The Hot Dog: Symbol of Opportunity

Chalk it up to my formal preaching training, but I’m a sucker for a good illustration. Stories communicate on levels that other forms of data can’t reach. It’s one thing to theorize about freedom, opportunity and employment. It’s another to see those themes play out in real life.

Such narratives are even more powerful when they happen in one’s own midst.

Since taking my sons to swimming lessons at the Boerne City Pool for the last two weeks, I’ve noticed the concessionaires who staff the pool snack bar.

Between belly flops and low dives and motor boat rides, I finally had a chance to inquire about their story. It turns out to be an extraordinary one.

Tony and Roxana Santiago moved to Boerne from Puerto Rico two years ago. They live with their four kids and one dog in a three bedroom apartment on the north end of town.

In their native Puerto Rico, they worked in the motion picture industry: he as an animal handler, she as a camera assistant.

Unbeknownst to me, quite a few movies are made in Puerto Rico because the territory has favorable tax incentives for film production. Between movie shoots, the Santiagos also ran a family hardware store.

But Puerto Rico’s public schools did not pass the test for the Santiagos’ children and private school for four was becoming too expensive. So they took a leap of faith to experience a place Tony’s brother talked so much about: Boerne.

They came with next to nothing and did what more than a few immigrants have done over the years in our nation’s most legendary cities: They bought a hot dog stand.

The Santiagos set up shop on North Main Street in front of Hill Country Animal League. They refer to it as their “winter location.” They serve their hot dogs with a twist: onions grilled with an original Puerto Rican seasoning.

This summer Boerne Parks Manager Ed Puente asked the Santiagos to service the city pool concession stand. They committed to being open every hour the pool is and are careful to meet the parks department’s expectations.

As a result, they hope other opportunities will come their way. I suspect they will.

The Santiago children help with the stand. One is only old enough to splash in the pool and sample the snacks. Another assists with taking orders and making change.

All, like their parents, have contagious smiles. All, like their parents, are contributing to a better Boerne and a better America.

One family member I have not met is he for whom the hot dog stand is named: the Santiagos’ dog, Zuko.

You won’t be surprised by Zuko’s breed. He’s a Dachsund. That’s right. He’s a wiener dog.

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