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This Charming Hombre

Morrissey's mad love among Mexican-Americans

Garza's Moz obsession was instigated by Santos. Around 1989, Santos had heard "How Soon Is Now" shuddering in the background of a live remote radio ad, and after some research, found it was by a band called the Smiths. Next she hunted down the tape. "This is terrible," she says. "But I finally found it in a record store in the mall and I stole it." That little act of pretty petty thievery was to have drastic consequences on several lives.

A little later, while in the backseat on a family trip in Mexico, Santos stuck the tape in her Walkman and passed it over to little Abrahán. "Frankly, Mr. Shankly" was playing. Garza was not hooked right away. "At first, I kinda made fun of him," he says now. "I used to say he had a hairpiece. I'm not afraid to admit that." A couple of years later, though, he was hooked. "I sang 'Frankly, Mr. Shankly' in the fifth-grade talent show," he says. "The other kids were doing Biz Markie and stuff like that."

Needless to say, his heavy metal- and rap-loving schoolmates thought he was something of a freak. "If you liked him in my high school, you were weird and probably a nerd," he says. And his mom wasn't too happy about his fixation either. One time she ripped all of his Moz posters off his bedroom walls and tossed a stack of expensive bootlegs across the room.

Meanwhile, Garza's sister had taken a job in a local supermarket. A customer kept coming in, a Hispanic guy about her age named Frank who wore Morrissey concert shirts. Needless to say, a romance developed. "Even though we both lived in Houston, we would send each other letters," she says. "And he would always put 'Manchester, England' as the return address. My mom thought I was dating a guy from England." And of course they were married a short time later and remain so to this day. "Morrissey really brings people together," Santos says. "I wouldn't have looked twice at Frank if he wasn't wearing those shirts. If two strangers are both Morrissey fans, they're instant friends."

Garza says that his wife is a fan too, within limits. "Eight out of ten of the CDs in my car's changer are Morrissey or the Smiths," he says. "And sometimes she'll be like, 'Do we really have to listen this again?' And I say, 'Well, whose car are we in?' " If the situation ever arose where his wife gave him a "Morrissey or me" ultimatum, the consequences would be dire. "I would just leave," he says. "Let's end the article with that."

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