Alvaro Sacco Irigoin, age 35
Graciela Sacco Villanueva, 35
Alvaro Sacco, 14
Juan Manuel, 12
Martin, 10

The young
A day…

July 15

Juan Cabaal Street is gray. The whole of Montevideo is gray. It’s an austere old city in dire need of a fresh coat of paint. The rainyJuly weather and the current economic crisis do nothing to dispel this impression of drab silence.

8:00. Graciela Sacco enters her cozy living room, still half asleep and bundled up in a long rose dressing gown. She heads straight for the fireplace. The dry eucalyptus wood catches fire immediately, filling the room with its strong aroma. The fire lowers the ever-present humidity a bit, but nothing can completely dry up the moisture that peels the paint of the walls.

This morning, Graciela isn’t in her usual hurry.Her boys have winter vacation, and she and her husband have taken Thursday and Friday off to be with them. Monday the eighteenth is Uruguay’s national holiday, so they have almost a week’s vacation. Graciela puts the breakfast jams, caramel spread, and hot coffee on the table. The family will help themselves to toast. She prepares for a morning in the kitchen. Tomorrow she will go
to see her mother in the country, and she is making food for the men to eat in her absence.

Alvaro joins his wife, happy that for once he can savor his coffee and read his newspaper while sitting in front of the fire. He and Graciela normally leave at seven o’clock for the Pension Fund office, where they both work. She spends eight hours at the main office, and he spends six in the accounting department. At one o’clock Alvaro returns and makes lunch for the three boys, then leaves for his afternoon job as a taxi driver. Alvraro’s car represents a double resource, since he rents it every morning to a friend who uses it in
the same way. For the last three years, with the recession, Alvaro has had to work fourteen hours, instead of the eight he once did, in order to maintain his standard of living and give his children what they need.

11:00. Ten-year-old Martin enters the living room and climbs onto his father’s lap.He loves to start his day with a cuddle. Alvaro couldn’t ask for more. He is a loving man who gives each of his children the attention and affection they need. Three heirs, however, are sufficient; he has no intention of having more.

Juan and Alvaro Jr. finally emerge from their bedroom. They were up late last night and are all set to loaf around in their pyjamas, but their mother insists that they get dressed. Graciela is an organized woman, but she has neither the money for a cleaning lady nor a great deal of time to spend on the housework. Each member of the family therefore has to pitch in according to the schedule posted on the kitchen wall. Today it’s Martín’s turn to do the shopping, Juan sets the table, and Alvaro Jr. makes the beds. The house is transformed into a clean, pleasant living space to the accompaniment of a Brazilian samba.

The boys have time for a game of basketball  in the garden before lunch. Alvaro bought this particular house eight years ago because of the spacious garden. The lawn, trees, and barbecue pit make it an ideal place for the family’s ritual week-end asados (grilled meat). And the boys can invite their friends to play.

2:00. Chicken, salad, and crème caramel are eaten with gusto, and then it’s time to drive the boys to the community athletic center. Alvaro gets the taxi out of the garage. Even today he will cruise for several hours.

At the center, the boys and girls have been competing all week, and today there are the finals for the handball, basketball, and the water polo players. As a basketball captain, Alvaro Jr. picks his team, including his brother and the prettiest girls in the club. He has good taste, but is a bad loser. He will have to get over this if he ever realizes his ambition of becoming a physical education instructor. Juan, however, is much more relaxed. Every point scored brings an enthusiastic outburst and a chance to give his brother a hearty bear hug.

At home, Graciela is happy. It’s so rare that she has a day’s freedom that she can’t decide what to do. First she reads a bit, then picks up her knitting. Then she decides to surprise her men with one of her special cakes.

6:00. Graciela doesn’t know where the day went, and it’s already teatime. Alvaro never misses that, despite his busy schedule. On his way home, he picks up little Martín at the athletic center. Martín isn’t much of a sports fan. A gentle spirit, he is the poet and artist of the family.

7:00. Alvaro is back on the streets. Graciela prepares the evening meal, and Martin watches the never-ending adventures of Popeye and Olive Oyl on the television while puttering with his collection of treasures. Martin is a real pack rat. In a wooden box, he squirrels away bits of wool and pieces of cardboard that had been destined for the garbage, which he uses for his artwork. He is never idle. Everyone makes fun of him a little, but tonight it’s in the famous box that Graciela finds what she needs to make Juan an Indian costume for the athletic center’s end-of-the-season dance.

9:00. The house has grown chilly, and Graciela joins Martin by the fire. The meal is ready, but no one is there to eat it. It’s nine-twenty whenAlvaro comes in, and he is worried because the boys are still not home. Just then, the telephone rings. It’s Juan. They have played a game of Ping Pong with some friends and are taking the bus. They’ll be home in half an hour.

10:00. Juan and Alvaro Jr. arrive all excited and worn out, kiss their parents, collapse on the carpet, and describe the day’s victories and defeats. The end of their narrative is accompanied by the wolfing down of a ham-and-cheese pancake, Graciela’s famous cake, and several pieces of fruit.

The boys sprawl on the cushions in front of the TV. No matter how tired they are, they won’t miss the South American basketball finals, especially since Uruguay has a good chance. Alvaro, less fanatical than his sons, helps his wife clean up the kitchen, and ends his day with a shower.

11:30. Alvaro and Graciela’s bedroom is next to the boys’, so Graciela closes the door to cut down the unrelenting noise of their card playing and roughhousing. Vacations are like candies: to be savored to the very end.


For books –


Alavaro bought the house because of the spacious garden. It is an ideal place for the ritual weekend asados (grilled) The city might be austere and in need of a fresh coat of paint, but inside the gray walls the Saccos have made a warm, welcoming,and pleasant home

The city might be austere and in need of a fresh coat of paint, but inside the gray walls the Saccos have made a warm, welcoming, and pleasant home.