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Carmen Rivera

Study Guide by David Richard Jones and Susan Jones


A Profile of Carmen Rivera Page 3

La próxima parada Synopsis

Page 7

La próxima parada Study Questions

Page 9

Nuyoricans: New Voices from the Mainland

Page 10

On Latino Drama and Culture

Page 14

Further Reading on Nuyorican Culture

Page 15


A Profile of Carmen Rivera

Career Information Carmen Rivera is the author of two plays produced by Repertorio Español. La Gringa was presented in 1996 as part of ¡Voces Nuevas!, the theatre's Obie-winning project in support of emerging Hispanic voices in New York theatre. In 1999, continuing its effort to represent the contemporary Latino theatre, Repertorio produced La próxima parada (Next Stop). Carmen Rivera is a Nuyorican born and bred. She holds an MA in playwriting and Latin American theatre from New York University. Her plays have been produced at many New York City theatres, such as SoHo Rep, La Mama E.T.C., Theatre for a New City, INTAR, and the Nuyorican Poet's Cafe. The Puerto Rican Traveling Theatre Co. produced her To Catch the Lightning in 1997 and Julia de Burgos: Child of Water in 1999. Her play Plastic Flowers has been performed in theatre festivals in Russia and Chile, while amerRICAN was adapted as a short film and won "Best Screenplay" in a local film festival. Julia, which toured New York high schools, has been anthologized in a Penguin US collection of Puerto Rican theatre. Rivera has been an O'Neill Playwrights Conference finalist, won a fellowship from New Dramatists, and earned a playwriting residency at New York Theatre Workshop. With husband Cándido Tirado, Rivera is co-founder of LEFT (Latino Experimental Fantastic Theatre), which recently produced Betty's Garage, about domestic abuse, and Positive Women, a series of pieces about Latinas living with AIDS which has been produced three times and invited to an AIDS festival in San Francisco during 2000. Education and Language "My parents came here as children, so they grew up American and they wanted us to be American, too. My father was raised in Hell's Kitchen where there were a lot of Italian and Irish gangs and he fought. He didn't want us to have that problem. "My experience with Spanish was very painful because we just didn't speak it, although I remember my grandmother singing bombas to me when I was little. She was actually a bomba singer in Puerto Rico. She nearly signed a professional contract but her mother wouldn't let her go-I used that in La Gringa. "Even though I studied Spanish in high school, when I went to Puerto Rico-I've been there quite a bit-I never understood the language. Then in college I was a double major in Economics and Spanish. Because of that the whole culture opened up to me. Now people speak to me in Spanish-my father, everybody. "We are very divided as a people. I live in an Italian neighborhood where fourth and fifth generation children who barely speak Italian are still part of the traditional family, but my Puerto Rican cousins call me gringa. My accent doesn't help."


Becoming a Writer Rivera's first play at Repertorio Español was La gringa and it told a story about a young Nuyorican fascinated by returning to Puerto Rico. "One summer I went to Puerto Rico and the whole idea of wanting to live there, to be Puerto Rican, just exploded inside me. I even started looking for work there and had a job interview where they said that even though I was qualified, they wouldn't hire me because I was American. I went right back to New York, crying." Carmen found herself working at a big insurance company, miserable because she wanted to be a writer. Her uncle Manuel had been an actor in Puerto Rico but gave it up to go to New York. He told Carmen, "If you want to write, you have to do it now." And so she did. Writing La próxima parada "I started writing the play in 1995. Three separate events happened on the train that inspired it. "The first happened when I was on my way to the theatre, and this guy sits next to me and he's really high. And he says, 'You know, mama, sometimes in life you fup.' And he starts telling me this story about how he's in love with this woman, and 'I know I shouldn't hit her or nothin', but I try and clean myself up, and I f-ed up and I didn't mean to, man, I didn't mean to, I said I'm sorry, but the bitch is really making me pay.' He might be somebody I never want to know, but he's completely in pain, and I'm drawn to that, and I say, 'Yeah, I know, but sometimes sorry's not enough.' And he's saying, 'No, but it should be enough!' "So then a homeless guy comes on the train and sings 'Tears on My Pillow'-I took that scene with the singer right out of the train! The homeless guy was much more beat-up than the character in the play, a little stinky, but the other guy says, 'Oh, man, I love doowop!' and starts singing along. Afterwards, he says, 'Yeah, you got a great voice! Here, take some money, here, take it all, I'm gonna be dead tomorrow,' and asks if the homeless guy knows 'When We Get Married.' By now he's crying and he says, 'It's a great song, man, you gotta know it, here, listen to me,' and sings it for him. The singer sits down beside him, and the guy starts sobbing. I started crying, too, but I had to get off the train and go to the theatre. "Whatever God is, it was there. That experience stayed with me for about a year. I took notes, and I knew I wanted to write about it, but I didn't know how. "Then about a year later, I was on my way to class-I was in graduate school at NYU - and another guy, a light-skinned Latino, gets on the train, and he's cleaned up and he's carrying toys. He sits next to two Black women, West Indians. He tells them, 'Yo, you're beautiful for morenas,' and they're looking at him like, 'This guy's a jerk, man. Just ignore him.' And he told us his story, that his wife had left him, that he had two boys and he was on his way to reclaim them. Then I had to get off the train again. And I said, 'That's Act I, and the other guy's Act II' When I started, it was just a man's monologue, first to these two women, and then to the singer.


