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.

ASYNCHRONOUS ASSIGNMENT 

Instructions

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):

OPTION ONE

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

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

OPTION TWO

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.

OPTION THREE

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.

OPTION FOUR

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.

OPTION FIVE

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?

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

  1. Option 3

    I wasn’t sure what it was so I googled it and Chango is a diety of a religion present in Southwestern Africa. In the chapter, Sapo delivers a turkey to Dona Ramonita who in essence is like the witchcraft lady of the village. The turkey is to be used as an offering to Chango the god in behalf of Willie Bodega. Along with the offering Dona Ramonita tells Sapo to tell Willie of the rituals he must perform for the offering to work. His window must be in clear view of the sun and if not he must go to the roof, take off all his clothes and turn 7 times to the right as he pours water that I’m assuming is anointed water. Then 7 times to the left and do the same thing while the third jar of water will be poured on the turkey at the same time at sunrise. This emphasizes Hispanic culture as religion and magic plays a big role. Praying to saints like the many mentioned at the botanica. With Hispanic or Puerto Rican culture we know that a racial stereotype that exist is that the race is known for its attachment and believe in religion and saints.
    In addition to superstitious practices, the chapter also mentions La Reyna Bakery that catered to many people in the community. The way Sapo and many others place their orders by shouting, fuels the racial stereotype of loud Puerto Rican’s.

  2. Option two:
    I do believe that the level of machismo had changed and decreased but I am not sure if I would consider it as an achievement for women. In the book, Chino sometimes mentions things that are very machistas while in other parts, he expresses true respect and love. The word bitch is consistently used by Sapo to talk about women. He uses it in a way that makes it seem like he doesn’t care about any of them and that there is nothing special to them. In chapter 8, Sapo asks Chino to keep an envelope with him because he has girls coming over and they “are born thieves”. However, in chapter 5, Chino describes how he loves Blanca and loves the way she looks and acts. He mentions how beautiful she looks pregnant and how he would never cheat on her. He also states, “screw all those men who won’t make love to their wives while they are pregnant. Chino and Sap are opposites when it comes to women. I would like to argue that although Chino is a good example of how machismo is decreasing, this topic is still a big problem in Latin culture, I believe that it will still, unfortunately, be here for a long time. Machismo has acted like gum on the bottom of Latin people’s shoes. It is a very hard thing to get rid of since it has been here for so long and is also very normalized.

    1. I really loved your responses. Machismo is something that is shown in many cultures. Males tend to be more important than females. Females have to follow the men in their family or any men they meet. Sapo has had an interesting life. From being told he’s the ugliest on the block since he looks like a frog and how a girl made fun of him, his life wasn’t the easiest. I do agree with you, Chino is the total opposite. He loves the women that her is surrounded by. Him showing his love to Blanca is not entirely rare but, in my opinion, not shown much in Latin culture. Sapo would be considered a true man on how he acts. That’s culture. It’s been embedded for a long time. A strong man will show his worth. While for Chino, he may be seen as emotional, but he chooses respect. In American culture, racism has been around for decades. It’s not close to machismo but the concept has been embedded into society for years. It will take years for change to occur since people don’t want to change culture. In our present day, small changes are being made. They are not impactful but men like Sapo are being noticed.

  3. Option 3

    In Chapter six, Chino, Sapo and Nene go and receive a sacrificial bird for Dona Ramonita to make a ritual for Willie to find and make Vera fall in love with him. Quinonez highlights the centrality of Afro-diasporic spiritual practices and spaces by the descriptions that he gives to the location and the people around. When first describing the botanica it automatically reminded of me of a local botanica in my neighborhood. His descriptions highlight the importance and the role of the botanica for el barrio, the way the items are on display and the fact they call her Dona Ramonita, usually a title given to an elderly woman who people respect. His descriptions also highlight the racial stereotypes that elderly Afro-diasporic people have, describing her as looking like Aunt Jemima from the pancake boxes. Aunt Jemima being a problematic mascot being the person that was based on was a slave. The ritual described in the text also emphasizes the practices that what they would call the bruja would have Willie do as well as the bird. Quinonez takes what is stereotypical of this character in the barrio would be and its practices and places it in a setting that highlights the centrality of the practices as well by giving this character some kind of respect within the community.

