Puerto Rican Culture

Asynchronous Assignment on Bodega Dream (Pages 201-213; Book III)

In Book III “A New Language Being Born,” Ernesto Quiñonez closes the case and presents how Julio decides to inform the police about Nazario and Vera’s involvement in the killing of Bodega. He also describes William Irizarry’s funeral and how the people of East Harlem pay tribute to his life and deeds. Lastly, Quiñonez offers a reflection about the vibrancy of the Puerto Rican and Latinx communities and their power of transformation.



In the comment section down below, write a (200-word minimum) response based on ONE of the following prompts (due on 5/10 before the class):


Ernesto Quiñonez starts Book III with an epigraph from Miguel Piñero’s poem “La Bodega Sold Dreams”. What connection do you identify with this central poem of the Nuyorican Movement and the end of the novel?


Why do you think the people from El barrio decided to honor Bodega’s life by remembering his days as a Young Lord above all else?


How Julio’s decision of helping Geran (the old man) and Hipólito (his grandson) and his dream about Bodega, Spanglish, and the evolution of El barrio demonstrates Julio’s new perspective regarding El barrio and Puerto Rican culture.


Respectfully interact with ONE of your classmates’ responses. Do you agree with their points and interpretations? Do you disagree? What other observations about pages 201-213 (Book III) from Bodega Dreams do you want to bring into the discussion?

14 thoughts on “Asynchronous Assignment on Bodega Dream (Pages 201-213; Book III)”

  1. Option 2:
    The Young Lords are extremely important in Nuyorican culture as they provided hope, a sense of change and a voice that was heard. Young Lords strived and fought for rights and equality owed to Puerto Ricans in New York and in the world. With this, they have always held an important role and influence on Nuyoricans and their culture and history. They look up to them. Being a Young Lord was the base of Bodega’s dream and goals. It was the push that enabled him to become the character he was. Bodega was able to help out the community and his people. He gave them the means to have anything that they needed without asking for anything in return. Of course, he expected loyalty. Bodega was also an undercover drug dealer and criminal. He was the drug lord of East Harlem; however, most people did not know who this drug dealer was. They did not know that the person giving them money for their children’s tuition was also getting that money from criminal activities. Because of this, his people and the community only saw Bodega as the Young Lord who had the capability to provide change and give effort for the rights that they deserve. They saw him as a continuation of the men from the past who fought for voices to be heard and for Puerto Rican stereotypes to be dissolved.

    1. I completely agree with you Emily, I also believe everyone celebrated and honor Bodega’s life by remembering his days as a Young Lord because of the continuation of the goals the Young Lords once strived for. Regardless of the source of the money, he still helped Nuyoricans in El Barrio, from safe and secure apartments to helping people who had come from Puerto Rico to New York. His constant talk and fixation on community and how the community would react if something were to happen to him all resembled the origins of the Young Lords and the importance they placed on community. Bodega truly believed that if he helped the community, the community would help him; therefore, creating a type of relationship where the community is all there for each other, especially when one community member is threatened. I also think it’s interesting that you mentioned the people of the community didn’t know that Bodega was involved in the drug market. I really hadn’t thought about that; however, it makes total sense because they did not even know who Bodega was in general. To not even know who Bodega was makes sense they wouldn’t even know where the source of his money comes from. Regardless, as I stated before, the source of his money isn’t necessarily important, but his values are what I think led to them honoring him as a Young Lord.

  2. The people from el barrio honored Bodega’s life as a Young Lord because of what he did to the community. The Young Lords were a human activists group fighting for Latinos and Nuyoricans. Nuyoricans looked up to the Young Lords, which is how Bodega wanted to be portrayed as. Bodega would help with getting people from the community jobs, paying for kids’ school, etc. People from el barrio are loyal to Bodega due to the simple fact that he took care of them. Although he was a big drug dealer, most people of el barrio didn’t know this and the ones that did know don’t want to remember him by that, because he was more than just a dealer. Instead of using this drug money for luxury goods etc. Bodega gave back to el barrio, protecting his community. Just like the Young Lords, Bodega fought for the people of his community, helping out whenever needed, this is why they remembered his days as a Young Lord.

  3. Option 1
    The “bodega” represents many things that can connect Quinonez’s use of Pinero’s poem “La Bodega Sold Dreams” and the use of “Bodega” as the name for the main character of his book Bodega Dreams. A New York City bodega is best described as a family-owned store in a lower income neighborhood. Residents can buy food and basic needs and in the 60’s-70’s bodega owners would allow some people to run up a credit tab they could pay off at the end of the week when they got paid. This was one of the most important ways that the bodega sacredly served the community of residents where many work check-to-check or purchase with food stamps (now known as EBT government assistance). Owning a bodega was achieving the American dream. Owners who offered credit were giving back to the community by extending a helpful hand. Bodegas, as family businesses, helped to establish generational wealth. Owners groomed their children to work in the stores early in life helping them build work ethics while also keeping the money in the family. The bodega is a social space where younger men gather to talk and drink beer. It is a place where older men sip something a little stronger playing dominos and telling stories. At the bodega kids run in and out of all day buying candy, ice pops, and sugared drinks that keep them pumped and running the streets all day. The bodega gets such a heavy foot traffic daily that they never know who they could be serving, the neighborhood drunk gets treated with the same love and respect as any other patron. Everyone supports the bodega as the bodega serves their needs. In Bodega Dreams, everyone supported, respected, and admired Willie Bodega because he too served their needs.

