When i was puerto rican summary: When I Was Puerto Rican by Esmeralda Santiago Plot Summary

When I Was Puerto Rican by Esmeralda Santiago Plot Summary

When I Was Puerto Rican by Esmeralda Santiago Plot Summary | LitCharts

In the prologue, an adult Negi inspects guavas in a New York grocery store and tells the reader how to properly eat one. She says she had her last guava on the day she left Puerto Rico, and begins her story.

Negi’s family comes to Macún, Puerto Rico when she’s four years old. One day while Negi helps Papi rebuild the floor in their home, Mami notices that Negi and the board are covered in termites. Mami scrubs Negi clean and chastises her for helping Papi even though she told Negi not to. Negi desperately wants to be a jíbara (country people, usually of indigenous origin), though Mami tells Negi she can’t be a jíbara because Negi was born in the city. Though Puerto Ricans celebrate jíbaro art and music, they look down on the jíbaro people themselves. Negi finds this hypocritical.

Mami soon gives birth to baby Héctor and Negi notices that her parents start fighting more. Papi leaves and is gone for days, and Mami accuses Papi of seeing other women. Negi learns that Papi has a daughter, Margie, with another woman. She’s thrilled at the possibility of having an older sister, but Papi tells her that Margie’s mother moved Margie to New York. Mami gets pregnant again, and Negi starts school.

One day, Mami moves Negi and her siblings to Santurce, a suburb of San Juan. Mami does this whenever she gets tired of Macún or Papi. In Santurce, Negi’s classmates call her a jíbara as an insult, and Negi doesn’t make any friends. Papi begins visiting around Christmas, though Mami mostly ignores him. Mami gives birth to Alicia, and not long after she forgives Papi and moves back to Macún with him. Negi is thrilled to be home again. She makes a friend, Juanita. Negi and Juanita often listen to Juanita’s grandfather, Don Berto, tell them jíbaro stories. When Don Berto dies, Negi and Juanita lead the procession to the cemetery carrying a heavy wreath. The next day, Papi explains to Negi what a soul is and tells her that souls stay in a person’s body until the person dies. Negi knows Papi is wrong, because her soul often walks beside her.

The following year, Mami has another baby, Edna, at the end of April. When it starts raining the week after, Mami tells her children to undress and play in the rain for good luck. Negi’s new teacher, Miss Jiménez, tells the class that the new community center will be offering the children breakfast and putting on a meeting where experts will talk to their mothers about proper hygiene and nutrition. Mami, Negi, and the children go to the meeting, and Negi is upset that Mami makes her watch her siblings outside instead of letting her attend the meeting. Several days later, Negi wakes up and finds a tapeworm wiggling in her panties. Mami gives all the children laxatives, figuring that they all have worms. The school starts a vaccination program and a classmate introduces Negi to the word «imperialist» and the insult «gringo.» He tells her that politicians are offering breakfasts and vaccines so that the children’s fathers will vote for them in the upcoming election. When Negi asks Papi about this, he explains the words to her but tells her to not use them. Negi doesn’t like any of the breakfasts at the community center and finally reaches a breaking point when they serve peanut butter in warm milk. Negi gets sick for days and by the time she returns to school, the elections are over, along with the breakfasts.

One Sunday, Mami dresses Negi up and Papi takes her to Abuela’s house to spend a week. They stop in a market to get food and Negi learns the word jamona, which means spinster. Papi assures Negi that she’ll never be jamona. When he leaves Negi at Abuela’s house, Negi realizes that Papi is using her as an excuse to see another woman, and she feels angry. That night she wonders if Papi doesn’t truly love her family. She starts crying, but slams her fingers in a door so she won’t have to explain her tears to Abuela. Abuela teaches Negi to crochet later that week, and Negi loves learning. On Sunday, Abuela takes Negi to church and tells her to think only good thoughts, which Negi struggles with. Negi waits all day for Papi to come and he never does. Mami, looking very pregnant and very sad, arrives several days later to get Negi. Negi decides it must hurt less to be jamona and alone forever than it does to be continually disappointed by a man.

