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Posts Tagged ‘puerto rico’

I’m so glad Cousin Claire shared this New York Times story on Facebook. It’s about a school custodian with an artistic bent whose talent is raising everyone’s spirits.

Corey Kilgannon writes writes that Israel Reyes, “senior handyman and longtime boiler operator at Public School 69X Journey Prep in the Soundview section of the Bronx,” finds the lonely summer months to be a good time “to concentrate on the colorful wall murals he has become known for painting inside the 93-year-old building. …

“For years, the 15-foot walls were faded and drab, Mr. Reyes said.

“ ‘There were no colors — it was like walking into a prison,’ recalled Mr. Reyes, who said that 12 years ago he grew tired of watching students entering the building each morning with their heads down.

“ ‘A lot of these kids come from broken homes, just like I did, and I’d see them walking in, all stressed out and looking down, because the school looked even worse than their homes,’ he said. ‘I wanted to do something to make them look up.’

“So he persuaded the principal to let him use leftover paint from other jobs in the building to start creating an educational wonderland. He worked for years, during his down time, his lunch hour and on his personal time, even late into the night.

“ ‘The kids come in now in the morning and they smile,’ Mr. Reyes said. ‘They come in and ask me, “What’s next?” and I show them what I worked on overnight.’ ” …

“Mr. Reyes, whom everyone calls Carlos, said he and his five brothers were raised by his father in the Bronx and on a farm in Puerto Rico.

“ ‘We had to make our own toys from garbage, from whatever we found,’ said Mr. Reyes, who as an adult has made sculptures out of trash-picked objects, especially the wooden legs off discarded furniture, to entertain his four children and 14 grandchildren.

“He calls it ‘table leg art,’ and has made a panorama representation of Manhattan that is on display in the school library, a cityscape with wooden legs as skyscrapers. …

“Until recently, said Mr. Reyes, a widower, his apartment was decorated in an over-the-top theme — a botanical garden with a pond, a lamppost and a park bench — recalling his Puerto Rican upbringing.

“ ‘When my son moved back home, I had to sleep on the bench,’ he said. ‘I’d tell people, “I’m not homeless, but I sleep on a park bench.” ‘ ” More.

I’ve read that no matter what kind of job you have, there should be some aspect that is yours alone, where you can express your creativity. I couldn’t agree more.

Photo: Santiago Mejia/The New York Times  
Israel Reyes, at Public School 69X in the Bronx, wanted to brighten the building for students. 

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Cynthia-Marie Marmo O’Brien has a nice story at Narratively on a close-knit Latino subculture in the Bronx.

“Generations of Nuyoricans — Puerto Rican New Yorkers — have found familia in a little house on an overgrown patch of the South Bronx,” O’Brien writes. The place is known as La Casita.

She continues, “Today I am relaxing with some of the regulars under the hanging branches of trees separating us from the busy life on the street; they have picked grapes from overhead and are making wine.

“I came here with César Colón-Montijo to experience plena, a musical genre indigenous to Puerto Rico. In his scholarship, Colón-Montijo, an ethnomusicologist who the regulars consider part of la familia, describes plena as a way through the South Bronx’s difficulties. Plena has always been a call-and-response form of song; its origins are usually attributed to striking workers. …

“La casita is the classic liminal space: neither Puerto Rico nor New York; neither a secular sanctuary for all nor a performance place for legends. It is all four. Puerto Rican flags fly and an original album cover of John F. Kennedy’s 1960s speeches is displayed along with other memorabilia. No topic is too big or small for plena’s repertoire; there’s even a plena about JFK. After the city’s Puerto Rican Day Parade every June, the music royalty of the island flock here.”

Read more here and see how people use music to transport themselves to Puerto Rico while still in the Bronx.

Photos: Emon Hassan
Jose Rivera (left) during a jam session at the Casita. On the right, demonstrating how an out-of-tune piano can still make music.

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We found a letter with a return envelope in a recent issue of our newspaper. The envelope wasn’t for a tip.

The newspaper delivery man was telling us, and his 629 other customers, a bit about himself and his work situation and asking how early we needed our papers.  He said that the delivery service for seven national and local papers was changing. Some some clients had always wanted their paper delivered before 5:30, but he was hoping people would let him know who could wait until 6:15. He told us he makes 7-1/2 cents per household. (I think there’s a song about 7-1/2 cents from the musical Pajama Game.) He referenced the cost of gasoline and car maintenance.

And then he told a story that is very common for generations of immigrants and Puerto Ricans (who are, of course, citizens but come to the mainland to provide a better life for their children).

“I am father to four children who are 11. 10, 6, and 4 … My wife and I decided to move to the Untied States 4 years ago finding a better quality of life for our family. I obtained my degree as a Licensed Electirician in Puerto Rico and my wife was a Nail Technician. When we arrived in the United States, we were faced with the hard reality that neither of our licenses were valid in the US. My wife and I decided to start our studies here, so that we can obtain once again our licenses and pursue a career in our field of study. Currently, in addition to my job as a Newspaper Delivery, I go to school every night — Monday through Thursday — and I have a second job, right after I finish newspaper delivery, as an electrician assistant, while my wife is both taking care of the children, and working as a Housekeeper at St Patrick Parish.

“Together, with hard work and dedication, we are able to cover all the expenses that come our way. We want to ensure that our children will learn by example to work hard to become self-sufficient and independent … . We hope God will provide us with good health and strength to be able to work each day so that our dreams can became a reality.”

Needless to say, I wrote him and said no hurry on the paper. My husband thought the letter really embodied what the season was about.

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