  4. Chino’s moral flexibility is connected to his family’s socio-economic needs in many ways. His family is shown to have held positions in labor intensive employment, as in round 5, he states “My mother used to work cleaning the homes of some of those people.” (44). This establishes his family’s socio-economic needs, in which we are able to see his upbringing. He describes the apartment as being similar to “the Museum of the City of New York” as he tells us about the decor and how it was one of the first times he saw the difference between the wealthy and poor. Later in the chapter, his moral flexibility is tested as we see how his intention of walking along Fifth Avenue was to avoid going home while high on marijuana. He talks to his wife who after discussing their unborn child’s name, talks about her aunt Veronica. This background on her shows how sometimes people make tough choices because of the position they are put into, which parallels Chino’s own situation. Because he has a wife, a newborn on its way, as well as rent and school to pay for, it seems as if he is looking for a simple way to improve his living. This implies that he will have to compromise his integrity, as working with Bodega meant potentially throwing that away. This is shown when it states “Bodega wanted something from me, so I would ask something in return. It was basic, simple street politics: you want something from me then you better have something I need.” (47).

  5. Option #4
    Chino was surprised to learn of Bodega’s donations to El Museo del Barrio. Bodega’s interest in the arts was a humanizing aspect that intrigued Chino. This scene showed a softening side to Chino’s struggle with the conflict of interests associated with working with Bodega. Chino was torn by Bodega’s street ways vs his focused and refined ones. He could relate to Bodega’s Nuyorican pride and his love for Vera. Chino felt the same way for Blanca and was determined to break the negative stigmas associated with being Puerto Rican but born and raised in New York’s East Harlem (El Barrio) in the 1960s and onward.

    Bodegas interests in playing monopoly with community development proved his hunger for wealth and control as he built his “underground economy”. However, Bodega’s long-lasting love for Vera and his association with the museum and the art revealed a softer, more humanized version of the drug king pin. By showing this softer side of Bodega, the author creates this question of doubt towards his otherwise negative aspects. Readers are swayed into normalizing Bodega’s street activity. How could he be so bad if he is presented as a man who is a community celebrity responsible for the makeover of old tenements and offering cheap rents and opportunities while building an empire to impress the love of his life, Vera.

    His approach was that a drug feign was gonna be a feign regardless. Therefore, he might as well recycle that money into the hood for the hardworking families that lived amongst the drug infested community. Bodega’s residential development efforts also helped isolated drug zones keeping the properties free of drug interactions creating a new level of pride that helped increase the quality of life for its occupants.

    Willie Bodega was a murderous drug king pin who started out as a political activist but got scorned by a broken heart. He was a man motivated by his hunger to heal the broken pieces of his heart and his community alike.

    1. Option 5
      Christine touches some great points about Bodega being a broken man recovering from a life of poverty, street violence, and jail time. Bodega’s notorious reputation as a drug king pin coexists with his respected image as a philanthropist in his neighborhood. The comments concerning Bodega’s donations to the museum are important because it reveals that he is not just some blood hungry gangster, but somebody trying to revitalize himself and the neighborhood alike. His love for Vera is his Achilles’ heal, and he is willing to go vast distances to please her and win her back. Christine also discusses Bodega’s ideology concerning drug addicts, which allows the reader to rationalize and understand his street logic. In El Barrio and many other marginalized neighborhoods, it’s hard to accept this duality of good and bad and very easy to think that life is terrible, coming from the conditions presented. Chino is well aware that through all the bad Bodega’s done in his life, he’s done more good. Another great quote observation about Bodega is his reluctance in allowing his people suffer through his former activism with the Young Lords where he describes “The next day we went to City Hall and filed our demands… the sanitation department wouldn’t even lend us brooms to clean our streets, we had no choice but to take over the streets of East Harlem”. Bodega has suffered a troubled past in the doomed neighborhood of Spanish Harlem, but his longing for a loving life is driving him in a better direction.

    2. Hi Christine,

      Your response is great in detail, and I agree with your answer. I really agree where you stated he was “motivated by his hunger to heal the broken pieces of his heart and his community alike”. When I read the pages where Bodega was first introduced, I never necessarily interpreted him as a threatening person, even though others feared him and understood his status in the community. His patience and understanding with Chino really what was helped me foreshadow him opening up further, showing more of his caring side. This happened in the museum, where we learn about his love for Vera and the reader is now confronted with this side of Bodega, a side riddled with passion, love, and hope. This side was not only for Vera, but also for his community, ranging back to his days in the Young Lords. The reader is presented with the facts of why Bodega operated the way he did and added a facet, building the bond the reader had with Bodega but also, the relationship Chino had with Bodega. Regardless, I enjoyed reading your post and witnessing your experience and interpretation after reading this part of the book.