"Our company produced it in 1995 as A Song in the Heart, and then I did a reading of it at the Puerto Rican Traveling Theatre. A woman from New York Theatre Workshop was there and invited me to apply for a residency she was putting together. She asked me to develop it into a full-length play. At first I couldn't see how; it felt like it was told. "Then I was in Sunset Park in Brooklyn, and a whole family got on the train, on their way to jail to visit a family member, taking pictures and posing, like for Vogue, and I thought, 'Okay, maybe I should add some women to this.' That's how the play started evolving. I added the cousins and Collette and four homeless people, who evolved into four angels still homeless, but angels, with names. "We had a reading at the New York Theatre Workshop in '96-it was still in English-and then the following year, in December of '97, it was produced at INTAR. Robert Federico from Repertorio saw it there, fell in love with it, and wanted it in Spanish. My Spanish is decent, but not perfect, and I could never translate a play into Spanish. But since this is street Spanish, I didn't want to hire a translator who would make everything so proper that I would have to go back and dirty it up again. So I did it myself. Afterwards, Cándido and my mother and René Buch all looked at it. "As it turned out, all the actors in the original cast were English-dominant like me. The piece, by its nature, requires a certain kind of actor. The characters have grown up in Bushwick, Brooklyn, and for them Spanish is not an easy form of communication. "I wanted to show our nether world in New York - people have ideas about it and are very scared of it, but you never know where love comes from. I'm thinking that in all these places that everybody's afraid to go into, there are all these stories, these dreams, these fears. It's like Fatima says at the end of the first act, everybody's got a story to tell. The homeless man who sat there with the other man and gave him comfort probably saved his life, kept him from killing himself." Fatima and Collette "I had a classroom of 25 children on the Lower East Side where eight children had asthma and two had lead poisoning. I remember the day I discovered this. Everybody stopped because they needed to get their pumps. I thought they were lying! But we all went down to the nurse's office, and they all had to get their pumps. "This experience definitely contributed to the character of Collette. Breath is everything. She's the future, somebody who's very smart, and in another time and place, she would not have had asthma. "I want the mother to be like a heroine, although at first glance she might be somebody you'd be turned off by because she might fit some sort of stereotype. But she doesn't fit it at all. She's just fighting by herself because her mother's not supporting her, and her cousin is her only ally, really. Her daughter loves her very much.


