Asynchronous Assignment on Aguanile

Asynchronous Assignment (The deadline is 11/23 before the class)


1. Read the short story “Aguanile” by Amina Gautier.

2. Group A (Acevedo to Lester): In the comment section below, respond to ONE of the following options. 

Group B (Lorenzo to Woods):Respectfully interact with ONE of your classmates’ responses. Do you agree with their arguments and interpretations? Do you disagree? What other observations about Randall’s essay do you want to bring into the discussion?

(250-words minimum)


Examine how mourning for salseros brings into perspective the cultural losses of previous Puerto Rican generations and issues of memory and preservation.


Beyond being a beloved salsero, what do you think Héctor Lavoe represents in the story? Why is he at the center of the remembrance process?


How Amina Gautier problematizes the unstable transnational practices of Puerto Ricans? How diasporic detachment, disenchantment, and returns are intertwined in the narrative?

17 thoughts on “Asynchronous Assignment on Aguanile

  1. While the abuelo in this piece is absolutely a beloved salsero, I feel that salsa takes him to a place of contentment in his life and he sees so much of himself in Hector Lavoe. Salsa, “the national music genre” of Puerto Rico, transports the listener to a place of happiness and joy similar to some of the same themes that we touched on “Woe to Wonder”. As a grandfather spending time and relating to a child that is the product of dysfunction from a failed union that produced children that he didn’t have relationships with, speaks to his notion that Hector Lavoe “carried ghosts/demons with him” and was a “tormented man”. One can say that he probably felt the same due to his estranged relationships and how they affected is family. I feel that he lives a life of regrets due to this and uses salsa as a form of therapy to maintain some semblance of sanity as he has moved on with a new family.
    Out of curiosity, I listened to the song Aguanile and googled the meaning. It was important to him to share the song with his granddaughter, after not being able to hear it live with her due to it’s meaning. The song takes him to a place where he feels that it cleanses him of his sins or hurting his family and it’s a form of repentance for him. Spending time with his granddaughter and sharing his love of salsa keeps him in tune with her side of the family, while seemingly absolving him of the wrongs they felt he committed by abandoning them.

    1. I completely agree with Michelle and after reading closely I also got similar understandings and takeaways as you. Once I began reading the short story there was this particular section that instantly made me realize how much Hector Lavoe meant to abuelo. It was where he mourned way more over someone he had no relations with than what he did with abuela. Abuela was the mother of his kids and still this wasn’t enough to make him feel some type of way towards losing her. He didn’t even bother to go to the funeral and was gone for many years without any interest to reconnect with them. Because of this, it catches the readers attention while also demonstrating the importance of Hector Lavoe to abuelo. At first it may seem a bit difficult to fully understand why Hector means so much and why he is so significant to abuelo. Abuelo pretty much sees himself in Hector Lavoe. Michelle does a great job in explaining how when she referred to the quotes of “carried ghosts/demons with him” and was a “tormented man”. Abuelo says this when Nana asks why he was late to his performance. Abuelo basically says to cut him some slack for these reasons. Similar to Hector, abuelo also feels like he carries a load with him that he seems to not be able to forget…similar to demons. He isn’t necessarily happy for his decision on having a family with a women he thought was the one. He lives with this forever and it never seems to leave his mind. Only time where it seems as if it does is when he listens to Hector and to salsa. This is something extremely common even in todays day and age. Music speaks to people and too many serve as a way out. One can connect with an artist and with his story and translate this into your own life. This is what abuelo did and because of this Hecor Lavoe becames a crucial component to the short story as well as the center of the remembrance process.

      1. I agreed with Michelle and Yarony on how the grandfather used Lavoe and salsa music to avoid his negative feelings. It makes him forget about all the bad things he has done in life. “Nobody can escape them. You just have to stay out of their reach for as long as you can,” said the grandfather, regarding Lavoe’s sins when his granddaughter questioned why Lavoe couldn’t get rid of them. In my opinion, he is also speaking from his own life because although he doesn’t verbally say that he messed up in life, he knows in his consciousness that he did poorly. And knowing someone else is going through a similar thing makes him feel better because it doesn’t make him feel alone. After all, he is not alone because salsa accompanied him in his pain. A pain he rather keeps within himself. Yet, that pain affects others such as his granddaughter and first children. I think that he should have admitted he messed up verbally because he would have been another helpful method beyond the method of using salsa as a coping mechanism.

