Puerto Rican Culture

Asynchronous Assignment on Bodega Dreams (Pages 128-157; Book II Rounds 5-7)

In rounds five to seven from the second book of Bodega Dreams, Ernesto Quiñonez pays attention to Nancy and Julio’s marital problems, to the centrality of Christianity to many in the Puerto Rican and Latinx community, and to the imminence of war between underground bosses Aaron Fischman from the Lower East Side (Loisaida) and Willie Bodega from East Harlem (El barrio).



In the comment section down below, write a (200-word minimum) response based on ONE of the following prompts (due on 5/3 before the class):


How the matter of women’s agency and social mobility within Puerto Rican and Latinx societies are integrated into the representation of the pentecostal church? How Nancy’s (Blanca’s) points of view clash with Julio’s (Chino’s)? How do you interpret Julio’s decision of attending church? What he discovers while there?


What Chino finds out regarding Salazar while riding with Sapo? How Sapo takes the opportunity to criticize Chino’s colorism and complexes with Latinas?


Recapitulate on the criminal case as of this point in the plot. What are the connections between the fire at Bodega’s building and Nazario and Chino’s visit to Mr. Cavalleri? How bosses Bodega and Fischman are implicated?


Respectfully interact with ONE of your classmates’ responses. Do you agree with their points and interpretations? Do you disagree? What other observations about pages 128-157 (Book II Rounds 5-7) from Bodega Dreams do you want to bring into the discussion?

Bodega Dreams (Pages 83-127; Book II Rounds 1-4)- Ernesto Quiñonez

Entry Question

Ernesto Quiñonez/Chino mentions Piri Thomas as a cultural figure that got right the struggles of Puerto Ricans in El barrio. How this poem resonates with the novel? What ideas they share?

Book II, Rounds 1-4

In these chapters, author Ernesto Quiñonez keeps exploring the topic of Latinxs and education by presenting a flashback of a violent event in Junior High. After being confronted by a bigot English teacher, Mr. Blessington, Sapo bites him in the neck (something similar happened to the assassinated journalist). Quiñonez also expands on the relationships between lawyer Nazario, Bodega, and Julio. We learn how Nazario is the face of Bodega’s operation in the neighborhood. He is respected and feared in the streets but he distributes help and directly interacts with the community. Chino also confirms that Bodega effectively sent Sapo to kill Salazar the journalist allegedly working with a “Big Fish” from Loisaida (Bodega’s rival, Fischman). He also discovers that Bodega used him in order to present himself as “family” to Vera (Bodega organized the donation and the ceremony).  Lastly, these chapters present the reunification and re-ignited romance between Willie Bodega and Vera (Izzy and Veronica). Veronica seems impressed by Willie’s acquisitive power.

Oral presentation on the novel Bodega Dreams (Pages 83-127).

Usher, Kirkland L

Von Drathen-Ruiz, Olivia

Open Debate 

After re-reading pages 106-107, what do you think of Bodega and Nazario’s plan for el Barrio, what ideas seem reasonable? Which ones do you oppose or make you conflicted? Discuss both pros and cons.

Asynchronous Assignment on Bodega Dreams (Pages 43-82; Book I Rounds 5-9)

In rounds five to nine from Book I of Bodega Dreams, Ernesto Quiñonez explores how Julio/Chino’s decides to enter “in business” with Willie Bodega and his crew as well as with Deborah (“Negra/Negy”).  The reader also perceives Chino’s views on gender, Afro-religion, migration, and citizenship, Boricua cultural institutions, street and family codes. This first part ends with a crime that will let Chino understands the dangers of his involvement with Bodega and his homeboy, Sapo.



In the comment section down below, write a (200-word minimum) response based on ONE of the following prompts (due on 4/26 before class):


How Chino’s moral flexibility is connected to his family’s socio-economic needs?

Refer to specific chapters, excerpts, plot development, and/or characters.


In chapter nine, Willie Bodega tells Chino how the Young Lords during the 70s challenged Puerto Rican and Latinx patriarchy (“Down with machismo and male chauvinism!”). They acknowledge that “Latin women were undergoing a revolution and this would force the Latin man to change his ways and reinvent himself (80),” considering how Chino describes, narrates, and analyzes female characters, do you think women achieved their goals and men changed their ways?

Refer to specific chapters, excerpts, plot development, and/or characters.


Chapter six, “Qué Viva Changó,” simultaneously re-inforces racial sterotypes and highlights the centrality of Afro-diasporic spiritual practices and spaces within El barrio. Discuss.


Analyze how the conjunction of the setting (El Museo del Barrio) and the story of his relationship with Veronica (Vera) allows the reader to perceive a different, more sensitive side of Willie Bodega.


Respectfully interact with ONE of your classmates’ responses. Do you agree with their points and interpretations? Do you disagree? What other observations about pages 43-82 from Bodega Dreams do you want to bring into the discussion?

