By Repairing Shoes, a Latino Reached his American Dream/Reparando Zapatos, un Latino Logro el Sueño Americano

Norma Garcia, Staff Writer

On the Southside of San Antonio, TX, on S. Flores St., there is the Southside Shoe Shop. As I walk in the front door, I see a couple that looks like they where from a story book. Mr. Gabriel Nuno is wearing a white apron that is likely full of shoe and boot polish, and his is wife wearing glasses. A client that only speaks English happens to walk in and Mr. Nuno calls his wife, Guadalupe, to help translate the conversation. I was impressed by the large amount of customers waiting in line to leave their shoes to be repaired.  We could all hardly fit in the small front lobby of the shop. I began to think if shoe repairing was a lost art!  I continued to observe their small humble shop and work area. 

The wall behind them is full of memorabilia, mostly photos of their children and grandchildren. I had been there before to drop off some of my shoes to have the soles repaired, however, this time as I looked at the photos, I happened to notice some graduation pictures. To my right, they had the Virgen De Guadalupe, and to my left, several wood pieces and a photo of an American Indian.

I knew I had to interview this couple, as they had an important story to share. Mrs. Guadalupe Nuno began the interview with a smile on her face and tells me, “Yes mija, my husband Gabriel have been repairing shoes here for over 32 years. He began when he was a boy in Mexico and his father taught him this trade at the age of 7 years old.”

Gabriel’s parents were originally from Guadalajara, Mexico, and Guadalupe’s from Zacatecas, Mexico. Both of their parents moved to Nuevo Laredo, Mexico, where Gabriel and Guadalupe met and got married in 1969. He was 26 years old and she was 16, and then moved to San Antonio the same year.   The couple has been married for 45 years.

Mr. Nuno happens to stop by and begins to share his story with me, as his wife asks him to describe how he first started repairing shoes. Mr. Nuno began in Nuevo Laredo, Mexico, with $20 his godmother had given him and told him to do something with it. He rented a room which charged him 75 pesos a month for rent, and established it as his shoe shop.  He recalls not having much work at the time. He was given an opportunity to work in San Antonio, TX, by Johnny Lira of Lira Boot shop. Mr. Lira would also later help him and his wife to immigrate to the United States.

Mrs. Nuno shares with me that they had nothing when they moved to San Antonio, and that they were lucky to have found good people. When they first moved here, they rented a room in the west side of San Antonio. They were one of the lucky families to be able to purchase a home in the south side of San Antonio, as their monthly payment was $60 and the sales price at $13,000, which was considered a lot of money then. Mrs. Nuno says she almost discouraged her husband from giving the down payment, because she was worried of how they were going to pay.  “We struggled, and at times, my husband worked three jobs,” she said. “He worked for Lucese Boots, a man named Uribe, and also at home bringing extra work, at times almost working all day and night to provide for his family.”

She tells me they where determined to provide their four children a better life, as her face lit up when she began to talk about them with such pride.  She tells me her daughter, Gabriela, is a Certified Public Accountant and is now working for a petroleum firm in Houston. Her son, Gabriel, has been a chef for over 18 years and works for University Hospital. Her daughter, Rosa Maria, is an engineer and just started working after being a stay at home mom.  Her son, Rafael, passed away at the age of 7 years old over 39 years ago. Finally, her youngest, Miguel Angel, is a talented artist working for Fiesta Texas for over 5 years, performing and playing different musical instruments.  They also have a grandson attending a university studying to be an engineer.

Mrs. Nuno tells me, “Mija, this is our American Dream! It was for our children to finish school and have a better future!”

The Nunos are one of many families in the United States that have immigrated to this great country and have achieved the American Dream through their hard work, sacrifice, and dedication.  As a new writer, I am fascinated when I find a positive story to share that inspires all of us, especially when it’s about humble beginnings with great endings.  With Hispanic Heritage Month closing last week, let us honor these families who have made a great contribution to our communities and to this country.

Norma Garcia is a Staff Writer at Latino Giant. Norma was born and raised in San Antonio, TX, where she has served as a real estate agent for over 14 years.  She has an impressive record of volunteering and giving back to her community, beginning at the age of 18 years old when she would go to Laredo, MX to help do missionary work at a small Christian church. She is the author of “My Dear Jasmine: From Tragedy to Triumph” published in 2008.