SAN ANTONIO, JULY 10 -- They don't give keys to this city. They make you a mayor. And today, San Antonio Mayor Lila Cockrell issued proclamations appointing a whole bunch of them.
"We're famous in Texas for our lady mayors," said one of the newest, First Lady Barbara Bush, standing in front of the Alamo. "But how are you going to like 19 lady mayors, not counting the one you have?"
The other 18 were French, German, Japanese, Italian and Canadian -- all wives of economic summit leaders and their foreign and finance ministers, who flew here this morning aboard a U.S. Air Force jet for a sweltering sample of Texas culture.
At the small historic fortress, where visitors are reminded to "Be silent, friend; here heroes died to blaze a trail for other men," the group stood quietly while Mrs. Bush praised "our local very best" talent, which had turned out to welcome them.
"And nobody can come to Texas without seeing the Alamo," said Mrs. Bush.
That stop wrapped up the group's four-hour tour, which started out at another historic landmark, Mission San Jose, founded two years after the Alamo by Franciscan friars.
The tour group included France's Danielle Mitterrand, Canada's Mila Mulroney, Japan's Sachiyo Kaifu and Italy's Livia Andreotti, along with Susan Baker, Kitty Brady and their foreign counterparts. Hannelore Kohl, wife of West German Chancellor Helmut Kohl, and Marie Delors, wife of European Commission President Jacques Delors, did not accompany their husbands to Texas.
Denis Thatcher, the only male spouse, skipped today's festivities. There were rumors that he had either returned to London or gone to Dallas to visit his son and daughter-in-law.
A lunch stop gave the group a chance to see an American home, though hardly an average one.
A marimba band awaited them at the Alamo Heights home of Joseph and Jocelyn Straus, where multilevel terraces cascade down a hillside overlooking the city and the Olmos Dam.
"It's about as exciting a house as I've ever been in," Mrs. Bush told reporters in Houston on Monday.
She said she wanted to take her guests to private American homes because during her years in the diplomatic corps, "Everyone said, 'We never get into a home.'
"I could have called a thousand people," she continued. "I just called two." The other was her friend Betty Liedtke of Houston, who gave a dinner for the spouses Monday night.
From the Straus residence, Mrs. Bush led her summit partners to the recently renovated Majestic Theatre in downtown San Antonio, where more than 1,000 children, members of local dance groups, were waiting to perform for them.
Bill Swinny, a retired schoolteacher who served as emcee, spoke to the children about the significance of the summit and told them, "Our First Lady has brought these wives to this city. These are some of the most important people in the world. You are important too because you were chosen to come here and help."
Mrs. Bush was seated in a box with Mrs. Mitterrand and Mrs. Mulroney. In the box in front of them were the Japanese and Italian first ladies.
Japanese-, French- and Italian-speaking interpreters were kept busy during the performance.
Afterward Mrs. Bush took the other four First Ladies to the stage to greet the performers.
Mrs. Bush and her summit companions had flown from Houston to Kelly Air Force Base near here, then boarded buses for the 270-year-old Mission San Jose y San Miguel de Aguayo, one of five established by the Franciscans.
Waiting in the courtyard were San Antonio's Mariachis Las Campanas, who provided musical accompaniment as the group straggled into the sanctuary. At the door they were greeted by Monsignor Lawrence Stuebben, vicar general of the archdiocese.
During the mission visit, Mrs. Bush, wearing green and white, took off her jacket in the heat, as did Mrs. Andreotti.
When the group left the church, they were shown "Rosa's Window," a weathered Spanish colonial ornamentation. Commissioned from a 19th-century San Antonio architect, the window spawned a legend that it was named for its creator's lost love, who was said to have been lost at sea on her way to Texas from Europe.
According to Henry Guerra, a San Antonio radio and TV personality who was the group's tour guide, the story has been refuted: The architect was actually a married man with a dozen children.
Bob Amdor, superintendent of the Spanish Missions National Park, told reporters earlier that Mrs. Bush had visited the mission before, though not as First Lady. "When you have 250 years of history, a lot of folks have passed through," he said.
Planning for the Texas trip has been meticulous, but in an interview published today in several Texas newspapers, Mrs. Bush indicated that there are limits to even a First Lady's hospitality. While swimming in the White House pool several months ago, she said, she was startled by an "enormous" rat that swam by.
"It did not look like a Walt Disney friend, I'll tell you that," she added.
"Fortunately, George Bush was there and drowned the beast," she said. "It was horrible."