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[1 of 5] Bodega Dreams, Book I, Rounds 1-4, by Ernesto Quiñonez (2000)

Author: Ernesto Quiñonez

Quiñonez Ernesto. “Book I, Rounds 1-4.” Vintage Contemporaries Original: Bodega Dreams, Vintage Contemporaries, New York, 2000.


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ERNESTO QUIÑONEZ

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BODEGA DREAMS

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Ernesto Quiñonez studied writing at The City College of New York. He currently teaches bilingual fourth grade in the New York public school system and is at work on his second novel. He lives in New York City.

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Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data Quiñonez, Ernesto. Bodega dreams / Ernesto Quiñonez.
p. cm.
ISBN 0-375-70589-9
eBook ISBN: 978-0-8041-5405-5
1. Puerto Ricans—New York (State)—New York—Fiction. I. Title PS3567.U3618L3 2000
813′.54—dc21 99-33380

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All died
hating the grocery stores
that sold them make-believe steak and bullet-proof rice and beans
All died waiting dreaming and hating

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Dec 10
Keily M (Dec 10 2021 5:52AM) : This sounds like some trouble happened related to gang or violance.
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Dec 15
Pedrito C (Dec 15 2021 6:55AM) : Sapo was in a gang
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PEDRO PIETRI—“Puerto Rican Obituary”

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ROUND 1
Spanish for “Toad”

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SAPO was different.

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Sapo was always Sapo, and no one messed with him because he had a reputation for biting. “When I’m in a fight,” Sapo would spit, “whass close to my mouth is mine by right and my teeth ain’t no fucken pawnshop.”

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Nov 22
Dewry C (Nov 22 2021 7:40AM) : summary more

sapo is messed with a gang

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Nov 29
Dawry C (Nov 29 2021 1:03PM) : sapo is messing with drugs delars
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Nov 30
Dewry C (Nov 30 2021 6:43AM) : summary more

Sapo is messing with a gang and a drugs delars.

I loved Sapo. I loved Sapo because he loved himself. And I wanted to be able to do that, to rely on myself for my own happiness.

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Nov 22
Chris G (Nov 22 2021 7:41AM) : Sapo Loved himself. more

I can realty to what chino said about sapo loving himself because somedays I Wish I felt like that sometimes about my self if not sometime all the time .

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Dec 10
Keily M (Dec 10 2021 5:54AM) : This relates in this generation, a lot of people don't have self love and other's wish or learn to have it.
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Nov 22
Dawry C (Nov 22 2021 7:31AM) : that means that sapo really like himself
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Dec 1
Cristy I (Dec 01 2021 7:12AM) : Currently my mood . self love the best love.

Sapo, he relied on himself. He’d been this way since we met back in the fourth grade when he threw a book at Lisa Rivera’s face because she had started to make fun of his looks by calling out, “ribbit, ribbit.” But in truth, Sapo did look like a toad. He was strong, squatty, with a huge mouth framed by fat lips, freaking bembas that could almost swallow you. His eyes bulged in their sockets and when he laughed there was no denying the resemblance. It was like one huge, happy toad laughing right in front of you.

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Dec 10
Keily M (Dec 10 2021 5:58AM) : We all have nicknames by how we look like for example mines is "Flaca" which means "skinny", now I know why they call him like that lol!
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Nov 18
Yeury N (Nov 18 2021 7:07AM) : so he really looked like a sapo?
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I’m the Tech Liaison for the New York City Writing Project. I… (more)

Nov 18
Paul A

I’m the Tech Liaison for the New York City Writing Project. I… (more)

(Nov 18 2021 9:21AM) : Imagine! more

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As far back as I could remember Sapo had always been called Sapo and no one called him by his real name, Enrique. Usually Enriques are nicknamed Kiko or Kique. But Sapo didn’t look like an Enrique anyway, whatever an Enrique is supposed to look like. Sapo could only be Sapo. And that’s what everyone called him. It was rumored around the neighborhood that when Sapo came out, the nurses cleaned him up and brought him over to his father. His father saw the baby and said, “Coño, he looks like a frog,” and quickly handed the baby to the mother. “Here, you take him.” I think this story is true. But Sapo never bitched, as if he had said, “Fuck that shit. I’ll love myself.” And that’s how I wanted to be.

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Dec 10
Keily M (Dec 10 2021 6:02AM) : I feel like nicknames sometimes can be hurtful or especially when you are born someway, but is good hear Enrique always had selflove.
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To have a name other than the one your parents had given you meant you had status in school, had status on your block. You were somebody. If anyone called you by your real name you were un mamao, a useless, meaningless thing. It meant that you hadn’t proved yourself, it was open season for anybody who wanted to kick your ass. It was Sapo who taught me that it didn’t matter if you lost the fight, only that you never backed down. The more guys that saw you lose fights without ever backing down, the better. This didn’t mean you were home free, it simply meant bigger guys would think twice before starting something with you.