Bodega Dreams (Pages 1-42; Book I Rounds 1-4)- Ernesto Quiñonez

Entry Question

Have you had a similar experience of neglect and cultural erasure in your schools as the ones described by Chino in Bodega Dreams?

Bodega Dreams (Chapters 1-4)

In these first chapters, Puerto Rican-Ecuadorian novelist Ernesto Quiñonez establishes, Julio, aka Chino as a central narrator. Chino describes his experiences growing up in El barrio, a marginalized Puerto Rican and Latinx neighborhood up until the 90s (the present of the story). Through Chino’s rendition of these pages, the reader gets an urban portrait and identifies four major characters:

.Sapo, a street hustler that loves Harlem

.Nancy, his wife, and a complex moral compass

.Willie Bodega, an ex-Young Lord activist turned shady realtor and the neighborhood’s benefactor

.Nazario, a lawyer, and Bodega’s partner


Pedro Pietri’s “Puerto Rican Obituary”

How do Pietri’s concerns match Quiñonez/Chino’s description of Harlem? (Pages 4-5)

Oral presentation on the novel Bodega Dreams (pages 1-42).



Chain Reactions

.How Chino’s account about education illuminates larger social issues in El Barrio (East Harlem)? (Pages 6-7)

.How Chino’s perception of El barrio changes once he gets married to Nancy and goes to Hunter College? (Pages 12-13)

.What racial and gender stereotypes emerge when we consider Chino’s description of sisters Nancy (“Blanca”) and (“Negra”)? (Pages 9, 21)

.Describe Willie Bodega’s vision of Puerto Rican and Latinx uplift and its connection to real state and ownership. (Pages 28-30; 35,37)

.How do the Young Lords’ community aid and revolutionary activism resemble and differentiate from Bodega’s current plan? (Pages 31-33)

Asynchronous Assignment on Afro-Boricua Archives and You Are Who I Love

Yomaira Figueroa-Vásquez argues that Frank Espada’s photography and Aracelis Girmay’s poetry  “embodied practices that refuse silencing and erasure by bringing the Boricua subject to the fore as valuable and knowing human subject.” In cleaving these works together,  she makes space for the examination of photo/poetics as “insurgent productions.” She analyzes how “the body and the quotidian are used as lenses through which to understand and indict coloniality and erasure.”

Inspired by the theory of Tina Campt, Figueroa suggests that the observer and reader listen to the images. “In her monograph Listening to Images, Tina Campt articulates the photographic image as a phenomenon beyond sight and focuses on sound, frequency, and the aural as a valuable and necessary intervention in Black diasporic cultural studies and beyond. Campt urges us to understand that the act of “listening to images” as “a practice of looking beyond what we see and attuning our senses to the other affective frequencies through which photographs register.”



In the comment section down below, write a creative response based on ONE of the following prompts (due on 4/19 before class):


Inspire by Yomaira Figueroa’s method of describing and “listening” to photographs of Afro-Boricuas, describe and analyze one of Frank Espada’s photos from The Puerto Rican Diaspora Project.


Write a poem about a Puerto Rican, Latinx, Afro-diasporic and/or indigenous community using the poetic structure and main phrase (“You Are Who I Love”) proposed by Aracelis Girmay.


Respectfully interact with ONE of your classmates’ creative responses. What elements of his/her/their piece caught your attention? What other observations about Frank Espada’s photographs and/or the poem by Aracelis Girmay do you want to bring into the discussion?

Afro-Boricua Archives- Yomaira Figueroa-Vásquez

A native of Puerto Rico, writer and associate professor, Yomaira Figueroa, was raised in Hoboken, NJ, and is a first-generation high school and college graduate. She earned her Ph.D. and M.A. in the Department of Ethnic Studies at the University of California, Berkeley. Figueroa works on 20th century U.S. Latinx Caribbean, Afro-Latinx, and Afro-Hispanic literature and culture. Her most recent book Decolonizing Diasporas: Radical Mappings of Afro-Atlantic Literature, focuses on diasporic and exilic Puerto Rican, Cuban, Dominican, and Equatoguinean texts in contact. She is currently writing a book on Afro-Boricua Histories and audiovisual archives.

Afro-Boricua Archives

“The quotidian moments captured in the photos of Frank Espada’s Afro-Puerto Rican subjects and in Girmay’s poem “You Are Who I Love” are the facts of everyday Blackness and Black life and survival in the diaspora. The everyday moments that Espada documents invite a form of listening to what Tina Campt calls the “quiet register”; it is listening to the quotidian and the intimate as a central part of the human.”

Oral presentation on the essay “Afro-Boricua Archives” or the poem “You Are Who I Love.”