Negi and her family weather Hurricane Santa Clara in a neighbor’s house with their new baby brother, Raymond. The neighborhood experiences financial hardship after the hurricane, and Mami decides to get work in a bra factory. Gloria, a neighbor girl, helps care for Negi and her siblings, but then she elopes. While Mami is unable to work, she and Negi visit Doña Lola’s house often, where Negi and Doña Lola’s son, Tato, secretly look at each other’s genitals. One day when Negi has had enough of their arrangement and pulls up her panties, Tato tries to grab her. Negi kicks him in the crotch. Mami drags Negi home and beats her with a frying pan. Gloria returns to Macún soon after, and Mami goes back to work. Gloria explains menstruation and where babies come from to Negi, and Negi is disturbed to learn about human sex.

Negi’s family begins to attract negative attention because of Mami’s job, and Papi dislikes the fact that Mami works. Mami insists that they need the money and soon asks Negi to take on more responsibility for caring for her siblings. Negi tries, but as a child herself she struggles to imitate her mother’s authority. During this time Negi envies her cousin Jenny, a spoiled only child. One day, Negi’s sister Delsa comes home and says that Jenny is giving kids rides on her new bike. Negi runs to gather her siblings, but Jenny insists on giving little Raymond a ride. Negi is unable to control her siblings and goes home alone, though she runs back when she hears screams of pain and terror. Raymond and Jenny have fallen, and Raymond’s foot got caught in the bike chain. Negi feels responsible, but is later furious when the adults blame Jenny. Not long after Raymond’s accident, Mami moves the children back to Santurce, to a neighborhood called El Mangle.

El Mangle floats on a lagoon filled with sewage. Negi gets up the first morning and Mami shows her how to use the bathroom, which is nothing more than a hole cut into the floor. Negi panics when she tries to use this toilet and Mami and Doña Andrea, the woman they’re staying with, laugh at Negi. Negi punches Mami for laughing. Mami eventually enrolls Negi in school. Negi hates her teacher, Señora Leona, because she’s mean and insists on speaking only in Spanish. Señora Leona calls Negi jíbara as an insult.

One morning, Mami asks Negi to do something very special: close a dead baby’s eyes. Negi hesitantly agrees. The experience is terrifying and Negi scrubs herself afterwards. A few days later, Negi and Señora Leona have an altercation in class, but Papi miraculously appears and saves Negi. Papi convinces Mami to move to an apartment in Santurce behind a bar. Raymond’s foot refuses to heal, and Mami vows to find him a specialist. After Christmas, Mami takes Negi to Tío Lalo’s house to stay for a while. At dinner, Negi learns that Mami is going to New York with Raymond to see a specialist. That night, Negi learns from her cousin Gladys that Negi will have to help peel potatoes for her uncle’s famous stuffed potato balls. Negi peels potatoes every morning for the next several weeks until Mami returns. Soon after Mami returns, the family moves again and Negi expresses a desire to learn to play piano. Papi arranges for Negi to take lessons with Don Luis. Negi enjoys her lessons and the attention she receives from Don Luis until she realizes that he’s trying to look down her blouse at her developing chest. The lessons stop immediately.

Titi Generosa comes to stay with the children, and Negi’s siblings torment her. Papi finally takes Negi back to Tío Lalo’s house. When Mami comes back from New York to get Negi, she tells Negi that she came home to find the house locked and the kids distributed among relatives. As Mami and Negi walk to the bus, men catcall Mami, and Negi is terrified and angry. Mami and Papi move together to a new house near a golf course. Negi gets her own room and spends her time listening to radio soap operas about kind men named Ricardo or Armando, and dreams about loving relationships as she watches her parents fight more and more. Negi’s first crush, Johannes, comes to the house one day, but Negi thinks he doesn’t compare to the men in her soap operas.

The week before Negi’s 13th birthday, Papi tells her that Mami is going to move to New York. Mami confirms, and she and Papi have a horrible fight about the fact that Papi won’t marry her. Mami packs her things and a month later, takes Negi, Raymond, and Edna with her to New York. They move into an apartment above Tata, Mami’s mother. When Negi starts school, she negotiates with the guidance counselor to allow her to enter eighth grade if she can learn English by Christmas. Negi is perplexed by the social structure at the school: white Americans, Italians, Puerto Ricans, and black Americans fight each other constantly. After two months, Mami and Negi move to a larger apartment so the rest of Negi’s siblings can come. Soon after they arrive, Negi starts her period and Mami buys her her first bra.