  4. Option 2

    I think the people of El barrio honored Bodega’s life by remembering his days as a Young Lord because those were the days when Bodega was most authentic and socially known. As an activist he publicly challenged societies inequalities. But after the heartbreak of Vera running off, Bodega’s agenda shifted. He still had intentions of building the community only no longer with organized revolts against social injustice. Instead, he spearheaded an empire based upon community entrepreneurship with a high return at the risk of any cost, even his life.

    Another reason why Bodega was honored by his days as a Young Lord was that no one in the community really knew who Bodega truly was. His later years as a behind the scenes boss were filled with quiet money moves. He was something like a fairy god father of El barrio. His help was a sprinkle of magic from a named donor without a face. And if the community would have celebrated Bodega’s later life, they would’ve been celebrating him for what he was and not who. So, to celebrate who Bodega was it was only right that they celebrate him as the community activist. One who led a revolution demanding fair services and human respect for the people of East Harlem. This deserved true commemoration and that is who Bodega genuinely was before becoming corrupted by heartbreak.

  5. I want to interact with Pedro response to option one because it was pretty intriguing his point of view however, I did agree with him all the way. As someone who had a family member of a bodega especially in a neighborhood known as Bushwick which isn’t the wealthiest, I know the meaning behind a bodega. As Pedro mentioned with all his ideas, a bodega isn’t just a store where you enter and buy what you need and leave. In a Hispanic community a bodega is more than a store. You build connections off the people who work and own there, it becomes the place where you feel the most comfortable in. Specifically, in my experience from growing up in a Bodega, you knew that those bodegas were homes you created, and they had your back. In the poem “La Bodega Sold Dreams” he talks about the struggle of having to make ends meet like Pedro mentioned. He is talking about how hard it is and the struggles that you see and encountered. When you decide to connect that to the book you can make a relation to each other hand on hand. As a bodega owner especially in a low-income neighborhood you begin to help those in needs. You are able to give the hand to one another. As mentioned in the poem and the struggles to make ends meet, it gets hard and not all the time you are able to provide for yourself and loved ones and as bodega owners they know it is hard and that’s when the community begins to help one another.

  6. Option Two

    I believe Bodega was recognized more as a young lord or when his name was Izzy than his actions as Bodega because as Bodega, he was in the shadows and his intentions were to not attract any unwanted attention. After his days as a young lord, he was only heard of and not seen, mainly sending other people to handle business face to face unless it was important. When he was known as Izzy on the other hand, he was taking to the streets alongside other members of the young lords. This is also why he started to refer to himself as Bodega instead of Izzy, by changing his name he can still help out the community but without attaching himself to any of it. Bodega managed to help many people in and around East Harlem, paying kid’s tuition, giving employment, housing with only the expectation of loyalty in return and people were grateful for his actions. Although the funds for this was obtained from drugs and criminal activities, the people he was helping was none the wiser and Bodega remained anonymous. Like Bodega said people will take the streets after he dies, the only thing was that they took the streets to appreciate his life and not avenge his death.

  7. Option 2
    I think El Barrio remembered Bodega as a Young Lord above all is because that is the most honorable position within the community. They understand that many of the youth fall victim to the street life to the failure of the system, from an educational, economic, and political standpoint. Minorities are designed to come into this country and fall into a lifestyle of violence, drugs, and jail because this is the way the white man has trapped them in poverty stricken communities, and the people of El Barrio relate to these broken promises of the “American dream”. Hence, being a Young Lord was the upmost courageous act because not only were they fighting for the prosperity, justice, and equality for the community, but they were putting their lives on the line. Although Bodega was this notorious king pin, his work in the community outweighed any bad he’s done. The way he sheltered, provided work/opportunity, and protected the people of the community is something they never forgot- the exact things that the Young Lords stood for. His branding as a man is exactly what the Young Lords sought out to be, and this aligned his image to that of the party.

    1. I agree with you. Bodega reached wealth in a more dangerous way, but his intentions on what to do with his wealth were only pure and good. The Young Lords are an activist group looking out for the Latino community. Violence, drugs, criminal activity defines the community of El Barrio. Younger people like Sapo fall into these issues at a young age. Sapo was fighting people, dealing drugs, smoking, drinking and somewhat lacking education during his years in high school. Blanco and Chino live in roach infested apartments where crime is high. Bodega lived life as if he was off the maps. No one knew of him and he hired people who he trusted to help him create a dream. You’re definitely right, minorities come into America which is so whitewashed and get portrayed as criminals and good for nothings. Bodega did more for his people. Definitely, what he did for the community outweigh the negative actions he has performed. Without him, the people of El Barrio would not be sheltered and provided work opportunity. He stood for the Young Lords and accomplished the mission the group was supposed to fulfill.