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Nov 18
Chris G (Nov 18 2021 7:30AM) : I agree. more

I agree because when I was growing up I had all types of names other then what my parents had given me like ChrisG,G OR FOREVER.

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Dec 1
Dawry C (Dec 01 2021 7:42AM) : summary more

i agree because when i was growing up my cousins and friends call me by alot of types of names like goldo and determination and many more.

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Dec 1
Cristy I (Dec 01 2021 7:19AM) : this kind of make sense and we see why the biggest thugs on the blocks today always have a crazy nickname . more

its been around for a long time .

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Dec 2
Yeury N (Dec 02 2021 6:59AM) : sometimes they use nickname because they name is too hard to say or its short way to say they name like for example people use their initials sometimes
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Dec 1
Yeiro B (Dec 01 2021 6:54AM) : sapo taught him something very important to you, which is not to leave a fight that it does not matter if you lose the fight if not that you did not leave the fight
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Dec 1
Cristy I (Dec 01 2021 7:21AM) : i always stood by this statement because its all about being brave enought to defend yourself
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Dec 2
Yeury N (Dec 02 2021 6:49AM) : what sago taught him was don't back down just fight because even though you fight you still going to get respect.
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Dec 2
Yeury N (Dec 02 2021 10:51AM) : as i said the more you fight even if you loose or win the other might think twice on trying because they know that you not going to give up win or loose.
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Getting a name meant I had to fight. There was no way out of it. I got beat up a few times, but I never backed down. “You back down once,” Sapo had told me, “and you’ll be backin’ down f’ the res’ of your life. It’s a Timex world, everyone takes a lickin’ but you got to keep on tickin’. Know what I’m sayin’, papi?” Sapo was one of those guys who went around beating other kids up, but Sapo was different. Sapo loved himself. He didn’t need teachers or anyone else telling him this. The meanest and ugliest kid on the block loved himself and not only that, he was my pana, my friend. This gave me hope, and getting a name seemed possible. So I decided that I no longer wanted to be called by the name my parents had given me, Julio. I wanted a name like Sapo had and so I looked for fights.

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Dec 10
Keily M (Dec 10 2021 6:16AM) : Why did he wanted to get a nickname this type of way?
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Dec 2
Yeury N (Dec 02 2021 10:54AM) : you don't always have to fight to get a name. you can always beat your bullies in other ways. you don't have always be street wise
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Dec 15
Chris G (Dec 15 2021 11:21AM) : don't back down more

in real life being in the street myself showed me that if you don’t stand up for yourself and stand your ground you always gonna have people who walk all over you.

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Nov 16
Jessica H (Nov 16 2021 5:03AM) : Definition: “pana” is a Spanglish pronunciation of “partner” more

Many Puerto Ricans came to the mainland USA in the 1950s, a time in which there were plenty of Western/cowboy movies in theaters. Since cowboys called each other “partner”, Spanish-speaking kids learning English would pronounce it “pana”.

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Nov 18
cristin t (Nov 18 2021 7:34AM) : So the word pana mean like your buddy, your pal, your bro.
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Dec 15
Pedrito C (Dec 15 2021 11:20AM) : so you get a random nicknames for fighting
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Dec 1
Cristy I (Dec 01 2021 11:25AM) : this is an example on how we let friends bad influences guides us , he looked up to sapo and believe he had to be like him to find self love which is wrong

It was always easy to get into fights if you hated yourself. So what if you fought a guy bigger than you who would kick your ass? So what if you got stabbed with a 007 in the back and never walked again? So what if someone broke your nose in a fight? You were ugly anyway. Your life meant shit from the start. It was as if you had given up on the war and decided to charge the tanks with your bare fists. Nothing brave in it, you just didn’t give a shit anymore. It was easy to be big and bad when you hated your life and felt meaningless. You lived in projects with pissed-up elevators, junkies on the stairs, posters of the rapist of the month, and whores you never knew were whores until you saw men go in and out of their apartments like through revolving doors. You lived in a place where vacant lots grew like wild grass does in Kansas. Kansas? What does a kid from Spanish Harlem know about Kansas? All you knew was that one day a block would have people, the next day it would be erased by a fire. The burned-down buildings would then house junkies who made them into shooting galleries or become playgrounds for kids like me and Sapo to explore. After a few months, the City of New York would send a crane with a ball and chain to wreck the gutted tenements. A few weeks later a bulldozer would arrive and turn the block into a vacant lot. The vacant lot would now become a graveyard for stolen cars. Sapo and I played in those cars with no doors, tires, windows, or steering wheels, where mice had made their nests inside the slashed seats. Sapo loved killing the little mice in different ways. I liked to take a big piece of glass and tear open what was left of the seat. I always hoped to find something the car thieves had hidden inside but had forgotten to take when they ditched the car. But I never found anything except foam and sometimes more mice.