Mami falls in love with Francisco. Tata hates him, and Mami moves into her own apartment. One day, Negi sits in the window and a truck driver on the street starts masturbating and smiling at her. Negi is confused, especially when the man stops when Negi smiles at him. Mami gets pregnant around the same time Francisco is diagnosed with cancer, and he dies not long after their son is born. Around this time, Negi learns that Papi married someone else. She tries to disown Papi, but Mami won’t let her. Chico, Tata’s brother, pinches Negi’s nipple one day and gives Negi a dollar. Negi buys her first sundae with it. When Mami gets laid off, she takes Negi with her to the welfare office to translate.

When Negi starts high school, she sees a guidance counselor and tells him she’d like to be an actress. He’s unimpressed, but helps her prepare for her audition for the Performing Arts School in Manhattan. During her audition, Negi forgets a lot of her English and struggles through her monologue. She fears she’ll never get out of Brooklyn.

In the epilogue, Negi returns to the Performing Arts High School ten years after graduation to see her mentor. Her mentor compliments Negi on her audition monologue, and Negi hopes that one day she’ll be on the school bulletin board of successful former students.

When I Was Puerto Rican Summary

Best summary PDF, themes, and quotes. More books than SparkNotes.

Buy Study Guide

Buy Study Guide

When I Was Puerto Rican chronicles Esmeralda Santiago’s childhood in Puerto Rico and her family’s migration to New York City when she was thirteen. Esmeralda is four when the story begins, living with her parents, Ramona and Pablo, and two younger sisters. They live in Macún, a rural neighborhood in Puerto Rico, and Santiago vividly describes the wildness and picturesque beauty of her childhood home. Her parents suffer from marital conflict that impacts the entire family. Ramona is always striving for a better life; tiring of Pablo’s infidelities, she moves the family to San Juan.

In San Juan, Esmeralda gets teased for her country accent and mannerisms. Ramona gives birth to another child, Alicia. Pablo and Ramona reconcile and they all go back to Macún in the country. Esmeralda’s parents fall into a pattern of fighting, separating, and making up. Each time, Ramona moves the family, creating a sense of instability. In their many homes, Esmeralda and her siblings must adapt to new neighborhoods, schools, household rules, and cultures.

Ramona finds work to complement Pablo’s income, so the kids end up with the neighbor, Gloria. That all changes when Ramona gets criticized by their neighborhood for letting a neighbor raise her kids. At only twelve years old, Esmeralda becomes responsible for taking care of her six younger siblings. After the youngest, Raymond, seriously injures his foot, Ramona decides that they’re moving again.

They move to a neighborhood in San Juan called El Mangle, but it’s hazardous, having been built above a lagoon contaminated with sewage. Raymond’s foot continues to get worse. Ramona is determined to find a solution and travels to New York for medical help. She returns inspired by the vibrant hustle of New York City, and with a sense of hope that a better life is possible. When Pablo finally refuses to marry Ramona, she decides to move the family to New York City.

The family flies to New York, where they connect with Esmeralda’s maternal grandmother, Tata, who has lived in the states for many years. The family faces various hardships: discrimination, financial instability, and the challenge of adapting to a new culture. Teachers underestimate Esmeralda due to her lack of English, however, she proves her intelligence and hard work ethic. Pablo remarries, and Ramona is happy with her new boyfriend, Francisco. Unfortunately, Francisco dies of cancer after their first child is born. In New York, Ramona relies on Esmeralda to help her translate. When Ramona loses her job, the two have to navigate the bureaucratic welfare system. A mentor encourages Esmeralda to try her hand at acting. Esmeralda auditions for the High School of Performing Arts, viewing it as her chance to escape her life in Brooklyn. In the epilogue, Esmeralda has successfully made it through the High School for Performing Arts and is finishing her degree at Harvard.

