It’s 7:30am and the sun is just coming up over the horizon. The sunrise is a bright pink-ish orange and compliments the tall walls of the San Jose church. Usually I wouldn’t be wearing a sweater on a 60 degree morning, but South Texas has changed my opinions of hot/ cold drastically since I moved here. Matthew, the other intern, and I meet with our supervisor Steve, and begin mixing the mortar that we will use for the first half of the day. We fill up the cart with supplies and head over across the courtyard to the far left wall. We pull out two scaffolds and run extension cords so that Steve can listen to his favorite sports radio station. I have learned equal parts masonry skills/ sports facts since January.
I also grab mortar stands and boards for Steve and set him up to work on the ramadas. Matthew and I are a few doors down, repointing together. The ramadas are made from juniper logs, and are modeled to represent the original awnings that were established in the 1700s. The goal is to secure the ends of the logs into the wall.
It doesn’t take a lot of mortar to fill the holes. We set a few smaller stones to fill the larger spaces and try to match it to the original wall. The tourists walk by and ask us about what we’re doing occasionally. Some mornings we will remove the loose pieces of the wall from around the ramadas with chisels and hammers, which is a great way to alleviate internal frustrations. There’s always the thought of hidden treasure in the back of my mind but I usually only find bugs and dirt.
We end the day cleaning our work when it’s at just the right dryness. Using wire brushes, we gently rake back the mortar to expose the stone surface and outline the edges. Being involved in every lengthy step of the process involves a good amount of patience, but also makes me appreciate the end result that much more. There is no better feeling than looking up at the wall and realizing that our efforts aren’t “improving” the mission, but are refining and preserving something that’s already wicked cool and interesting, and making sure that it can be visited by people for many more years.
By: Ashley P.