"But when Fatima finds out about this kid Eddie, all reason leaves. She's petrified that Collette might get pregnant. This is a mother who's over-protective. She carries two asthma pumps, just in case. "I heard somebody say once that if your children grow up in the ghetto, you have to be cruel to them. You have to be tough because the world is going to be tough, and they have to know how to survive. I don't agree with this completely, but I think Fatima is trying to be tough. I grew up in the projects in the 60s and 70s when it was a wonderful place. I used to sell Girl Scout cookies there in my Girl Scout uniform. But once the drugs came in, it became a different world. I think Fatima enjoys Collette and genuinely loves her and believes that they can have a better life, but it is really, really hard. Not many parents in her situation would love to read the story that their child wrote." Teaching Dramatic Writing in NYC High Schools "I pretty much teach a one-act form during the school year because I'm only there five 40-minute sessions. I usually start with a writing exercise and from that we develop a short one-act. The writing exercise has all the elements of playwriting: action, dialogue, conflict, setting, character and plot. They start with two people enclosed in a place - a literal place or a state of mind - where one person wants to get out and one wants to stay in, and they run with it. "I get incredible ideas from my students. I had one experience that actually inspired me to write a play that I plan to work on next year. For two years I taught kids who were coming out of jail. One student came to class only one time, on the day we did the exercise. Then he was arrested again. It was a seventeen-day workshop, and he came back on day fifteen with a play he had written in jail. It was an amazing piece of theatre, a drug dealer trying to hold onto his family from jail, and it was just a series of phone calls. Oh, my God, it was so beautiful! It was only three pages, but it was visceral, like he just opened his heart and put it on paper. "I told him it was the most brilliant thing I'd ever read, and he said, 'Ah, you're full of s-.' I said, 'No, I'm not, I mean it,' and he said, 'Give it back to me, I don't want you to read it.' I told him, 'No way,' so we were able to make a copy of it. "The culminating event for this particular project was that professional actors would come and read the plays, and I put his play in. He was really mad! He told me, 'I hate you, man. You say you like us, but you're full of crap. I hate you.' That devastated me, but I was like, 'I don't care; the play's going to get read.' "The day of the reading his cousin gets stabbed right outside school, and there's all this blood. He wants to kill somebody, and I'm saying, 'You can't go, they're going to arrest you, and you can't go to jail. You've gotta get your play read!' And he's just angry and he doesn't care about his play.


"The cops come, the teachers are trying to drag the students back inside, and we go ahead with the reading. All the plays are really nice plays, but his gets a standing ovation. And he has his head in the hood, and he won't look up. '"I had one more day for closure. I go back to the school and they tell me I'm not welcome back again, that I incited a riot with the cops there and all the kids trying to get into the library to see the culminating event. I say 'That's what theatre's about! Isn't it better that they're there than in the gang riot that's going on outside?' And they said, 'Well, we didn't like the content of the plays. The plays were all about drugs and about abuse and about jail, and that's not art.' I said, 'No, art is a reflection of what people feel and what they see. You cannot deny them their world.' It was a huge, big drama. The chancellor of the Board of Ed closed the school about two years later."

La Próxima Parada Synopsis

The major characters of La próxima parada meet on the J Train platform in Brooklyn late one Friday morning. They are Fatima, a young Latina mother; her twelve year-old daughter Collette, whose arm is in a cast; Fatima's younger cousin, Denise or "Nisi"; and Tony, an ex-con who has cleaned himself up. Smaller characters include three beggars and a singer. Act One. Tony waits for a train and is joined by Fatima and Denise, who haul a baby carriage between them. Collette follows, her arm in a cast. The women need to get to Riker's Island in time to visit their husbands. Tony, fresh out of rehab and eager to be reunited with his family, carries presents and is nicely dressed. To Collette's embarrassment, Fatima starts talking to the stranger about her brilliant daughter and the special school she attends. Tony sees Collette reading a book by Nicholasa Mohr and tells her that he has met Mohr (and Piri Thomas, too!), at some unnamed "center." Fatima ridicules Collette's wish to write professionally. If there are already two barrio writers, Collette has missed her chance, and her only road out of the barrio is law school. Collette says she will run for President instead and create an army of dads for fatherless children. A voice announces delays on the J line. Due to an "injury" ahead, passengers must seek "alternate means of transportation." But there are no alternatives for these characters! The delay reminds Tony of a play, Jean-Paul Sartre's No Exit, in which three characters trapped in a room realize they're in hell. Collette waxes poetic about seeking death beneath the wheels of a train, but the adults agree they could never commit suicide; their children give them reason to live. When a beggar panhandles them with a comic routine, Fatima gives him some change but Tony disapproves. He's holding down two jobs; why can't the beggar work, too? A train approaches but then speeds by-apparently the tracks have been cleared.


