have confidence or faith in
And I wanted to be able to do that, to
rely on myself for my own happiness.
refuse to recognize or acknowledge
His eyes bulged in their sockets and when he laughed there was no
denying the resemblance.
a run-down apartment house barely meeting minimal standards
After a few months, the City of New York would send a crane with a ball and chain to wreck the gutted
a young offender
To the white teachers we were all going to end up
leave one's country of residence for a new one
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.
come into a new country and change residency
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.
cause to adopt a new or different faith
Her face could envelop you, almost
make apparent by one's mood or behavior
exuded a purity rarely found among the church girls.
not fake or counterfeit
She was as
genuine as a statue of a saint you want to light candles to, steal flowers for, or pray in front of.
an exclusive circle of people with a common purpose
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.
dissatisfied as toward authority
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.”
capable of being perceived
And for a small while, those dreams seemed as
palpable as that dagger Macbeth tried to grab.
a star that explodes and becomes luminous in the process
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.
like better; value more highly
I would have
preferred to have waited a year or two after we graduated, but it didn’t work out that way.
a special advantage or benefit not enjoyed by all
I remember how cool you thought it was that you were singled out and had this special
concerned with the world or worldly matters
When I asked her to marry me, her pastor, Miguel Vasquez, had warned her that if she married me—a worldly person, a
mundane—she’d lose the privilege of playing the tambourine in front of the congregation.
the quality of being worthy of esteem or respect
And in obtaining it, he took shortcuts and broke some laws, leaving crumbs along the way in hopes of one day turning around and finding his way back to
put up with something or somebody unpleasant
It was something Sapo had to
tolerate, a clause he had to accept if he was going to work for Bodega.
a poor densely populated city district
South Bronx, South Central, South Chicago, Overtown down in Miami, they’re all the same bastard
the power of creative imagination
They said we had no
ingenuity because we were Puerto Ricans.
wait in hiding to attack
So one day we all put on our Sunday best and
ambushed Gracie Mansion.
personal attractiveness that enables you to influence others
And Mayor Lindsay, the biggest fraud this fucken city has ever known, but with enough
charisma to charm Hitler, sent his fucken city officials and his police goons after us.
marked by devotion to popular welfare
I run the most
humanitarian housing management company in New York City.
necessitate or exact
“I’m only half Rican, my father is from Ecuador,” I felt
compelled to tell Bodega.
communicable disease characterized by wasting of body parts
And, Chino, don’t talk to me cuz you got
leprosy, ma man.
intangible asset valued according to advantage to a business
I could picture Bodega in an Armani suit, all legal and respectable, his renovated buildings in the background, his name no longer Bodega but something else, something politicians want on their side, a commodity of
an anticipated outcome that guides your planned actions
You know me, I’m just a soul whose
intentions are good.
flow over or cover completely
Sapo finished his flan real quick, his big Sapo mouth
engulfing every spoonful.
show in, or as in, a picture
On the walls were cheap religious pictures
depicting the Devil being slain by the angel Michael.
a state in which all hope is lost or absent
It was a place that knew hunger and
support through government grants
On the Upper East Side an apartment facing the East River would be priceless, but this is Spanish Harlem, where most rents are
subsidized by Section Eight.
as from an altitude or distance
panoramic scenes are the same from any neighborhood: red-orange sunrises, blue-black moonlit nights.
a feeling of deep regret, usually for some misdeed
Her face seemed less angry and I thought I even detected some
I knew he was
reluctant to pull his hand away from his stomach, but he agreed, nodding his head and grimacing in pain.
gather or bring together
“Metropolitan Hospital,” I said to the driver, but Victor
summoned a bit of reserve energy.
cause to suffer
“This girl,” I asked, “is she from some country where they
persecute Pentecostals or something?”
the quality of being faithful
Blanca laughed and then preached to Negra about
fidelity, which meant Negra was thinking of getting back at Victor in yet another way.
characterized by a firm, humorless belief in one's opinions
As she spoke with Negra, I listened to her sweet,
earnest voice in the darkness of the bedroom and I felt happy.
summon with a wave, nod, or some other gesture
beckoned with his hand for Bodega to join him so they could talk in private.
a percussion instrument consisting of a hollow gourd containing pebbles or beans; often played in pairs
That was okay, because it was a hot spring night and El Barrio had turned into a
maraca and all the people had come out transformed as seeds.
free from obscurity and easy to understand
Once I’d done that, I could continue my life with Blanca in total
separated or isolated from others or a main group
There were racially
segregated tenements that never rented to blacks or Latinos.
a public declaration of intentions
They wrote up a
manifesto called the “Thirteen Point Program and Platform.”
an unshakable belief in something without need for proof
She liked his ideas, his
conviction, his optimism.
keenly distressing to the mind or feelings
The wood was old and the paint was cracking, giving the Nativity scene a
poignant look of absolute poverty.