      2. I will be explaining how mourning for salseros brings into perspective the cultural losses of Puerto Rican Generations and issues of memory and preservation. Music and dance is a big part of of the Spanish communities culture. So hearing about one of their favorite musicians or dancers passing away hits home even if you didn’t know them personally. They felt like family. People can express themselves through music and dance so, they might have personal connections to the musicians through what they’re saying or doing. In the beginning of the passage the grandfather had called and addresses the musician By his first name, Charlie, Saying that he has passed away. Amina was confused thinking it was one of her family members but found out it was a musician. She was so confused how he could be so hurt by a stranger he didn’t even know personally.
        Going back to how music is a big part of the culture, she touches base on how her family would make her listen to a number of musicians Growing up,But it didn’t really impress her. She didn’t really care. A connection I want to make with this section is that growing up, in a lot of Caribbean households, growing up our parents played a number old songs such as reggae or even old R&B songs And we were forced to listen to it. We may not have cared for it when we were younger but as we get older we grow to appreciate And love the songs and go back and listen to them.

    2. I agree with you Michelle that Abeulo saw himself in Hector Lavoe. Music is a form of therapy for most. I believe that everyone has one artist, song, or genre of music that they can relate to in a deeper sense rather than surface-level enjoyment of music. Listening to Hector Lavoe was Abuelo’s therapy. I did not understand why Abuelo enjoyed Hector Lavoe so much out of all the salseros until he mentioned that Lavoe “carried ghosts/demons with him” and that Abuelo’s past was not the prettiest either. Reading that he left his first wife when she was very ill with three kids only to move to Puerto Rico to start a second family angered me, but I was able to understand why he related to Lavoe so much because of it. I also saw the trauma that his actions caused on Gautier. She really did not believe in love and looked for the negative qualities in a man because she was so traumatized by Abuelo’s actions. This is another experience many can relate to—trauma in one’s life and how it affects personal relationships and changing perspectives on other people. Gautier now had her own demons in a sense with the ability not to trust a man but was able to do good from it like buying a house by herself and fixing the home without any help. In the end, I think that Gautier finds closure after Abuelo’s death by understanding why Abuelo wanted to keep a relationship intact with her and sharing the love of Spanish music when no one on her side of the family wanted anything to do with him.

      1. Hi Jonas and Michelle, I agree with both of your analyses on the story and what Hector Lavoe is meant to represent in it. I like the part where you said that the abuelo sees himself in Hector, because of how he is a “tormented man” who “carries ghosts and demons with him.” Abuelo’s demons for him may be how he abandoned his family and just left them in the past like it was nothing. I feel that the abuelo is living vicariously through Hector Lavoe and other salseros in general as a way to sort of run from his past. I also agree with your statements on how music is used by a lot of people as a form of escape or even therapy. People can see themselves in an artist or a song and latch onto them as a form of comfort, and this is what I saw in the abuelo, latching onto salseros and their songs to run away from things he did in his past that he is ashamed of.

    3. I found your interpretation of Hector Lavoe’s representation in the story and in abuelo’s life to be spot on! I honestly think that the reason that the abuelo found Hector to be so dear to him was because he found himself in Hector’s work and existence. The abuelo as you mentioned has a lot of demons after him and abuelo must’ve confided in this similarity. I think that the reason Nena’s abuelo wanted her to listen and see Hector was to bring some closeness between them as he was unable to do with the rest of that side of the family that he abandoned. This may have been the demons in his own life that he related to. As Nena mentions, “ The chant of the song provided the means to chase the demons all away…He needed me to absolve himself.” This shows that exposing Nena to this music might help both him and her out to understand why he lived the life he did and where he was coming from in his decisions. Nena questions how her own abuelo can attend a funeral miles away from his home for a singer who does not know of his existence but cannot even attend the funeral of ex late wife who was also the mother of some of his kids. But these ghosts and demons he wants to stay out of reach from might be the family he choses to not see because they were a part of him he wishes they never were. As hurtful that is to Nena to accept, I think music and commonality with Hector was all abuelo had to believe he wasn’t such a wrongful man in his actions.

    4. I agree with you, Michelle. The grandfather is portrayed as unapologetic, but by the end of the piece it can be assumed that he attempted to right his wrongs by instilling his love for salsa music with his youngest grandchild. It was a part of him that he wanted to pass along whether his granddaughter wanted that or not.
      He related to the salseros because, he too, was running from his demons. Which were probably his former wife and children that he abandoned for whatever the reason. He felt a connection to these men which is why he mourned them so deeply. It was the salseros that helped him keep a small connection to his family in Brooklyn. In a way where he didn’t have to address the hurt he caused his former wife and two kids.
      It was a great idea to listen to the song “Aguanile” and google the lyrics for reference and context. While I am vaguely familiar with the song it is so central to Gautier’s piece.