The baby's dirty diaper leads to more embarrassing talk, this time about Collette and her hairless infancy. Tony reveals that he has twin sons. At last a train arrives. The second scene is on the train itself heading for Manhattan. Denise, nervous about her first prison visit, finds no comfort in Fatima's description of the visitation process. Denise places her trust in Lotto and prayer. She advises Fatima to play Mickey's cell number, but Fatima insists her luck ran out when Mickey went to jail. A beggar panhandles the passengers, prophesying God's vengeance and threatening to pull the emergency brake. Tony finally convinces him to leave-a couple of dollars richer. When the train screeches to an unscheduled halt, tempers flare. The baby fusses. Fatima humiliates Collette further by blabbing about her asthma and screaming at her in front of everyone. Defensive, Fatima insists she won't let her daughter make the same mistake she did, having a baby at fifteen. More history comes out. Tony admits his "center" was a drug rehab program. Denise hates her husband's friends, who left him to take the rap for possession of their drugs. Collette reads Tony a true story she's written for her stepdad in prison about how her arm was shattered by a bullet as she played in the park near school. The cops didn't even investigate, complains Fatima. They're crooks, says Tony; like the drug-dealing cop in today's paper. They gather around the article: it's the same cop who arrested Fatima's Mickey! Maybe this will provide evidence to get Mickey out of prison! Fatima won't consider the possibility. The train moves on. Act Two is again on a train, but late that same night. After Riker's, Collette had gone to a friend's to work on a science project while Fatima and Denise went dancing. Now the three are headed home, but Fatima is infuriated to have caught Collette wearing makeup and sporting huge red letters on her cast saying "Eddie." She calls her daughter a liar and a sneak, and Collette swears she'll move in with her grandmother. Fatima explodes, saying that this same illiterate old lady told her twelve years ago to get an abortion! When Denise defends Collette, Fatima accuses the whole family of thinking she's a whore and blaming her for everything. After another beggar approaches them, an announcement orders everyone to disembark at the next stop. On the Chambers Street subway platform, Fatima tries a pay phone to find it's broken. Like her whole life, she says. Denise begs Fatima to stop. She, for one, has always admired her older cousin, especially when Fatima got pregnant but finished school and


raised her baby without family support or welfare. Now Denise wants to know why Fatima has been "acting like a bitch" all night, even getting them kicked out of a club! Especially after Mickey's good news: a new lawyer will fight for Mickey's release. But Fatima will not be taken in by such a stupid fantasy. Denise, meanwhile, is sickened by what she's seen in the prison: the stench, her husband's black eye, the guards' rudeness. Fatima describes Collette's asthma attack after the guards confiscated her inhalers. Mickey went with his family to the infirmary and, on the way, touched Fatima's hand. When that's as good as it gets, why have hope? Announcement: further delays! A suicidal drunk teeters toward the tracks. It's Tony. He found his woman living with another man. He told her how sorry he was, that he had changed, that she and the twins were his life-all to no avail. That proves life is merely a slow death, Fatima maintains. But Denise points to Fatima's hopes-her dreams for Collette, for example. Fatima's pessimism doesn't hold up; she said she wished she'd gotten an abortion-was that true? Fatima admits it was only anger talking. A final beggar arrives, this time a doo-wop singer with an angelic voice. Gabe's singing and his attitude awaken new hope in everyone. Tony decides that "gotta hang in there" is perhaps a valid philosophy. Gabe, the angel, disappears down the platform singing. The others dance to his fading song, experiencing one of life's "happy moments." The train arrives.

La Próxima Parada Study Questions

1. Consider the following exchange between Fatima and the last beggar: Fatima: "En realidad la vida es una muerte que toma tanto tiempo a llegar." Gabe: "Mi papá me decía que no hay la felicidad completa - sino momentos felices." 2. Does Tony deserve to suffer for abandoning his wife and family? Or does he deserve forgiveness for getting clean and committing his life to them? Do the other characters deserve the problems they face? What does Rivera tell us in her play about how to handle the unfairness in our lives? Explain whether you agree with her and why.

3. Why do you think the play is set in the subway system?

4. For all these characters, jail is a central part of their experience and culture. Look at the detailed ways in which jails (being in them, having loved ones who are in them) have an impact on the lives of these and real people.


5. What is the importance of Collette to this play? Does she represent a new generation and a new hope? Or is she just another bright young girl who is about to fall into the same traps as her mother and aunt? What specifics do you learn about Collette's life as a New York City teenager?

6. What role do the beggars play in Rivera's play? Look at the specific lines and actions of each beggar's scene and consider their similarities, differences, and symbolism.

7. What does this play have to say about parenthood? What are the adults' strengths as parents? What would you do as a parent in their shoes?