Buy Study Guide

How To Cite https://www.gradesaver.com/when-i-was-puerto-rican/study-guide/summary in MLA Format

Cameron, Michelle. Cooper, James ed. «When I Was Puerto Rican Summary». GradeSaver, 2 November 2022 Web.
Cite this page

When I Was Puerto Rican Questions and Answers

The Question and Answer section for When I Was Puerto Rican is a great
resource to ask questions, find answers, and discuss the novel.

In pages 120-130 how does Santiago use juxtaposition to advance her theme in this section

What chapter are these pages in?

Asked by
Brierah M #1279438

Answered by
View All Answers

.¿Por qué los chicos no le hacen caso a Esmeralda en «Cartas desde Nueva York»?

Can you ask this in English please? Thanks!

Asked by
paola O #1274280

Answered by
View All Answers

What color are Nicasia’s eyes? (from El Mangle and Letters From New York) Green.

From the text:

She had sparse eyebrows over protruding eyes; one eye was brown, the other green.

Asked by
kary m #1274212

Answered by
jill d #170087
View All Answers

Ask Your Own Question

Elmore Leonard Contract Shorty read online

12 3 4 5 6 7 …67

Elmore Leonard

Contract Shorty


Twelve years ago when Chile first came to Miami Beach he was unlucky: it was a rare cold winter in those parts — only plus two on the day he and Tommy Carlo dined at the Vesuvio in South Collins and when Chile’s leather jacket was stolen. The one his wife gave him for Christmas before they moved here to Miami. nine0003

Both from Bay Ridge, Brooklyn, Chili and Tommy were old friends, and now they also had a common business. Through his uncle Momo, Tommy Carlo worked with the Brooklyn crew: he did the bookkeeping for Momo and took bets until he was sent to Miami with a hundred thousand in his pocket to take up loansharking. Well, Chile was connected to the mafia through relatives from the maternal side, the Manzara brothers. His usual job at Manzara Moving and Store was looking for bulk buyers for items like cigarettes, televisions, VCRs, stepladders, clothes, frozen orange juice…and so on. Although the family did not recognize him as their own — even despite the fact that he was raised as an Italian. It was just that not pure blood flowed in his veins, but slightly diluted by some Puerto Rican from his father’s side. nine0003

Chile wasn’t particularly eager to join the mafia, though, because that meant he’d have to abide by what he thought were shitty principles of respect for elders. It was enough that he had to consider these guys heroes and smile in response to stupid, but funny — from their point of view — remarks. It’s nice, however, to go to a restaurant on Eighty-Sixth or Cropsey Avenue, where everyone knows you by name and go out of their way to serve a very young man then … Debbie’s wife was also happy with this state of affairs, but only until after several years of marriage, she did not become pregnant. Then everything changed. Debbie said that once they have a baby in their lives, Chili should find a normal job and stop talking to «those people.» She whined and nagged until he answered her: “Okay, I agree, Lord!” — and did not join the case of Tommy Carlo in Miami. He explained to Debbie that from now on he was engaged in the supply of large hotels like Fontainebleau. She believed this and believed it for almost a year, until they stole his jacket. nine0003

That time at the Vesuvio they had a quiet lunch, and then Tommy said that he would wait for him in the hairdresser, in the back room, by the phone, turned up the collar of his sports jacket with the words «Palm Beach» as if it could protect him from the cold, and left. And Chili went to the closet to get his clothes, only to find a pair of raincoats and a flight jacket that had probably been hanging there since World War II. When Chili called the director — an elderly Italian in a black suit — he carefully looked around the almost empty wardrobe and asked in surprise:0003

— And you didn’t find her? Isn’t she here?

– “Then, can you show me a black leather jacket with lapels like a jacket?” Chile snapped. “But she’s not here, and you owe me three hundred and seventy-nine bucks.

