Relatively few Latino novels are published yearly in the United States. Now, from Rudy Apodaca comes When the Angels Came, a compelling story of a 12-year-old boy and of the old man who befriends him and a poignant narrative of their unparalleled friendship.
The story begins in 1934, in west Texas, when Santiago Dominguez, as a six-year-old, loses his parents and is then raised by his loving uncle. Four years out of high school, as a Marine, Santiago finds himself fighting in Korea, where he’s injured and awarded the
Silver Star for bravery.
Two years later, in 1952, he moves to San Miguel, the “tiniest” of villages hidden along the Rio Grande in southern New Mexico. There, for many years, he lives a quiet and private life, earning a reputation as a good man but nonetheless a recluse. Being modest, he tells no one of his past. Not until 2011, when Jamie Almaguer moves into San Miguel with his parents, do the boy and Santiago, now 83 years old, meet. The old man is now known as Don Santiago, the title, a tribute of respect.
Despite warnings from other youngsters to stay away from Don Santiago, “The Hermit,” as they call him, Jamie, by mere happenstance,
meets the old man at a grocery store. From that chance meeting, the two begin a relationship that bonds them, despite their age difference. Don Santiago guides and comforts Jamie through difficulties in his young life, his first confrontation with racism, the sexual assault of his close friend, and the sudden illness of his mother.
In time, Jamie comes to treasure Don Santiago, who molds him, providing the tools to tackle life’s issues. This, at a time most youngsters, often with considerable apprehension, are exploring the world around them and what living in it is all about. Ten years later, when a graduate
student, Jamie makes his final entry in his journal, the spirit of Don Santiago within him.
Above all else, Jamie writes, Don Santiago gave me what I considered the greatest gift anyone can give another. He believed in me. That can do much to invigorate and inspire the soul and the mind of a youngster just barely starting out in life.