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Dec 10
Keily M (Dec 10 2021 6:33AM) : This is still real life situations, and it's sad, and I agree with what cristin said, his admiring someone with the wrong steps.
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Nov 18
Yeury N (Nov 18 2021 11:11AM) : so you want to get stabbed just have a nickname?
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Nov 18
cristin t (Nov 18 2021 7:36AM) : Damn who hurt this person?
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Nov 22
Jessica H (Nov 22 2021 8:12AM) : Society hurt him. Teachers hurt him. more

And without touching him physically, just by treating him like he was invisible.

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Nov 23
cristin t (Nov 23 2021 12:36PM) : Ahhh I see
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Dec 1
Cristy I (Dec 01 2021 7:28AM) : yea this guy has no self love and admiring somebody who just thug it out, to find peace which is the wrong way to go about it .
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Dec 1
Yeiro B (Dec 01 2021 11:03AM) : I believe that he reached a point that he no longer wants to know anything about his life, he does not care if they kill him or an assidant
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Dec 1
Cristy I (Dec 01 2021 11:31AM) : its so sad but real what hes saying because tll this day this is what you see in most projects , it has turned into a cycle for some people who dont see a way out and get stuck in time and misery .
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Dec 1
Yeiro B (Dec 01 2021 11:15AM) : sapo liked to kill rats I don't know why but he liked it, it felt good, sure, it felt good
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Dec 1
Cristy I (Dec 01 2021 11:36AM) : this is a example of kids growing up in a society who basically force them to take the wrong steps , what they see on the daily basics becomes a lifestyle. plus goverment dont really help so.

Fires, junkies dying, shootouts, holdups, babies falling out of windows were things you took as part of life. If you were a graffiti artist and people knew you were a good one, death meant an opportunity to make a few bucks. Someone close to the deceased, usually a woman, would knock on your door. Mira, my cousin Freddy just passed away. Can you do him a R.I.P.?” You would bemoan Freddy’s death whether you knew him or not, say you were sorry and ask what had happened, like you really cared. “Freddy? Freddy was shot by mistake. He wasn’t stealin’ not’en.” You’d nod and then ask the person on what wall she wanted the R.I.P. and what to paint on it. “On the wall of P.S. 101’s schoolyard. The back wall. The one that faces 111th Street. Freddy would hang there all night. I want it to say, ‘Freddy the best of 109th Street, R.I.P.’ And then I want the flag of Borinquen and a big conga with Freddy’s face on it, can you paint that?” You would say, “Yeah, I can paint that” and never ask for the money up front, because then you wouldn’t get tipped.

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Dec 15
Chris G (Dec 15 2021 11:09AM) : Artist dead opportunity more

In todays society when a artist dies whether if people new them or not they still end up getting some can of fam maybe from around the world

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Dec 15
Pedrito C (Dec 15 2021 7:27AM) : who was freddy?
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Dec 16
Pedrito C (Dec 16 2021 6:34AM) : was freddy related to sapo?
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Dec 16
Jessica H (Dec 16 2021 7:32AM) : No, Freddy was just an example for that story. He’s not an actual character in the story.
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Dec 6
Cristy I (Dec 06 2021 11:30AM) : Harlem its full of theses memorials .
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I painted dozens of R.I.P.s for guys in El Barrio who felt small and needed something violent to jump-start their lives and at the same time end them. It was guys like these who on any given day were looking to beat someone up, so it was up to me to either become like them or get the shit kicked out of me.

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Dec 1
Yeiro B (Dec 01 2021 7:23AM) : I think that the one who laughs will be an example in the neighborhood for the other boys who didn't want to be beaten by the people who pass by and he says that he will have to become like them badly to be able to kick him out of the neighborhood
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Jan 24
Keily M (Jan 24 2022 4:16PM) : I can related to these type of painting all around NYC, this very common when someone passes away.
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Dec 15
Chris G (Dec 15 2021 7:38AM) : Painting Dozens of R.I.P.s more

all around the bronx in new york on the sides of houses and stores are R.I.P paintings of people that was love and respected in their hoods that are no longer here with us anymore.

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Junior High School 99 (aka Jailhouse 99), on 100th Street and First Avenue, became the outlet I needed. It was violently perfect and in constant turmoil within itself. It was a school that was divided by two powers, the white teachers and the Hispanic teachers. The white teachers had most of the power because they had seniority. They had been teaching before the chancellor of the Board of Education finally realized that the school was located in Spanish Harlem and practically all of the students were Latinos, and so changed the school’s name from Margaret Knox to Julia de Burgos.