  8. Option 2

    In the novel Bodega Dreams, people from El Barrio honored Bodega as a Young Lord above all else because his intentions were always to better the lives of Puerto Ricans, both in the diaspora and on the Island. Throughout the novel, we learned that he was not the most innocent or honest of people; he let his feelings get the best of him and cut corners to achieve what he wanted. At times it may have seemed as though his vision was fogged by Vera, and that he had only done all of this to get her back. It also seemed as though he did not care that he harmed a couple of people along the way for the greater good of the community, as he sold drugs as a way of making the money he used. Yet although these things may be true, as the book came to an ending, I think people chose to honor him rather than point out his flaws because they all understood that he was a human, like everyone else in El Barrio, and was doing what he had to in order to make his way out. Despite the way people glorified him as this strong person who was above others, he was really just a normal man who grew up in El Barrio and was trying to make a better life. The book states “ The way a picture that’s been hanging on a wall for years leaves a shadow of light behind, Bodega had kicked the door down and left a green light of hope for everyone” (Quinonez 213). The impact Bodega left behind was much bigger than his faults, and I believed the people wanted to pay respect to his life by honoring him as a Young Lord, as someone who strived to better the community and make changes towards the way Puerto Ricans were seen in the community.

  9. Option 2:
    I think they chose to honor Bodega’s life by remembering his days as a Young Lord first is because of his roots in activism in the community. As we spoke about in the beginning of the semester, many people honor those like the Young Lords, despite not agreeing with them, because they at least took action on behalf of Puerto Ricans on the island and the greater diaspora. Bodega fought for those in El Barrio before trying to acquire property in the neighborhood. In a sense, his illegal activities were also rooted in the activism he participated in as a Young Lord. Above all else, Bodega fought for the community in most of the things he did throughout his life, starting with being a Young Lord.

  10. OPTION 2
    People in El Barrio decided to honor Bodega’s life by remembering his days as a Young Lord because it ties into his role as a community leader. His time as a Young Lord really cemented his beliefs in helping people regardless of how he did it. Although the Young Lords participated in some illegal activities, their cause of empowering the community was crucial to his development as a character. His mission was clear, and that was to always help people in need, as he provided people with housing, tuition, or any financial aid. Bodega said that his death would result in people taking to the streets, and he was right, but that was because he had left such an impact on those he left behind. This moment indicates that they remembered him for this because he turned his empire into a humanitarian effort. Even though Bodega had died at this point, his dream was always possible because he wanted to see his community thrive and evolve. What best describes this is shown on page 212, where Julio says “Alone on the fire escape, I looked out to the neighborhood below. Bodega was right, it was alive. Its music and people had taken off their mourning clothes. The neighborhood had turned into a maraca, with the men and women transformed into seeds, shaking with love and desire for one another. Children had opened fire hydrants, and danced, laughing and splashing water on themselves.” (212). This shows that although he was gone, his dream would live on in the people he had inspired.

  11. In his book “Bodega Dreams: A New Language Being Born, ” Ernesto Quinonez presents the killing of Bodega, which Vera and Nazario planned. All along, Vera no longer wanted to be married to Vidal; therefore, Nazario was in a position to make it happen (Quinonez, p12). Vera used Bodega to teach her to fire a gun to kill her husband because she knew that Bodega would take the blame. Eventually, Bodega dies, and it is evident that Nazario and Vera are involved in his death, where Julio decides to report the case to the police. People believed even though Bodega was dead, his empire was out there for the taking.
    The people of El barrio decided to pay tribute to Bodega was his pragmatic personality. He used his money and influence to offer legal help, education and shelter to the people in the community (Quinonez, p13). His main ambition was to shape the community to make it a better place for people. Bodega was an idealist in planning to change his entire village by rebuilding to offer affordable or even sometimes cheap housing for people in the society. Bodega was also an honored person for using his money from the drug business to send some of the young Latinos to university because he believed in empowering young people through education. He sent students to the university so that they can become lawyers or other people of influence in society. Besides, he valued the Latino culture. The people of El barrio remembered him because of the funds he spared to renovate the museum to display the culture of the Latinos. Moreover, Bodega believed that a new society is created by a new language which further leads to a new race; hence race can be socially constructed. He had the desire to promote togetherness and harmonious living in society.

  12. Option 2

    I believe that the community, or El Barrio, inevitably respect and commemorate the death of Bodega my reminiscing in the days in which he was most active as a an aid to the community. This was a nice turn in the Novel because Bodega’s intentions and actions were not always pure, as he suffered an early heart-break which led his focus to stray from community activism to entrepreneurship. Bodega’s entrepreneurial efforts were often illegal, immoral, and endangered the members of his community which which he was once consumed in helping.

    While Bodega was certainly a figure of notoriety within El Barrio, I believe the community eventually looked past his harsh and dangerous deeds and instead remembered the activism and assistance do the anonymous nature of Bodega’s work. If the community had been more aware of who Bodega was as an individual, as well as his associates (in a face to the name sort of nature) I believe the community would not put Bodega up on a pedestal. I think that they would instead view his acts of activism and kindness as a way to gain control within his community in order to exploit it by the very capitalist means with which he originally sought to fight.

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