    5. I agree with Michelle’s argument that salsa serves as a form of therapy and catharsis for Abuelo. As a listener of the song Aguanile, I can understand why he wanted to share it with his granddaughter as a way to show her his appreciation of their relationship, while also symbolizing his repentance for any wrongs that he may have committed. Additionally, I believe that salsa serves as a way for Abuelo to stay connected to his heritage and traditions, even though he may be estranged from his family. In a way, it’s a way for him to keep his culture alive for future generations, even if he can’t be with them in person. Overall, this piece has a strong theme of redemption and how music can be used as a form of healing and connection for people. It also serves as a reminder that although life is full of pain and suffering, it’s also full of joy and beauty. Through Abuelo’s love of salsa, he can share his passion with his granddaughter and create a meaningful connection between them.

  2. Hi Jerikka,

    I agree with every point you’ve made so far and wanted add on. Hispanic culture is heavily influenced by the type of music we listen to. Although some may see our music and just call it “Spanish music” we understand that it is not that simple. Each culture creates their own music and the way you would dance to that music. In this reading we understand how significant salsa is for Puerto Ricans when a musician passes away. The grandfather referred to the artist by his first name, Charlie, despite having an actual personal connection to him, because that is how we Hispanic feel about our people. Music in itself invokes strong emotions when you can connect to what the artist is singing. Therefore, a Puerto Rican listening to salsa created by a Puerto Rican artist goes to show how prideful they are. This pride results in the sadness and grief when the artist passes away, because the grandfather saw himself in the artist. When the artist died so did the connection between his music and the grandfather. It also means now there is 1 less Puerto Rican representing their culture in media. Similar to you, I was exposed to music by my family as well. When I was younger I would steal my dad’s phone, and look through it, because I was a bored and nosy little kid. I came across his the music he had and played every single song. One that stood out to me was called “Traicionera” by Pastor Lopez and I still listen to it to this day. Therefore, I can understand why the grandfather mourned the death of the musician, because I understand there is a connection between your roots and an artist representing your culture.

    1. Hello Everyone, hope all is well, my take on option two; Hector Lavoe in this reading represented culture, he also represented connection, even though he is viewed as famous and respected and loved by a lot of Puerto Ricans he is human and is fighting his own demons. Hector Lavoe was used as connection between Amina and her abeulo. The salsa music is what was used to always start up a conversation, Nena’s grandfather knew that he had allot of making up to do, and that he was never in his children life, so he had Hector Lavoe as a figure of a great man to show his grand daughter, something that he would have been if the situation was different. When Amina met her abuelo for the first time, and even in just phone conversations it was always about Salsa music and Puerto Rican artists, it was a way of him expressing himself and showing Nena her culture through music, he felt a need to let Amina understand her full background and heritage. Even, at the ending of reading, when Nena’s grandfather passed , Nena entered a cassette / tape into the audio player that was given to her from her grandfather with all the salsa music and music from Hector Lavoe that was used to remember him by. I am not Hispanic so I had to google Anguanile , I saw that it meant clean house / to clean one self in Yoruba. This was the same song that Nena used to remember her grandfather, opening all her doors and windows.
      All in all Hector Lavoe was used by Nena’s grandfather in many ways, firstly to build a relationship with Nena, through culture, giving her something of meaning.

      1. Hello,
        I agree with your arguments and interpretations. Hector Lavoe was an important artist to Nena’s grandfather and everyone else who’s listened to his music loved him. Nena and her grandfather seem to connect when choosing to attend Hector’s concert even if she didn’t understand much about the artist, these moments helped her have meaningful conversations with her grandfather. The artist was used by the grandfather to offer a chance for him to share his culture with his grand daughter. Hector represented much more than just being someone who shared music, he was also facing his own problems which people were aware of still loved him. The grandfather may have felt that he can relate to him due to not being the best being around his family, Hector was his escape to feel understood. The purpose of Héctor Lavoe represents in the story a connection relatable, culture, building the relationship of Nena and grandfather. This would keep them around each other and maybe heal the wounds that the family has been facing.

