indians about the Christ Child and why it was important. This was 500 years ago and it has been playing exactly the same way every year around Christmas. Again, the roles are passed on to their family and each generation continues the role year after year.
Now, to make people aware of this tradition, there is a video about the Pastorela with Linda Ronstadt as the Angel and several movie stars as the characters in the play. It follows the play in a loosely fashion but people get the general idea.
How was my Christmas? Well, I can tell you that it is different from when I was in the military. Back then, it was a one-day affair with dinner provided by the Mess Hall for the families in our unit. We actually open the gifts on Christmas day.
Today we follow the Posadas every night before Christmas and in our family, we invited the whole family to have our own posada at home on Christmas Eve and we lay the newborn baby Jesus in our own stable. Every year we have the youngest in the family take the baby before laying in the crib and pass the baby around to honor with a kiss of humility. After that, we have a feast of Tamales followed by opening gifts that everybody has brought for the family. The next day was for visiting the rest of the Extended family and following up with more tamales.
So, how was your Christmas? We have menudo for New Year’s Eve and we still have the Three Kings celebration.