Nuyoricans -- New Voices from the Mainland

Introduction In one sense, New York City has had "Nuyorican literature"-writing by its Puerto Rican immigrants-since soon after Puerto Rico became an American possession in 1898. Within thirty years, hundreds of thousands of Puerto Ricans had poured into the city. From the beginning, their stories and songs portrayed a divided loyalty, the theme of being torn between two cultures and two languages which lies at the heart of immigrant literatures everywhere. Pedro Labarthe called himself A Son of Two Nations in his 1931 story of studying at Columbia University. Exactly thirty years later, Jesús Colón called himself A Puerto Rican in New York in another key autobiography. Labarthe and Colón did not agree on much-Labarthe believed in the melting pot, Colón criticized it as a working class socialist-but both saw themselves as "strangers in a strange land," alone and separated from the old home but not yet adjusted to the new. Then, as more hundreds of thousands of Puerto Ricans migrated to New York after World War II, they built traditions and formed strong communities, especially Spanish Harlem, "El Barrio." Poets and novelists, writing in Spanish and English in New York and Puerto Rico, analyzed the immigrant experience. They debated socialism and capitalism and the always controversial question of Puerto Rico's status (territory? state? nation?). They pictured Puerto Ricans in New York as caught in a set of conflicts: between assimilation and rootedness, between urban community and rural motherland, between their own community and other ethnic groups, even conflicts among the first, second, and third generations of immigrant families. By 1957 the Puerto Rican community in New York even achieved fame and notoriety in mainstream culture via the musical hit West Side Story, which translated Romeo and Juliet into a ballet of witty, romantic songs and ethnic turmoil.


Mean Streets But Puerto Ricans, like others from the Caribbean, brought skin of many colors to New York, so racism became an especially Puerto Rican problem in he 1960s. The first important Nuyorican writer whose native language was English was probably Piri Thomas, who wrote three autobiographical books about life in the underworlds of El Barrio and the prison system . The first of these, Down These Mean Streets, had a national success in the late 1960s because it resembled a popular kind of book from African American literature, the "ghetto autobiography" most famously exemplified by The Autobiography of Malcolm X. Piri Thomas was dark, which to some of his family members was a social embarrassment and to most whites made him "just another Negro." La Carreta Immigration was still the issue when a new strain of Nuyorican theatre broke out in the late 1960s. The first important text of this movement came from 1951, when a Puerto Rican writer named René Marqués, who had studied playwriting and theatre in New York on a Rockefeller grant, recycled his New York experience into a play called La carreta. It dramatized a jíbaro (peasant) and his family leaving their rural Puerto Rican home, moving to San Juan and misery, then moving to New York and much greater misery and dehumanization, and finally returning to their native island. "La tierra es sagrá," they say, "La tierra no se abandona." The work became a classic of Puerto Rican literature and of Latin American drama. In 1966, a translation of La carreta called The Oxcart became a hit at a small OffBroadway theatre and ran for many months. The next summer, a free production of The Oxcart toured through the city's parks funded by Mayor John Lindsay and helped by Joseph Papp's traveling Shakespeare theatre. The star of both shows was Miriam Colón, an actress who had been developing Puerto Rican theatre in New York since the 1950s. The company that managed the tour was named the Puerto Rican Traveling Theatre, and it remains a lively and productive organization today, an important part of New York's diverse Latino theatre. The rise of the Puerto Rican Traveling Theatre in 1966-67, the national success of Thomas's Down These Mean Streets in 1968, and the 1969 publication of Snaps, Victor Hernández Cruz's first volume of poetry, by the prestigious firm of Random House these were signs that Puerto Rican literature of all descriptions was beginning to flourish in New York. Loisaida Strictly speaking, the term "Nuyorican" comes from the late 1960s and early 1970s, when the broad explosion in American ideas and arts reached the Puerto Rican community. Now the scene was dominated not by Spanish Harlem but by the Lower East Side. These writers had been born or raised in the US. Their main language was English. Their influences were contemporary, like Beat writers, acid rock, and salsa. They were