  3. Salsa is a very significant music style originating from the Puerto Ricans combination of other Cuban and Puerto Rican music styles. Fans of salseros hold salsa in such an imperative position because of the history behind salsa. If you google the cultural significance of salsa, it states, “it became a movement for social change and national recognition”. The evolution of Latin music was heavily impacted by the many social changes that have occurred throughout the decades. Latin music and the many influences it obtained from African, Spanish and other cultures can also be said to be a prominent part of Latin culture within many regions. In relation to the grandfather from “Aguanile”, his relationship with salsa was so impactful that it’s clear he felt more of a connection with music than with his familial bonds. I believe that he was deeply saddened by the death of salseros because music was the only thing he could connect back to his culture with. His family lacked that same love and recognition for salseros. Because of this, their overall relational disconnect, and the contrasting appreciations for their home country, the grandfather only feels bonded to his music. He doesn’t have anyone to really express himself to, so he uses music as a sanctuary. As salseros pass and salsa begins to lose that recognition and appreciation, so does the origins of his Puerto Rican culture. He can view how his own children and family are losing that connection to their roots. The preference for the newer, pop and hip hop styles can sadden someone from an older generation that’s attempting to keep those traditional parts of his culture alive. The difficulty he currently has in preserving this part of his culture with his family can tie back to how he struggles with keeping his own presence within his family.

  4. Amina Gautier problematizes the unstable transnational practices of Puerto Ricans by showing how little of the culture stays throughout the generations of her family while they are in New York. Diasporic detachment is shown in her mom and siblings’ relationship with their dad. Because he is out of their lives and there mom was ill, they didn’t travel to Puerto Rico much, nor did they listen to the music. However, it is not just the music that is lost. By the time Amina visits her grandfather when she is 12, she couldn’t speak Spanish. There is a clear disconnect between her family and their heritage. I feel like disenchantment also relates to this point because the disappointment they had in their father led to them rejecting everything else about their heritage. Returns are addressed in the problematization because Amina is only encouraged to make a visit to Puerto Rico in an effort to appease her Grandfather. This means that in her life, the importance of returning to Puerto Rico and experiencing the culture is not considered important to them.

    1. I agree with the points you made and can relate to it a lot. The fact that the family in New York resents anything Puerto Rican because of what their grandfather did is a little disheartening since I don’t think the beauty of their culture should be punished for what one man did. And since they live in New York it is quite easy to leave your culture behind and wrap yourself in the unique culture that is Manhattan. Their future generations could quite easily be disconnected from Puerto Rican culture and never reclaim it. I relate to her a lot because of how her connection to her culture is. She understands Spanish but doesn’t really speak it much, and loves the Spanish music she hears. I listen to a lot of Spanish music, and my personal favorites tend to be more of the classics like Joe Arroyo and Willie Colon.

  5. Amina problematizes the unstable transnational practices of Puerto Ricans by showing the detachment between the new generations of the family that are born in the United States and the generation that was born in Puerto Rico. For example she mentions how while her mother and uncles really embrace the Puerto Rican culture by listening to Puerto Rican style music, her uncles’ children don’t really prefer that type of music and prefer to listen to hip hop. She states, “mother and uncles eschewed all things Puerto Rican, and his second set of children shunned his tastes, preferring hip-hop and Top 40 tunes.” This really exemplifies the disconnect between generations and how unstable the Puerto Rican transnational practices are. In addition to this when the author mentions the protagonist lack of desire to go to Puerto Rico and visit her grandfather. She writes, “I had hoped never to meet him”… “the grandfather I knew only through pictures.” This also shows the family detachment because of the lack of connection there is within the family. Grandmothers and grandfather are immediate family yet the protagonist has never met hers but through pictures and has no desire to meet him either. All of these things show how unstable the Puerto Rican transitional practices are because of the lack of connection between each generation.

  6. In this reading, we see Gautier’s grandfather as an image of her culture’s past. He has a poor relationship with her grandmother, and to her knowledge she was a victim of his mistreatment over decades. Now, he makes cruel and irrelevant excuses as to why he was a bad husband. Gautier makes mention of how he would spend time listening to old Salsa records and their first conversations with each other over the phone were even about music. She mentions how because of her upbringing in New York, and how separated she has been from her culture, she was not aware of how much work was put into Salsa. Again Gautier is using her story telling as a means of understanding how culture can shape a person and their way of living. Her grandfather tells her when other Salseros pass away and it is clear he sees himself in every single one of them. Music is a part of culture, and Salsa a part of Puerto Ricans that can offer a means of comfort and solace. I believe that these are the reasons why her grandfather is the focus of this story, because of his relationship with his family, it is hard to offer him that same comfort.

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