The director told him to look at the notice on the wall, which read:


«You can’t wait,» Chili promised him. “I didn’t come to sunny Florida to freeze my ass. Are you following my thoughts? Give me the jacket or send me three hundred and seventy-nine bucks, exactly what my wife paid for the jacket at the Alexander store. nine0003

The director called the waiter and they began to chat in animated Italian, the waiter either nervous or eager to get back to folding napkins. Chili caught only a few words, in particular the name that was repeated several times: Rey Barboni. The name was familiar to him, as was its owner, who often hung out at the Cardoso Hotel on the coast. Ray Barboni, nicknamed Bones, worked for a guy named Jimmy Capotorto, who, by the way, took over all the local business from the recently deceased Ed Grossi . .. but that’s another story. nine0003

“Explain to the customer that it was Mr. Barboni who borrowed his jacket,” the director told the waiter.

“You see,” the waiter began, stubbornly pretending that he had nothing to do with it, “someone took his jacket and left this old one. Then Mr. Barboni took the one that came up and said he was borrowing it.

«Wait a minute, wait a minute,» Chili stopped the waiter, who didn’t seem to find anything out of the ordinary about some bastard taking a jacket that didn’t belong to him. — Explain again. nine0003

— He didn’t take it for good, he just borrowed it, you see. We will return his jacket, and he will return the one he borrowed. But if it was your jacket, then he will return it to you right now. Mr. Barboni only put it on to get home and had no intention of keeping it…

“I had my car keys in my pocket,” Chili told them.

Both the director and the waiter looked at him as if they didn’t understand a word of English.

— I’m just asking: how do you suggest I go get my own jacket if I don’t have car keys? nine0003

The director promised to call a taxi.

“So, let’s decide if I understood you correctly,” Chili interrupted him. “You are not responsible for lost items like my expensive jacket, but at the same time you are going to find Ray Bones’ jacket or buy him a new one. Is that what you want to say?

He knew perfectly well that they didn’t want to say anything except that Ray Bones was a good customer, went to the restaurant two or three times a week, and worked for Jimmy Cap. They also had no idea where Ray lived, and there was no number in the phone book. So Chili called Tommy Carlo at the hairdresser’s, explained the situation, clarified several times whether Tommy believed what he had heard, and asked him to stop by the restaurant. nine0003

— I want to pick up my jacket. And then I’ll pull this guy’s head out of his own ass and knock his teeth out.

“Tomorrow,” Tommy said, “it will be warm, the weather is going to be wonderful, I saw it on TV myself. You don’t need a jacket.

— Debbie gave it to me for Christmas, damn it, and she will definitely ask where the jacket is when I come home like this.

— Say you lost.

— Yes, she does not get out of bed after a miscarriage. It’s impossible to talk to her at all, in the sense that you can’t explain anything to her. nine0003

«Even better, Chil,» Tommy was delighted. — Don’t tell her anything.

— This guy took my jacket and I can’t even get my own stuff back?

Tommy picked him up from a restaurant, after which they drove to Meridian for Chili, who lived there at the time, to get some of his clothes. He grabbed gloves from the closet in the hallway, trying not to make any noise, but Debbie still heard extraneous sounds.

Read more

12 3 4 5 6 7 …67

Edward Rutherford — New York read free online

12 3 4 5 6 7 …269

Edward Rutherford

New York

© A. Smirnov, translation, 2015

© Yu. .

Azbuka-Atticus Publishing Group LLC, 2015

AZBUKA® Publishing House

* * *

Eleanor Janet Wintle, thanks to the end of days


New York is first and foremost a novel. All the families whose destinies are traced in the course of the story are fictitious, as well as their individual roles in the historical events described, but in describing the circumstances of their life over the centuries, I have tried to place the characters in an environment that either existed or was possible. nine0003

Roots are reflected in the names of the main characters. Van Dijk is a common and memorable Dutch surname. The master is quite ordinary English, although I have to admit that as I contemplated the Wall Street trading future of this kind, the expression «master of the world» naturally came to mind. White is another typical English surname. Keller is the 50th most common in Germany and means «wine merchant» or «cellar manager». O’Donnell is a well-known Irish surname, Caruso is a famous southern Italian surname, and Adler, which means «eagle» in German, is found throughout Central Europe. As for the secondary characters, the Rivers are fictitious, and the Albions appeared in my book The Forest. The name Juan Campos was inspired by the famous Puerto Rican composer Juan Morel Campos. The surname Humbley, as far as I know, does not exist, but in prayer books of the 16th century the word «humbly» is found in this spelling [2]. To interpret the names Vorpal and Bandersnatch, readers are referred to Lewis Carroll’s poem «The Jabberwockies»[3]. nine0003

From the point of view of history, very little had to be invented. This was done for the sake of clarity. I have simplified some confusing and complex events, but I do not think that I have sinned against the general meaning. However, the historical interpretation deserves some explanation.