strongly influenced by what was happening in African American literautre, especially its pride, anger, and critique of white culture. These writers saw themselves as more "Nuyo" than "rican." The artists of Loisaida, according to critic Eugene V. Mohr, remembered "Puerto Rico only as a set of nostalgic images their mothers conjured up on cold winter nights." The movement's two most famous poets were also the editors of Nuyorican Poetry (1975): Miguel Piñero, also a successful playwright, and Miguel Algarín, who founded a writer's workshop and the Nuyorican Poets' Cafe in the Lower East Side. Both of these Nuyoricans returned to Puerto Rico in search of roots or inspiration, but neither was happy with what he found or how he felt. Piñero later dismissed the mother island as this slave blessed land where nuyoricans come in search of spiritual identity are greeted with profanity In another poem, Piñero rejected being buried in Puerto Rico. He wanted to be near his true home, near the stabbing shooting gambling, fighting & unnatural dying & new birth crying . . . Take my ashes and scatter them thru out the Lower East Side Nuyorican writers were happier being brash insurgents in the US. They found their voices in the voices of underdog and outsider. Poet Pedro Pietri took on the voice of the ultimate underdog in his "Suicide Note from a Cockroach in a Low Income Housing Project," where a cockroach protests the discrimination against his kind by minority groups: We are the real american We was here before colombus . . . Why should we be denied coexistence??? Nuyorican Theatre in Bloom The decade of th 1970s saw Nuyorican theatre blossom. In 1974, a theatrical workshop of ex-convicts produced Short Eyes, a play of prison life by poet (and ex-con) Miguel Piñero. When producer Joseph Papp saw this sensational production, he found it "remorseless" and "real. Nobody seemed to be acting." Soon he moved Short Eyes to Lincoln Center, where it won a New York Drama Critics Circle Award for Best Play of 1973-74 and went on to become a film. Even though Short Eyes was less about Nuyoricans than about convicts, it gave Puerto Rican drama a national profile. Many other plays followed. Miguel Algarín co-wrote and directed a musical-poetic elegy for the baseball star Roberto Clemente, Olu Clemente, which Papp produced at the Delacorte Theatre in Central Park during the run of King Lear. Ramón Ramírez wrote a salsa musical called Mondongo. Piñero returned with The Sun Always Shines for the Cool in


1977. And two years later, Eduardo Gallardo contributed a minor classic of Puerto Rican life, Simpson Street. Fifteen years after Miriam Colón's production of The Oxcart, "Nuyorican" writing had a name, a network of artistic and cultural organizations, and several important anthologies. White and Latino academics were reading papers at conferences and publishing books about the movement and its literary backgrounds, books such as Eugene V. Mohr's The Nuyorican Experience (1982). Nuyorican Writers Today A generation later, Nuyorican writers come in all shades: conservative, liberal, gay, straight, comic, revolutionary, assimilated, and nationalist. Recent writers have espoused widely divergent causes. And they have been accepted-with Pulitzer Prize nominations, NEA grants, and publication in the most prestigious literary journals-as part of the American Literature which they have helped to redefine. So with Nuyorican theatre. With every year, theatre companies produce more Latino plays, in English or in Spanish. More companies, foundations, and cultural supporters aid the writing and acting of Latino drama. And today's Nuyorican writers are subject to a wider variety of influences, not only the literary traditions of Latin America but the contemporary voices heard in television, film, popular music, and mainstream television. Finally, audiences have changed, including those watching the new Nuyorican plays at Repertorio Español. "One of the reasons the response to these plays has been so positive," according to Robert Federico of Repertorio, "is that their characters are 'making it.' I think that's an emerging outlook in Latino art. A lot of Latino plays have been about people who had tragedies or weren't advancing. The playwrights want to write about suffering, but the audience is tired of the negative images. They want a balance, a full, rounded vision." "Full" and "rounded." After decades of self-conscious development, Nuyorican writing today describes the condition of Puerto Rican people in Nueva York with complexity, depth, and diversity. But as audiences can see from the plays at Repertorio Español, today's dramatists remain fascinated by the themes of previous decades: racism within and without the barrio, the clash of languages, the return to the island, and preservation of their cultural heritage. "Who are these people? Puerto Ricans. They come from an island a hundred miles long by thirty-five miles wide. They come in all sizes, colors, and shapes. They got a little of everybody. Heart like the Jews, soul like the Blacks, balls like the Italians. They hit New York in the 1940s, the wrong time. . . . They hung in anyway-most of the tickets were one way." -Edwin Torres, Carlito's Way