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Dec 1
Yeiro B (Dec 01 2021 7:29AM) : The school had so many Latin students that they changed his name, I imagine how that must be or how that happened
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Dec 15
Pedrito C (Dec 15 2021 7:35AM) : There was a war between the hispanic teachers and the white teachers.
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To the white teachers we were all going to end up delinquents. “I get paid whether you learn or not,” they would tell us. So we figured, hey, I ain’t stealing food from your kid’s mouth, why should I do my work? The whole time I was at Julia de Burgos, I had no idea the school was named after Puerto Rico’s greatest poet, had no idea Julia de Burgos had emigrated to New York City and lived in poverty while she wrote beautiful verses. She lived in El Barrio and had died on the street. But we weren’t taught about her or any other Latin American poets, for that matter. As for history, we knew more about Italy than our own Latin American countries. To Mr. Varatollo, the social studies teacher, everything was Italy this, Italy that, Italy, Italy, Italy. Didn’t he know the history of the neighborhood? Hadn’t he ever seen West Side Story? We hated Italians. At least that part of West Side Story was correct. Some Italians from the old days of the fifties and sixties were still around. They lived on Pleasant Avenue off 116th Street, and if you were caught around there at night you’d better have been a light-skinned Latino so you could pass yourself off as Italian.

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Nov 18
Yeury N (Nov 18 2021 1:17PM) : i just used get that everytime
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Nov 30
cristin t (Nov 30 2021 6:57AM) : I always hear tecahers saying i get paid either you learn something or not.
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Jan 24
Keily M (Jan 24 2022 4:31PM) : I always hear this, to students know that it's only their job to do right.
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Dec 6
Cristy I (Dec 06 2021 7:35AM) : i hate the fact that the goverment feel like teaching us tthe own kind of history they made up . always the same new lies nothing changes.
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So, since we were almost convinced that our race had no culture, no smart people, we behaved even worse. It made us fight and throw books at one another, sell loose joints on the stairways, talk back to teachers, and leave classrooms whenever we wanted to. We hated the white teachers because we knew they hated their jobs. The only white teacher who actually taught us something, actually went through the hassle of making us respect her by never taking shit from us, was the math teacher, Ms. Boorstein. She once went toe-to-toe with Sapo. He was about to walk out of her classroom because he was bored, and she said to him, “Enrique, sit back down!” Sapo kept walking and she ran toward the door and blocked his path. She dared him to push her. She said to him, “I’ll get your mother. I bet she hits harder.” And Sapo had no choice but to go back to his seat. From that day on, no one messed with her. She might have been Jewish, but to us she was still white. Ms. Boorstein could yell like a Latin woman. To us she was always “that bitch.” But we knew she cared, for the simple reason that she never called us names; she would yell but never call us names. She only wanted us to listen, and when we did well on her math tests she was all smiles.

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Dec 1
Yeiro B (Dec 01 2021 7:37AM) : the teachers more

ooooooh so they misbehaved because their race had no culture or intelligent people that gave him an excuse to misbehave and he did not like any white teacher but there was a teacher who was white that they respected because she never insulted him in a way bad . ooooh and sapo nameis enrique

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Nov 18
cristin t (Nov 18 2021 7:32AM) : I hate the facts they think us hispanic or black people are dumb and we don't have culture or anything we nothing like the white people but we are more then that.
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Dec 6
Cristy I (Dec 06 2021 7:38AM) : sometimes teachers have to step up to get respect from students , but i believe studenst should respect their teachers no matter what .
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The Hispanic teachers, on the other hand, saw themselves in our eyes and made us work hard. Most of them were young, the sons and daughters of the first wave of Puerto Ricans who immigrated to El Barrio in the late forties and the fifties. These teachers never took shit from us (especially Sapo), and they were not afraid to curse in class: “Mira, sit down or I’ll kick your ass down.” At times they spoke to us harshly, as if they were our parents. This somehow made us fear and listen to them. They were not Puerto Ricans who danced in empty streets, snapping their fingers and twirling their bodies. Nor were they violent, with switchblade tempers. None of them were named Maria, Bernardo, or Anita. These teachers simply taught us that our complexion was made up of many continents, Africa, Europe, and Asia. To them our self-respect was more important than passing some test, because you can’t pass a test if you already feel defeated. But the Hispanic teachers had very little say in how things were run in that school. Most of them had just graduated from a city university and couldn’t rock the boat. Any boat.

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Nov 18
cristin t (Nov 18 2021 7:30AM) : Wow hispanic teachers don't been playing with you and your education they wants the best for you.
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Dec 6
Cristy I (Dec 06 2021 7:41AM) : Growing up i had a real young teacher that my mom used as an example to show me respect to teachers . she did mention they like our parents in school and even if she was young i should always listen .
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Dec 8
Cristy I (Dec 08 2021 7:02PM) : Sometimes teachers can teach you lessons that last forever and not only school wise , i mean real life lessons
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So we hated ourselves and fought every day. And finally, after a while, when I lost the fear of hitting someone else (not the fear of getting hit but of hitting someone else), I looked for fights. With Sapo watching my back, getting into fights was fun. During my three years at Julia de Burgos, I had more fights than Sapo. And since I was born with high, flat cheekbones, almond-shaped eyes, and straight black hair (courtesy of my father’s Ecuadorian side of the family), and because kung fu movies were very popular at the time, when I was in the eighth grade, I was tagged Chino.

