Newyorican blues

I was listening to a remembering the 80’s weekend show and heard an old dance song, I am guessing the title is “pump up the jam” or at least that’s the chorus. It took me back to jr high where in a desperate attempt to fit in (do I even need to add the word futile?) I tried to join a dance group to do a dance for some school event. I think it was an English Day event. A day worth an entire blog itself! Anyway.

The sisters who were organizing the dance were newyorican, fresh off the island–of Manhattan that is of course. I was looking for common ground being less fresh off the island. Of course we all spoke English. I said Fuck a lot less though in those days.

It became immediately clear that I did not fit in, and that I was not born to breakdance or hip hop dance or be a fly girl EVER. LOL

My parents were upset that I was even trying to hang out with these girls. They were newyoricans. That made them Trouble. I was not Trouble. I was not newyorican.

I never understood that. I too grew up in New York, although not in the city proper. I did not have a Long Island accent (THANK GODS!). I had been called a spic when I was in kindergarten. I had been teased, hit, tripped. I had stood around the playground while the kids brought out boxes to break on. But, I was not ghetto. I would be scolded and told off if I ever tried that word out as a source of identity for myself.

This doublethink was a source of much conflict in my house. See, we had books of poetry by Pedro Pietri, autographed no less, we had a history of political activity and even a copy of the little red book, we had a painting called “Los tenis” which was an abstract of sneakers hanging over the electric lines, time honored code of ghetto shadiness. But I was not newyorican.

Newyorican was lower class, was welfare (which has a whole slew of derogatory implications in and of itself), was undereducation, gangs, drugs, teenage pregnancy. It was also poetry, and art, and parties with guitars and panderos that went on till my little girl eyes could no longer focus on the Rican Afros surrounding me. It was not being able to speak Spanish, capital sin. As if all it took to get your credentials was the ability to correctly put acentos on words and know the difference between hecho and echo.

Maybe if my dance skills had been better, and maybe if my glasses hadn’t hidden my eyeliner, and maybe if I’d not been the chubby nerd for so many years, maybe I could have been a fly girl too. Maybe. But not bloody likely.


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