On Latino Drama and Culture

While often uprooted from their native lands and converted to minority status in the belly of the giant, the Latinos of the United States never gave up their cultural institutions. Theatre, whether commercial or amateur, professional or folkloric, is one of the most important of those institutions and has been essential in maintaining a sense of identity and community solidarity throughout the last one hundred and thirty years. At each turn, an appropriate theatrical expression has responded to the historical, linguistic, economic, and spiritual circumstances of the Latino communities. -Nicolás Kanellos & Jorge A. Huerta, Nuevos Pasos: Chicano and Puerto Rican Drama En la Isla somos una gran familia pobre, apretujada en una casita, pero se vive. . . . En la finca de casa había una ceiba. Por las tardes y en los días de fiesta, a veces, nos reuníamos allí los amigos y los parientes. . . . Cuando ya no me quedó mas escapatoria que vender la finca para venir a esta ciudad, me dijé: "Voy a llevar la ceiba en un tiesto." Como que me rompo con solo pensar en el imposible. -Enrique Laguerre, La ceiba en el tiesto As time passed, my role in society began to change. I set out to search for the good old American dream. My Puerto Rican heritage was no longer appealing to me. I wanted to blend into society. I was Americanizing myself more and more until it became virtually an article of faith with me that I had to strike a deliberate contrast with what has been called the "Puerto Rican way of life." Gradually my love for Puerto Rico ebbed while my admiration for America rose. -Richard Ruiz, The Hungry American Although Puerto Ricans have had a colony in New York for well over a century, their presence as a large, unassimilated mass in the melting pot became suddenly obvious around the time of World War II. And by the early 1950s, El Mundo, San Juan's leading Spanish-language newspaper, was referring to New York simply as la urbe, the metropolis, exactly the way people all over the Empire referred to Rome in its heyday. . . . People from everywhere in the Caribbean flowed into New York in greater numbers, in fact, than into any other city in the world. But the Puerto Ricans have been the most conspicuous: they started earlier and migrated on a more massive scale than any other group. Furthermore, as legal immigrants they did not have to hide, and as American citizens they could apply for all sorts of government services. As a result much more was learned about them than about the others. Puerto Ricans are probably the most studied, researched, card-catalogued, and cross-indexed immigrants in history. -Eugene V. Mohr, The Nuyorican Experience: Literature of the Puerto Rican Minority


Further Reading on Nuyorican Culture

John Antush, ed. Nuestro New York: An Anthology of Puerto Rican Plays (New York: Penguin, 1994). John Antush, ed. Recent Puerto Rican Theatre: Five Plays from New York (Houston: Arte Público Press, 1991). María Teresa Babín, The Puerto Ricans' Spirit: Their History, Life, and Culture (New York: Collier Macmillan, 1971). Iván Díaz, On the Nature of the Puerto Rican Universe (New York: Domino Press, 1997). Miguel Falquez-Certain, ed. New Voices in Latin American Literature/Nuevas voces en las literatura latina (Jackson Heights, NY: Ollantay Press, 1993). Nicolás Kannelos, A History of Hispanic Theater in the United States: Origins to 1940 (Austin, TX: University of Texas Press, 1990). Nicolás Kannelos & Jorge Huerta, eds. Nuevos Pasos: Chicano and Puerto Rican Drama (Houston: Arte Público Press, 1979). Julio Marzán, ed. The Latin American Writers' Directory (Jackson Heights, NY: Ollantay Press, 1989). George R. McMurray, Spanish American Writing Since 1941: A Critical Survey (New York: Ungar, 1987). Eugene V. Mohr, The Nuyorican Experience: Literature of the Puerto Rican Minority (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1982). Ollantay Theatre Magazine (Jackson Heights, NY: 1993). Asela Rodríguez de Laguna, ed. Images and Identities: The Puerto Rican in Literature (New Brunswick, NJ: Transaction Books, 1987). Clara E. Rodríguez & Virginia Sánchez Korrol, eds. Historical Perspectives on Puerto Rican Survival in the United States (Princeton, NJ: Markus Wiener Publishers, 1996). Robert Santiago, ed. Boricuas: Influential Puerto Rican Writings-An Anthology (New York: Ballantine Books, 1995). Silvio Torres-Saillant, ed. Hispanic Immigrant Writers and the Question of Identity (Jackson Heights, NY: Ollantay Press, 1989). Faythe Turner, ed. Puerto Rican Writers at Home in the USA (Seattle: Open Hand Publishing, 1991).



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