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Jan 24
Keily M (Jan 24 2022 4:39PM) : Very common to be nick named "chino" if you had chicki eyes.
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I was happy with the name. Chino was a cool name, qué chévere. There were many guys named Chino in East Harlem but it wasn’t a name that was just given to you. First, you had to look a bit Chinese, and second, you had to fight. It was an honor to be called Chino. But there were other honorable names in the neighborhood: Indio, if you had straight black hair, tan skin, and looked like a Taino; Batuka, if you liked Santana music and played the congas real good; Biscocho, if you were fat but told good jokes; and so on. Then there were names that were added to your name because of who you were, what you were known for, or what was said about you. Like a guy I knew named Junior, of 109th and Madison. Junior not only carried a knife, a jiga, in his back pocket, he had used it to cut someone’s face. It was no big deal to carry a knife in your back pocket. Everyone did and everyone knew that 80 percent of it was just for show, puro aguaje. The other 20 percent you hoped would never come your way. But Junior was notorious for going straight for his jiga when he got into a fight. He didn’t waste any time. It was Junior who introduced the phrase “Kool-Aid smile” when he cut a guy’s face so bad, from ear to ear, that he was left looking like the chubby, smiling cartoon logo from Kool-Aid packets. Soon this term caught on and it became a street phrase: “Shut the fuck up or I’ll give you a Kool-Aid smile.” Junior was no longer just Junior, but sometimes Junior Jiga of 109th Street.

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Nov 18
cristin t (Nov 18 2021 7:28AM) : So in this paragraph is saying your personality or the way you looks they will give you a names to called you.
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Jan 24
Keily M (Jan 24 2022 4:49PM) : very true lol , I know a lot of people named chino. It's very very common.
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Dec 8
Cristy I (Dec 08 2021 11:04AM) : its good to have a little idea on how long things been around before you. more

how things like nicknames actually have a deeper meaning if you know, i mean i think everybody that comes from a hood knows the baddest has a nickname that comes after a crazy situation .

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Nov 18
Yeury N (Nov 18 2021 11:23AM) : wow thats where that came from but now people call it something else
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Then there were the names your parents had called you since you were a kid, bullshit names like Papito, Tato, Chave, Junito, Googie, Butchy, Tito. Those names meant shit around school, around the block, around the neighborhood. They carried no weight and it was usually guys stuck with those names that were always getting their asses kicked.

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SAPO WAS the same around everybody, it didn’t matter if it was the president of the United States or some junkie, Sapo was himself. He was that way around any girl, too. See, there were girls in the neighborhood that you could curse around, act stupid, and all that, and then there were girls that you just didn’t. Sapo couldn’t care less.

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Nancy Saldivia was the second type. First, she was a Pentecostal girl. More important, she was fine. All the guys from the neighborhood liked Nancy Saldivia. Her face could envelop you, almost convert you. She had light tan skin, hazel eyes, and a beautiful mane of semibrown, semiblond hair. Nancy exuded a purity rarely found among the church girls. She was as genuine as a statue of a saint you want to light candles to, steal flowers for, or pray in front of. When she’d say, “Gloria a Dios!” she meant it. She was intelligent, polite, and friendly, and since she never cursed everyone called her Blanca.

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Blanca wasn’t allowed to wear jeans but she made up for it by wearing tight, short skirts. She always carried a Bible with her and never talked bad about anybody and at school she only hung around with her Pentecostal friend, Lucy. Lucy was a hairy girl who never shaved her legs because it was against her religion. Blanca had hairy legs as well, but Lucy’s legs were so hairy that everyone called her Chewbacca. As if that wasn’t enough, Lucy also had huge breasts. Because of them she was at times tagged Chewbacca la vaca. When the cruelty toward Lucy became too much for Blanca, she’d punish the boys by being the coldest, most serious person in school. Only Blanca could get away with this because she had an angelic face that almost made you want to sing Alleluia. Made you want to pick up a tambourine and join her one night in her church. Make a joyful noise to the Lord so she would begin to jump up and down to all that religious salsa. And maybe you’d be lucky enough to cop a cheap feel as the Holy Ghost took over her body.

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All the guys felt this need to be nice to Blanca, to protect her in any way they could, even though she was a church girl and all they’d ever get would be a peck on the cheek. All the guys, I mean, except Sapo.

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“Shit, man, she ain’t gold. She ain’t the fucken Virgin Mary.”

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“Blanca’s Pentecostal, bro. Not Catholic.”

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“Whatevah the fuck she is. All the guys really want is to fuck her, so why do they keep her in some fucken glass case?”

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“Yo, respect that shit, Sapo.”

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“Wha’ for? She ain’t no angel. Yo, my aunt was Pentecostal and she, bro, she has fucked half the men in her congregation. Esa ha cojido mas huevos que una sartén.

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“Respect, Sapo. Blanca believes in that shit, so—” Sapo would cut me off.

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“So you like her, thass all. Because it’s really bullshit. But you like her so you riding that shit, bro. But you know it’s all bullshit. Yo, check this out, my moms prays to her saint, Santa Clara, every day at Saint Cecilia’s. She lights all these fucken candles so the Virgin will give her the numbers. When that bitch saint tells my moms the Lotto numbers, then I’ll believe. Yo, I’ll believe. Yo, I’ll believe so bad I’ll buy Santa Clara a fucken wax museum.”