Rodriguez Martinez,Anacaona Y

Frank Espada

“These images and stories are works of poetry that refuse dehumanization and accusations of cultural pathologies. Instead, Espada renders his subjects through a lens of love, celebration, and dignity.”

How can we interpret these Frank Espada photos from Figueroa’s perspective? What elements stand out? What stories they suggest?

Aracelis Girmay

“Both Frank Espada’s photography and Girmay’s poetry allow Puerto Rican, Afro-Puerto Ricans, and other people of color to see themselves rendered beautifully as survivors and resistors. These bundles of photography and poetry can be cleaved together (but not apart) because they are visualizations of the human.”

Pick a line from Aracelis Girmay’s “You Are Who Are Love” that matches well with Espada’s photography project. Explain your selection.


Girmay and Espada create an archive of who is loved. Who is loved in these poems and in these photographs are: colonial subjects, diasporic peoples, those resisting coloniality, and practicing old/creating new ways to love one another. Within Espada’s work, we must bend our ear to listen to the poetics of the image, in Girmay’s work we must conjure and imagine the people, the bodies, and the immense love she writes about. We can listen to his images and read her poetry and behold an indispensable way to see communities that have been disappeared by the archive, coloniality, and erasure.

Asynchronous Assignment on Raza Interrupted (Pages 123-132)

Ed Morales argues that Nuyoricans were/are equipped to engage in a project of multiculturalism while preserving their local, human, and urban culture and traditions. These traditions come mostly from the Taino, African and Spanish heritage as well as the many hybridizations of US society. Morales defends that more than assimilating to Hispanic (in its original European sense) or US American culture, Nuyoricans responded and at times contested and added complexity to these identity formations. (Pages 131-132)

The questions that follow address some instances in which Nuyoricans have become central influencers in the development of NYC’s arts and communities at the end of the twentieth century.



In the comment section down below, write a (200-word minimum) response based on ONE of the following prompts (due on 4/12 before class):


Discuss the involvement of Nuyoricans in the creation of Hip Hop. (Pages 122-123; 128-130)


Morales argues that Benjy Meléndez’s story illustrates the multicultural intersections at the core of Hip Hop. Why? Expand. (Pages 124-128)


Describe the input of Puerto Rican artists to avant-garde visual arts scenes in New York. (Pages 130-131)


Respectfully interact with ONE of your classmates’ responses. Do you agree with their points and interpretations? Do you disagree? What other observations about “Raza Interrupted” do you want to bring into the discussion?

Raza Interrupted: New Hybrid Nationalisms (Pages 100-116)-Ed Morales

Entry Question
When you think of Nuyorican culture what art forms, artists, thinkers, activists, community organizations, political organizations come to mind and why?
In the chapter “Raza Interrupted: New Hybrid Nationalism” poet, journalist, and critic Ed Morales argues that Nuyorican identity developed out of three spheres: salsa, radical cultural nationalism, and Nuyorican literature (Page 104)


Oral presentation on the essay “Raza Interrupted. New Hybrid Nationalisms.”

Nazario,Bryanna Ivette

Reisgerzog,Nicholas D


Salsa reached back to Caribbean musical forms and insisted in Spanish as a lingua franca to preserve a sense of origin. It was a modernist re-contextualization of the mulatez aesthetic of Afro-Cuban music, redrawn to fit the 70s crisis of capitalism and the collapse of industrialization in cities like New York. (Morales, 104-107)

What do you think of Ed Morales’ claim that salseros created a “stripped-down package of from-below musicians playing for a from-below audience (106).”?

Radical Politics

The Young Lords’ core membership was motivated by local community concerns, such as the infrequency of garbage collection, the lack of access to tuberculosis testing, and the impact of lead-based paint used in tenements that housed the children of the urban poor. Like the Black Panthers, it functioned as a national liberation movement with a strong focus on culture and identity. (Pages 108-110)

In your opinion what were the greatest achievements of the Young Lords and how do you think these direct actions and political strategies promoted a Nuyorican identity?

Nuyorican Poetry

Bilingual poetry and letters disrupted linear thinking, engaged in multivocal discourse, and restore call and response as the central logic of internal dialogue… It uses the modified language of two colonizers to express the conscience of a conquered race, a raza, by prioritizing its main raíz: the mestizo/mulato/black body. Nuyorican poetry expressed Latin American cultural tradition as refracted through Puerto Rico’s unincorporated territory status.  (Page 113)

Pietri’s poem memorialized the sacrifice of countless laborers with dignity, but he sounded the death knell for a generation that lacked self-awareness. (Page 110)

Luciano describes the transformation of the jíbaro from an idealized white peasant of the countryside to the modern-day black, urban Puerto Rican whose racial identification was a major part of a political radicalization project. (Page 107)

How these poems, poets, and performances illustrate the ideas about Nuyorican identity presented by Ed Morales?