  6. I would like to interact with Emily response which focuses on option two which is discussing the machismo and how females are being analyzed. In the book you noticed that there a whole bunch of machismo behavior which known as masculine pride. Since the beginning of the book till chapter 9 you notice that there is this the machismo based on the way they talk and behave. With the statement that Emily had given I do believe with her. As she stated that Sapo is constantly using the word “bitch” when he is addressing women. This is an issue because it emphasizes the lack of respect that there is towards women. When you are calling someone a “bitch” especially a female you are suggesting that she is a female dog and till this day that word is has been offensive to women. Then when she incorporated the quote about women being thieves, it gives you the idea on how women are being portrayed. It shows the lack of respect, the lack of trust. In my eyes, saying oh they are thieves especially him suggesting that they would still from a man it feels like if they are suggesting that women need men or need their things. Machismo has been a big issue that affects women, and it even hurts them. Machismo has hurt themselves also because when they are aggressive and think they tough or what they called “macho” there is backing down from that. That would get them into different altercations where they can be in fights, arguments, and all sorts of issues. But when they are talking towards women you can see that they can speak aggressive and even be disrespectful and that is shown with Sapo when he refers to women as “bitch”.

  7. Option Two

    In Chapter nine of Bodega Dreams, the Young Lords and their impact on the community is discussed. As part of their impact, they decided to challenge Latino Patriarchy and the stereotypes set for women at the time. The effects of this movement can be seen through the way Chino describes and analyzes the women in the story, such as his wife Blanca, and his sister-in-law Negra. Both women are independent who strive to have more, but it is evident they are still seen as less than, and that men still have the need to have all the power. This can be seen through Blanca, who is currently in school and is constantly pushing Chino so they can live a better life, while Chino still does things on his own terms. During an argument, Blanca states “You do things as if you were still single. As if my two cents means nothing” (Quinonez 60). In addition to this, when Blanca is not around, Chino allows Sapo to speak about her as he pleases and ensures others know he is the dominant one in his relationship, saying things such as ” yo, that bitch does what I want. Blanca has no say” (Quinonez 36). Despite the fact that women may have the opportunity to work and earn on their own, it is evident there is still work that needs to be done in taking down a Patriarchy and having men understand how their actions effect women. The few times the book makes it seem as though the women have the upper hand, the women are labeled as crazy, such as when Chino is describing his mothers relationship with his father. He states “Whatever you’ve heard about the Latin women needing to be saved from her sexist man is not entirely true… My mother had my father on a leash and she never took Feminism 101” (Quinonez 38). Despite the lengths women went to in order to gain respect from men and be on an equal standing with them, whether it be through revolutionary acts, speaking up for what they wanted, or simply going to school to get a better education, they were still seen as less then due to the years of patriarchy and male chauvinism seen in society.

    1. Hi Liliana,

      Amazing post! I agree with your observation, along with the stereotype that surrounds Latin American woman. To this day we see the ill effects that this stereotype has had on women in general, and it proves to be super harmful to their reputations and growth within the patriarch system that we live in. Women are only respected if they are found to be attractive by their Male counterparts, and even then the respect only goes as far as them respecting that they are visually appealing. They are expected to do as their male counterpart says, and if they have some sort of “upper hand” as you said they are crazy. This can even be seen in todays culture, with the stereotypes Latin American women have in relationships. They are viewed as “toxic” or “crazy” and “spicy”, which is so damaging to the benefits they bring in a relationship by being so strong and independent. If you speak your mind, you are crazy, but if you don’t you still get treated as less than and disrespected. This can especially be seen with Blanca and Chino. An independent woman striving to better herself means nothing in this patriarchal system we live in, but if it were a man it would be a completely different story.

  8. Option 2

    This chapter of the Young Lords was formed as a group of brave revolutionary youths who took action in their community after having been inspired by the Young Lords in Chicago and the Black Panthers in their neighbor of Harlem. Societal norms were being challenged and roles were shifting. Some people were on board with the changes while others were not. We can see this contrast as Willie Bodega describes Vera’s attitude in their youth. He was a Young Lord fighting for “better neighborhood programs” and basic health and sanitation rights, and he tried to bring Vera on board with the movement. In a conversation between Bodega and Chino in chapter 9, Bodega would “preach to Vera” his passion. His actions were proactive in such that he did help organize food and clothes drives etc. However, Veronica’s support was not heartfelt. She doubted Bodega’s potential and demeaned his dreams. Vera couldn’t see herself as one of the women on the committee who would “develop strategies and carry guns”. She would have preferred that Bodega get a basic job and marry her so they could assume traditional roles within society. She didn’t see the direct benefit of his dedication to the role of the activist he was becoming. Vera was worried about her future and she projected a future of poverty with Bodega by measuring her idea of his full potential at the early age of seventeen. Vera was not thinking about college or the progression of the neighborhood. Bodega was looking to create new paths of opportunities for the community. Vera wanted to walk the same paths already taken by women prior, like her mother. Some women and men were ready for the changes associated with the revolution while others were content with the roles that society had predesigned for them.