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Dec 16
Pedrito C (Dec 16 2021 6:41AM) : so sapo doesn't believe in religion stuff?
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MY MOTHER hated Sapo. “I don’t want to see you hanging around with that demonio,” she’d say to me. But I never listened, because Sapo meant adventure. Sapo meant we could steal beer and drink it together. He meant flying kites on the roof of a tenement building, both high on his weed. We loved flying kites but it wasn’t the pot that made the flying adventurous, it was the Gillette blades. We would buy one pack of those thin blades and glue razors onto the edges of our kites. Now we had flying weapons, kites able to cut the strings of other people’s kites in midair. It was aerial warfare. We would look up at the sky and see a kite and then maneuver our kites toward it. Sapo was brilliant at this. He didn’t really have to get that close or as high, all he had to do was get his kite with its blade edges to brush up against the string of the other kite. Then, without that person knowing it, his string would go limp and he’d think that it had just snapped, but no, Sapo had cut it. Then I would run downstairs and track the kite, which would soon come crashing to the ground or on some rooftop or somewhere. I would collect our spoils of war, which we would sell to some kid and split the money.

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Dec 8
Cristy I (Dec 08 2021 7:21PM) : i why we understood when our parents teell us stuff like this , hanging with bad company always end up bad .
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Jan 24
Keily M (Jan 24 2022 5:01PM) : I can understand the mom point of view, I am a mom too and I wouldn't like to see my son hanging with the wrong people.
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My father understood where we were living. He knew, and when I would come home with bruises or a black eye he never lost his cool. I liked my father, and my father liked Sapo. He knew the importance of having someone there to watch your back. It was important to have a pana, a broqui. But my mother didn’t get it. And like my mother, that’s what Blanca could never understand. Sapo was important to me. Sapo had arrived at a time when I needed someone there, next to me, so I could feel valuable. My childhood and adolescent life had been made up of times with him, as I later wanted my adult life to be made up of times with Blanca. It was hard to split the two.

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Jan 24
Keily M (Jan 24 2022 5:04PM) : Now, I understand the father point of view because man are more in the streets than us but I think it's still not right to be hanging out with the wrong people.
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Dec 8
Cristy I (Dec 08 2021 7:28PM) : I believe a lot of us can relate on this , having a friend that ccan bring up and downs but always stick around .
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“You know, Sapo,” I said to him one day as we were preparing to fly kites on the roof of a project, “if we could ride on top of these things, we could get out of here. You know?”

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“Why would you wanna fucken leave this place?” he said with his Sapo smile, showing all his teeth as he glued some razors to his kite. “This neighborhood is beautiful, bro.”

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Dec 16
Pedrito C (Dec 16 2021 12:46PM) : Sapo didn't want to get out the neighbornhood
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“Yeah, you’re right, pana,” I said to him, but knew I didn’t mean it. I gave my kite to the wind, which took it with a hiss, and I thought of Blanca and let out more string.

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Dec 16
Pedrito C (Dec 16 2021 6:47AM) : Chino is inlove with blanca
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Nov 22
Yeury N (Nov 22 2021 1:02PM) : chino is inlove

ROUND 2
Willie Bodega

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IN the eighth grade I applied to the High School of Art and Design on Fifty-seventh Street and Second Avenue. When I was accepted a lot of things seemed possible. I now left East Harlem every day and without my quite knowing it, the world became new.

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Little by little the neighborhood’s petty street politics became less important. I started to hang out less with Sapo, who had already dropped out. When we did meet on the street it was like we were long-lost brothers who hadn’t seen each other in years. Regardless of the distance created, I did know that he was still my pana, my main-mellow-man. I knew that if I went to Sapo and said some guys wanted to jump me, he’d round up a crew for me, a clique from 112th and Lex or from another block. Sapo knew a lot of blocks. He knew just about all the guys that lived in the neighborhood. Most of them owed Sapo one thing or another, or were just scared of him and would do as he said, no questions asked.

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Jan 24
Keily M (Jan 24 2022 5:21PM) : Sapo dropout, and they became distanced which is very common growing up. I still see old friends from middle school but rarely.
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Dec 16
Pedrito C (Dec 16 2021 6:51AM) : Sapo dropout of by 8 grade to go live the street life and throwing his future away

In my senior year at Art and Design, I learned about the Futurists. I wanted to do something like they had done. The Futurists had been a malcontent group of artists at the beginning of the century who loved speed and thought war was good, the “hygiene of humanity.” To them it was important to begin again. Culture was dead and it was time for something new. Burn all the museums! Burn all the libraries! Let’s begin from scratch! were some of their battle cries, and although most of them were, like their leader, Marinetti, from upper-middle-class backgrounds and not from the slums like myself, I liked them because I could relate to their anger. I realized that by reinventing culture, they were reinventing themselves. I wanted to reinvent myself too. I no longer wanted the world to be just my neighborhood anymore. Blanca thought the same, and when we started going out we would talk about this all the time.