American Indian tribes. I named individual local tribes, such as the Tappans and Hackensacks, who still appear in place names, but I did not want to confuse the reader with an excess of names, since there were a great many tribes in the New York region. Instead, I preferred the common custom of referring to them by their common language group — Algonquin. The northern tribes, the Iroquois, were named in the same way, although in places, where appropriate, separate groups are mentioned, such as the Mohawks. Perhaps it will surprise readers that in the account of the early period, I did not mention the Lenape when speaking of the native population of Manhattan. The fact is that this name appeared later, and I preferred not to use it in relation to people for whom it meant nothing. nine0003

Recent historical writings, especially Russell Shorto’s excellent book on New Amsterdam, The Island at Center of the World, emphasize the immutability of personal and civic freedom that the Dutch bequeathed to New York. I have tried to build this work into my story with a slight caveat in the sense that the history of civil independence goes back to the experience of medieval England and a large part of Europe.

My draft opinion that the English were more abusive slave owners than the Dutch was revised in discussions with Professor Graham Hodges, who elaborated on the subject in Root & Branch. nine0003

I preferred to believe that the English governor, Lord Cornbury, was indeed a transvestite. Several eminent historians have been kind enough to endorse my position.

In the course of writing this book, my understanding of the dynamics of relations between the British and Americans has changed significantly due to communication with Professor Edwin J. Burroughs, the respected co-author of the Gotham handbook[5], who at the same time published the book Forgotten Patriots[6], which is dedicated to this topic. nine0003

New York is inexhaustible for discussion and is one of the most difficult cities in the world. Any novelist who tries to embrace his story has to choose again and again. I can only hope that the reader will catch at least a fraction of the history and spirit of the city, which I love with all my heart.

New Amsterdam


Here it is, freedom!

The canoe floated with the current, and the waves beat against the bow. Dirk van Dijk glanced at the girl and asked himself: had their journey been a terrible mistake? nine0003

A large river that beckoned Dirk to the north. Big sky calling to the west. The land of many rivers, many mountains and many forests. How far did he extend? Nobody knew for sure. Only the sun, high above the eagles, making its great journey to the west, could embrace it entirely.

Yes, he found both love and freedom in this wilderness. Van Dyck was a big man. He wore Dutch pantaloons, turned-toed boots, and a leather vest over his shirt. Now, approaching the port, Dirk put on a wide-brimmed hat with a feather and looked at the girl. nine0003

His daughter. Child of sin. An offense for which, according to his faith, punishment was due.

How old is she, ten, eleven? She was very excited when he agreed to take her with him. She had motherly eyes. Sweet Indian child. Her people gave her a name: Palefeather. Only fair skin betrayed her origins.

— We’ll be there soon.

The Dutchman spoke Algonquian, the language of the local tribes.

New Amsterdam. Trading post. Fort and town behind the palisade. But this did not deprive him of his importance for the trading Dutch empire. nine0003

Van Dijk was proud to be Dutch. Although his country is small, its stubborn inhabitants rebelled against the powerful and greedy Spanish Empire and won their independence. It was his compatriots who built huge dams to protect fertile lands from the rough sea. It was the Dutch, who settled on the seashore, who created a trading empire that aroused the envy of other states. Their cities — Amsterdam, Delft, Antwerp — with tall gabled buildings along majestic canals served as a paradise for painters, scientists and freethinkers from all over Europe in this golden age of Rembrandt and Vermeer. Yes, van Dijk was proud of his Dutch heritage. nine0003

In the lower reaches of the huge river there were ebbs and flows. This morning she was drawn to the ocean. During the day, the current will turn back to the north.

Добавить комментарий

Ваш адрес email не будет опубликован. Обязательные поля помечены *