  9. Men Who Built This Country Were Men from the Streets
    Bodega Dreams is a novel written by Ernesto Quiñonez and was released in 2000. The author has revolved around Spanish Harlem, where the novel takes place. The novel focuses on how the street men were determined to change and built Spanish Harlem after their education and other factors crushed their dreams.
    Religion and gender have been criticized for primarily not empowering the Latinx community in the novel. It is believed that the bible is sexist that reveals how women are afterthoughts of men. The church encourages people to be tolerant of their poor living conditions instead of empowering themselves. There is an admirable sense of the community towards Julio despite being against the church and improving the welfare of the Latinx community. This is evident that the people who build the nation are the men from the streets. Julio implies that education and social activism are very productive than religious devotion for empowering Latinx.
    The author argues that wealth and crime are innately connected. Bodega and Nazaro utilize their criminal underworld to finance their dreams of empowering the latinx immigrant community in Spanish Harlem. The fund education to promising the Latinx youth using funds from drug trafficking. They buy property for the community. Since the whites have grabbed the resources of the immigrant community, they are forced to turn to criminal activities to better their community. Julio argues that bodega and Nazaro’s actions are not immoral because they are noble.
    The author narrates how loyalty, solidarity in the community, for example, of the churchgoers. There is the existence of street and family codes in the novel where bodega and Nazaro partner in criminal activities to protect the community and emphasize that people had loyalty. They take street pains to support the local community in times of difficulty. They are creating family codes in the community to motivate them to team together and fight social change. Julio is bonding with his childhood friend Sapo, a drug dealer, despite her wife not liking Sapo. They are coming together as a family who grew up on the streets to improve the lives of the Latinx community.
    Generally, the community is being built by those streets; those who grew up on the streets despite them have education difficulty due to racism by the white teachers. It is also seen that the whites used dubious means to grab resources from the Latinx to benefit their community.

  10. Option 2

    I believe the patriarchy and machismo is over. There are words like “bitch” being used to describe a woman. But examples like when Negra and Victor were speaking to each other, showed the level of respect they have for each other. “Victor honey, watch it with that, don’t hurt yourself.” “Negra, querida, be careful. Let me help you with that, baby.” If it was back in the day, slander would have been said towards the female making the female care for the baby. But here Victor is voluntarily, like he should, helping her and the baby. Also, when Chino and Bodega were in the museum looking at the picture of Adam and Eve, Bodega says how Adam had everything but couldn’t live without her, Eve. Then proceeds to tell the story of how he loved Veronica. All these examples show that the machismo man is mainly gone, and the respectful gentleman is here. This is because they finally realized that without your lady you aren’t anything so you must treat her with respect and kindness.

    1. Probably Deborah (Negra) and Victor are not a good example of the end of machismo. They had a very toxic and disrespectful relationship. Victor constantly cheats on her and hits her, for instance. Frustrated by these acts, Deborah pays with the same violent coin. The novel does show men questioning sexism and patriarchal roles, especially Julio (Chino) but it’s clear that the road towards gender equality and respect is very long yet.

  11. Option 3

    A primary concept that is explored within Chapter Six is the role and importance of Afro-diasporic spirtual practices within Puerto Rican American communities. It is interesting to note that the author includes an example in which a ritual is performed by sacrificing a bird. I believe the sacrificial experience is used to demonstrate the primitive nature of lots of the practices and how they may be frowned upon by typical American communities. On another interesting note, the anecdote speaks to the level of loyalty within the community, as Chino, Sapo, and Nene initiate the entire process to perform the ritual for their friend Willie, whom they hope will reap the benefits via relationship luck with a young woman named Vera.

    Another interesting note brought up with this anecdote is the role of Dona Ramonita in the community and the amount of respect she commands from her community. Because Dona Ramonita runs the community’s spiritual store, she’s revered as an encompassing healer within the community. This gives her an almost divine heir which is certainly demonstrated by the reverence the boys show her in seeking her help with Willie’s love conundrum.

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