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Nov 30
Jessica H (Nov 30 2021 6:46AM) : What do you think about Chino's desire to reinvent himself?
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Dec 6
Dawry C (Dec 06 2021 6:48AM) : summary more

he wants to make a different life for himself and blanca

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Jan 25
Keily M (Jan 25 2022 5:01AM) : Chino is having a positive state of mind, not to be like the people in his neighborhood.
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Dec 16
Pedrito C (Dec 16 2021 6:56AM) : So chino decide he want to be somebody in life not like the people from his neighbornhood and decided to stay in school to finish highschool and decided to make the move for himself.
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“Julio, don’t you hate it when people from the neighborhood who somehow manage to leave change their names? Instead of Juan, they want to be called John.”

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Dec 16
Pedrito C (Dec 16 2021 12:57PM) : Who is julio ?
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“I see your point. But what’s in a name, anyway? A Rivera from Spanish Harlem by any other name would still be from Spanish Harlem.”

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Blanca laughed and called me stupid. Then she said, “I have an aunt named Veronica. When she married this rich guy from Miami, she changed her name to Vera.”

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“That’s wack,” I said.

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“I’m not going to do that. I’m going to keep my name, Nancy Saldivia, and my friends can always call me Blanca. The only time I’ll change my name is when I get married.”

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Jan 25
Keily M (Jan 25 2022 11:06AM) : I think this is important what Blanca thinks, because it reflects where you came from and it's something you can't hide (your past).
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I could have married Blanca right then and there. Instead we enrolled at Hunter College, because we knew we needed school if we were ever going to change ourselves. We got married the following year. Those were the days when all conversations seemed as important as a cabinet crisis. We’d always talk about graduating and saving up to buy a house. About children who looked like me and slept like her. With Blanca next to me, El Barrio seemed less dirty, life less hard, God less unjust. Those were the good days, when Blanca and I worked hard to invent new people. It was important to have someone help you as you grew and changed.

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Jan 25
Keily M (Jan 25 2022 5:08AM) : I like how Blanca is making chino's life or see life in a positive way.
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Dec 16
Pedrito C (Dec 16 2021 7:06AM) : Chino and Blanca marrried,decided that they wanna make a change for themself and go to college to study something to buy a house and have kids .
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Dec 9
Cristy I (Dec 09 2021 12:07PM) : THISSS YESSS !

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THAT’S WHAT it was always about. Shedding your past. Creating yourself from nothing. Now I realize that that’s what attracted me to Willie Bodega. Willie Bodega didn’t just change me and Blanca’s life, but the entire landscape of the neighborhood. Bodega would go down as a representation of all the ugliness in Spanish Harlem and also all the good it was capable of being. Bodega placed a mirror in front of the neighborhood and in front of himself. He was street nobility incarnated in someone who still believed in dreams. And for a small while, those dreams seemed as palpable as that dagger Macbeth tried to grab. From his younger days as a Young Lord to his later days as Bodega, his life had been triggered by a romantic ideal found only in those poor bastards who really wanted to be poets but got drafted and sent to the front lines. During that time Bodega would create a green light of hope. And when that short-lived light went supernova, it would leave a blueprint of achievement and desire for anyone in the neighborhood searching for new possibilities.

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Nov 22
Jessica H (Nov 22 2021 7:24AM) : The Young Lords were a political organization, much like the Black Panther Party, in the Latino community of the 1970s more

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Dec 16
Pedrito C (Dec 16 2021 7:26AM) : Bodega was like the neighbornhood owner the one that controlled everything around and he the one that knows every move that happen in the neighbornhood.
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It was always about Bodega and nobody else but Bodega and the only reason I began with Sapo was because to get to Bodega, you first had to go through Sapo.

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Anyway, it was Sapo who introduced me. Sapo would knock at my door at crazy hours of the night.

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“Yo, Chino, man, whass up? You know yo’r my pana, right? And like, you know yo’r the only guy I can trust, right? I mean, we go way back.” He’d rattle out credentials as if I might deny him the favor. Then after recapping our friendship from the fourth grade to the adult present he would say, “So, mira, I have this package here and bein’ that yo’r the only guy I can trust, you know, can I leave it here wi’choo, Chino?” Of course I knew what was in the paper bag. Blanca did too, and she had fits.

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“You know he’s bad news. Always has been. I don’t want you around Enrique.”

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“What are you, my mother?”

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“He’s a drug dealer, Julio.”

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“Man, you’re brilliant, Blanca. What could have possibly given him away?” The honeymoon had been over for months.

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“What is your problem? You know, Julio, I married you because I thought you had brains. I thought you had more brains than most of the f-f-fucks in this neighborhood.” When Blanca cursed, I knew she was mad. Even when she was angry I could detect some hesitation, a stutter before the curse. Blanca measured her curses very carefully. She didn’t waste too many.

