Two years ago, two of the houses on my end of the street were sold to families who spoke limited English. We discovered this when we brought pie over to one of our new neighbors (Alessandro), only to find out he needed to have his school-age children translate for him. Our neighbor across the street, Juan, spoke a little more English, but he was clearly uncomfortable having to use it. Unfortunately, this does put a damper on the ability to have friendly neighborhood banter. I pondered whether I should learn proper Spanish, but figured if the people buying $800,000 houses in San Jose were all speaking Spanish, then us gringos would all be learning Spanish sooner or later.
At this point, Spanish wasn’t a neccessity yet. They were both unintrusive neighbors, who threw quiet parties and quickly moved their (many) cars if one was accidentally parked across our driveway. Their children were largely polite, wholesome, and freely bilingual. And there’s a certain question I didn’t really want to know the answer to. If you want to become a legal resident or a citizen in the U.S., you have to demonstrate proficiency in the English language. It’s not a whole lot, exceptions are made, and those with newly-minted green cards may forget what they just learned. But largely, our legal immigrants stumble along, and quickly built their language skills as they assimilate. In any case, having only Spanish speaking families was a change for our street, where we have more than a few immigrants, but all of whom, up to then, had been fluent in English.
But last month, a realtor’s sale sign abruptly went up in front of Juan’s house, and the other house where no English was spoken was suddenly abandoned. Yesterday, one of my English-speaking neighbors came over to borrow my sewing machine, and told me Alessandro’s house had been foreclosed upon, and Juan had told her he hadn’t made a mortgage payment for the last three months. Juan’s house, by the way, was the most updated and remodelled house on our street, and he’d agreed to pay $853,000 for it. Well, the joke’s on the bank, because Juan also said he hadn’t made any down payment on the house, and the bank’s desperately hoping to get $700,000 for it now.
It’s fairly clear someone was way too lax with underwriting the home loans. I just hope those who replace Juan and Alessandro are nice, no matter what language they speak.