Contrasts in Culture, a Retrospective
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by Frank Shortt
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Five Wounds Catholic Church stands as a landmark on E. Santa Clara Street in San Jose where most Portuguese
families of east San Jose attend mass.
Just down the street is the Mexico Theater formerly called the Mayfair.
This theater, built in 1949, was the go-to venue for movies, fashion shows, and musical gigs for most of the Eastside and San Jose
State College, as it was then known. In 1962, this theater became known as the Esquire, having changed hands. In 1980, it became known
as the Mexico Theater and the fare was mostly Spanish language films. The last films shown were Asian language, and the Mexico was
finally closed in the 1990’s as home theaters became popular.
Five Wounds Church, built in 1914 stands as
a citadel, or refuge, with its carefully manicured grounds, ornate exterior, and the extravagant interior. This is quite a contrast
compared to the poverty seen just down the street. This is not to say that the church is responsible for the depravity under its nose.
Drugs, alcohol, and mental illness, broken homes and marriages have been the culprit. Sidewalks, littered with all sorts of discards
of humanity, urine stains and odors, are a sad El Camino between the church and the theater. The road to Calvary is a hard road.
The Mexico Theater has become a haven for the down-and-outers that congregate there in the evening. Some bring day old bread, some
a salad that was thrown into the garbage can behind Seven/Eleven, others bring jugs of water, or whatever they have been able to filch
during the day. Old mattresses, discarded by unthinking, cheap citizens, are stacked just inside the entrance to the, once plush edifice,
and used by homeless ones who happen by of an evening. They do not care where they lay their head.
man sat in a wheelchair, having undergone brain tumor surgery which left his legs paralyzed. His only hope was a meeting with his
lawyer that very day to discuss his future welfare. As he munched on Chinese Noodles from the package, one would have thought he hadn’t
a care in the world. His friend, an ex-convict, tried to meet his needs by promising to help him reach his lawyer. This ‘friend’ had
the human race divided up between the honest 20% and the dishonest 80%. He was convinced that not one merchant could possibly be honest.
One moment he was singing the praises of God, the next, cursing the homeless woman, with many four-letter expletives, because she
refused to leave the premises, even though she had been sexually abused, tormented, and kicked out of bed the night before. It seems
she could not keep her hands off the ex-con and he was determined to get some much-needed sleep. The area where these lost souls reside
was at least swept out of debris into a pile along the main thoroughfare.
The once beautiful, homeless woman
had just recently salvaged some day-old food from the garbage container in back of the 7/11, as well as some fresh items, bought by
a sympathetic passerby. Just after a photo session, she came alive and waltzed out in front of the theater doing a spring dance or
Irish jig. Her movements were very graceful for one so heavily laden with poverty. When asked where her family lived she pointed to
the Mexico Theater. Traces of her fading beauty still remain. She had braided her blonde hair, showing that some traces of femininity
still lingered. Her jug of purified water was being used to try and cleanse the drinking glass of the paralyzed man. She was even
bad-mouthed for this. The way of bad decision makers is very hard. Could it be that she is mentally ill and cannot help herself? Who
was responsible for closing all the mental health facilities throughout California?
With a fortress of Christianity
on every corner, most sitting empty except for Sundays, and possibly a midweek service, it seems funny that more of these vagrants,
hoboes, addicts, beggars, wanderers, and so-called street people, are not being reached and helped. It seems that the message of hope,
charity, love, and compassion poured over pulpits every session, is somehow escaping the hearers. Do not these hapless vagabonds have
any family hereabouts? Does not anyone know where these lost souls live and survive? How much are our politicians doing to help with
the problem as was promised fervently in their campaign speeches? Empty talk seems to be all that is accomplished, except for drawing
their extravagant monthly salaries and benefits.
As the Forgotten Ones of society gather in the evening to
recount their day of scrounging, the mass goers once again congregate to hear the wonderful words of what Jesus did two-thousand years
Construction of the church began in September, 1916. Though unfinished, the church saw its first Mass
celebrated on June 29, 1918 for the annual "Festa do Divino Espírito Santo" (Feast of the Holy Ghost). Thousands attended the church's
grand dedication on July 13, 1919.