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Jan 25
Keily M (Jan 25 2022 5:26AM) : Blanca is caring for chino's life, she doesn't want him to end up like sapo.
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Dec 16
Pedrito C (Dec 16 2021 7:30AM) : Blanca doesn't want chino around the street life she doesn't wanna see chino end up like his friends in the neighbornhood.
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“Just look at Enrique,” she continued. “He has all these women who sleep with him hoping to rip him off when he falls asleep. So he brings his dope here so you, my idiot husband, can guard it while he has a great time!”

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“So what’s wrong with that? It’s not like we have to change it and make a bottle for it.”

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Dios mío! Enrique might have some money and drive a BMW but he still lives in the same roach-infested buildings that we do. He can’t leave because his money is only good here. You don’t see him living on Eighty-sixth Street with the blanquitos, do you?”

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Jan 25
Keily M (Jan 25 2022 5:29AM) : I like how she's trying to make sense to chino, because it's really like that in real life.
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“Did you figure all this out by yourself, Blanca?” I acted more interested in looking for the remote, so I could switch on the television.

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“Did it ever occur to you,” I said after finding it under the sofa cushions, “that maybe Sapo likes it here? Maybe, like a pig, Sapo likes the mud. Not everybody wants to go to college, Blanca.” I switched on the TV and began to surf. “Not everyone wants to save up. Buy a little house in the Bronx. Raise some brats. You think everyone wants what you want?”

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“What we want, Julio, what we want.” She pointed at the two of us.

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“Blanca, I hate that supermarket job and I’ve no classes tonight so don’t ask me right now what I want. Right now just let me watch Jeopardy, okay?” She went over to switch the television off. She stood in between the remote and the television so that I couldn’t turn it back on from the sofa.

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“I don’t like that receptionist desk, either.” Blanca stepped forward and snatched the remote from my hand. “But unlike you, I’m almost finished at Hunter. Maybe if you would stop hanging around with Sapo, you could finish up before the baby arrives. We’re going to need real money, real jobs.”

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Jan 25
Keily M (Jan 25 2022 11:31AM) : Blanca is pregnant????
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“Ahh, Blanca, this is all reruns. It’s all been said before. Come on. You may know what to do when you get that degree; me, I don’t care. I’m getting it because I like books and all that stuff. Give me the remote.” Blanca sat down on the edge of the sofa next to me. She was calm, staring straight ahead, avoiding any possibility of eye contact. When she did this, I knew a little speech was coming.

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“Julio, I know how you feel about your studies. I do. But I’m only thinking about the baby. I would have preferred to have waited a year or two after we graduated, but it didn’t work out that way.”

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“Oh, so it’s my fault, right?”

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“It’s no one’s fault. Look, I don’t intend to keep badgering you about finishing school. And who knows what you’ll do when you finish. I wish you’d talk to me about it.” Her tone changed, a bit more angry. “But if you’re up to something, something stupid with Sapo that’s going to get you in some trouble, I want to hear about it. I want to hear it from you.” Blanca faced me. Her hazel eyes stared fiercely into mine. I blinked. She didn’t. She poked a finger in my chest. “I want to hear it, understand? From you and not from someone else’s mouth. From you. So I can decide if I’m going to stay with you or not. I want to know. At least give me that. One hundred percent of that. If you are up to something illegal, you tell me. Let me decide for myself if I want to stay with you, if I’m going to be one of those wives whose husbands are in jail. I’m willing to put up with a lot, but I want to be told. If you keep me in the dark it’s like insulting me. And you know Enrique is trouble.”

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Jan 25
Keily M (Jan 25 2022 9:35AM) : Blanca can be young but she knows what she wants in life. She's very independent and mature.
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Dec 9
Cristy I (Dec 09 2021 10:20AM) : Blanaca sweet but shes not stupid shes a veryy smart female and a real one
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“Blanca, I’m here with you, right? Have I ever been in any trouble? I’m here, right?”

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“But what if one day Enrique doesn’t tell you where he is taking you and actually takes you somewhere bad? What if the police bust him and since you were with him you get in trouble too? That happens a lot, you know.”

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“Sapo would never do that to me.”

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“How do you know?”

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“Because I know.”

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“Julio, when we were teenagers at Julia de Burgos, I knew guys had to play this macho game and I knew you didn’t really want to play but you had to. Even though you were this kid who just wanted to paint. I liked you even back then.”

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“I liked you too—”

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“No, let me say this, okay?”

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“Okay.”

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“I remember when they would call you on the loudspeaker to go down to the office and paint this for Mrs. So-and-So, or paint a mural for an assembly. It happened a lot. Sometimes you would miss all eight periods because you were painting something for some teacher. I remember how cool you thought it was that you were singled out and had this special privilege. But I knew you were being ruined by those terrible teachers. You were just a kid. You should have been in a classroom and they didn’t care about you, they only wanted you to make their assemblies look good.”

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