Benjamin Bratt

Piñero (2001)

The Menudo Of A Cuchifrito Love Affair

By Miguel Piñero

la ruca
juanita rosita esposita
they called her mexicana rose
con piel de canela
pelo darker than bustelo café
eyes big like rellenos
color of a ripe avacado
her lips tasted like seasoned mangos
and her body was sweet as coconut milk
this menudo of beauty
made my taco nights
burn like jalapeños
si señor …
my heart was a tortilla
then one riceless beanless night
after a heated chilly pepper tequila fight
she left
left me like a burnt pork chop
for a chitlin hamhock buckwheat eatin’ man
who wore a watermelon wallet &
a collard green conversation
disturbing my macho machete pride
so that la mancha de plátano
reminded me that I was a weak mondongo
my love … my life … my pride was a burnt chicarrón
a cold mofongo
a melted piragua
I turned into a hot tamale
state of rage
an alcapurria gone insane
when I saw these two enchiladas
in a pastelillo embrace
so in my pasteles envy
my tostón jealousy
that my salchicha eyes spied
the chorizo the mad morcilla drive
asi fue que fueron
traspasados los dos bacalaos
and now with my burrito strike
displaying my quenepa pride
in my tamarindo smile
I remember the pegao and the uncooked taste
of the frijol menudo of my cuchifrito
love affair …

Happy birthday, Martina Arroyo!

Martina Arroyo (born February 2, 1937), is an American operatic soprano who had a major international opera career from the 1960s through the 1980s. She was part of the first generation of black opera singers to achieve wide success, and is viewed as part of an instrumental group of performers who helped break down the barriers of racial prejudice in the opera world.

Arroyo first rose to prominence at the Zurich Opera between 1963–1965, after which she was one of the Metropolitan Opera’s leading sopranos between 1965 and 1978. During her years at the Metropolitan Opera, she was also a regular presence at the world’s best opera houses, performing on the stages of La Scala, Covent Garden, the Opéra National de Paris, the Teatro Colón, the Deutsche Oper Berlin, the Vienna State Opera, the Lyric Opera of Chicago, and the San Francisco Opera, to name just a few. She is best known for her performances of the Italian spinto repertoire, and in particular, her portrayals of Verdi and Puccini heroines. Her last opera performance was in 1991, after which she has devoted her time to teaching singing on the faculties of various universities in the United States and Europe.

On December 8, 2013, Arroyo received a Kennedy Center Honor.

Arroyo was born in New York City, the younger of two children of Demetrio Arroyo, originally from Puerto Rico, and Lucille Washington, a native of Charleston, South Carolina. Her older brother grew up to become a Baptist minister. The family lived in Harlem near St. Nicholas Avenue and 111th Street. Demetrio was a mechanical engineer at the Brooklyn Navy Yard and earned a good salary which enabled Arroyo’s mother to stay at home with their children. His job also allowed the family to experience New York’s fine cultural offerings and the family frequented museums, concerts, and the theatre. It was attending several performances of Broadway shows during the 1940s that first inspired Arroyo’s interest in becoming a performer. Her mother humored her dreams and allowed Arroyo to take ballet classes. Her mother was also a talented amateur classical pianist and taught her daughter to play the instrument. Arroyo’s other musical experiences as a child were largely through singing in the choirs at her Baptist church and as a student at Hunter College High School.

After finishing high school in 1953, Arroyo attended Hunter College where she earned a B.A. in Romance languages in 1956 at the young age of nineteen. While there she studied voice as a hobby in an opera workshop with Joseph Turnau. Turnau recognized that Martina was a major talent who just needed proper training. After the workshop ended, he introduced her to voice instructor Marinka Gurewich, who immediately took Arroyo on as a student. When Arroyo did not take her training as seriously as her teacher wanted, Gurewich eventually threatened to end their lessons. Arroyo said of the incident, “It was a real wake-up call. Up to then, I must have been, in my mind, treating singing as a hobby, a lark–something I loved that I was dabbling in.” She further explained that at that point most of the major opera houses, including the Metropolitan Opera, had never cast a black singer, so in her mind “opera wasn’t a real possibility.” Gurewich’s threat, however, forced her to take her studies more seriously and she continued to study with her until Gurewich’s death in 1990. Another important partnership formed around this time was with concert manager Thea Dispeker who, after attending one of Arroyo’s recitals, offered her services at no charge until Arroyo’s career took off. Dispeker helped manage much of Arroyo’s career over the next several decades.

More on Martina Arroyo


Love Child

black girl, depressed, in white america

Police burn me worse
than the sun does—
I’ve seen so many dead bodies
Trayvon keeps me numb,
so for once, let me hold the officer’s gun.
I’ll do it myself, I just wanna click it,
Kat Cleaver beneath my own chin,
snap the trigger, say dig it.
Life’s gone black and white, I don’t know
if I’ll miss this;
this Technicolor colored girl is tired of drifting,
of wishing,
of wearing the cold staring
of white expectant spectators:
I’m supposed to play slave, race police
and black power educator.
I’m supposed to be cool now
but be subservient later.
I’m supposed to speak slang,
speak proper, be Ebonics translator
while mapping out peace between the races
like Mercator.

I’m not saying white people made me this depressed.
I’m just saying living in white America
is keeping me stressed.
I’m just saying walking down my own block
has got me distressed:
hands up – take the test – my melanin assessed.
As soon as I mention race,
white people say, “You’re obsessed.”
…But I already know how my own corpse
will be dressed.
So you post-racials, tell me which Jesus to pray to,
cause these days are fatal
and your god sleeps among sheep
in a colorblind cradle.

I know, I know, thoughts like that don’t belong
in the mouths of saints,
but when living feels so wrong
I’ve got nothing left to go on.
Truth be told, I was still singing sad songs
before Trayvon,
so eradicate racism but I’ll still feel withdrawn.
I’ll still be so low I look up to see sea level,
I’ll still fail my class, I would love to see C level,
I’ll still be so blind I can’t even reach see level,
look in the mirror:
All I see is black devil.

So does God still listen when I kneel?
Because I’m just waiting for my fate to be sealed
at the hot end of the gun—
a statistic, black body dropped,
I’ll just be another one
left bloating in the sun.
So stop telling me my body’s a temple,
cause I’m counting the days
till that gun hits my temple.
I’m mental /
detrimental /
I can’t get a grip,
but who’ll have the grip
on the final pistol whipped from the hip?
Will it be me?  Too tired of my own misery?

Or will it be just another cop vs. just another nigger,
just another racist trigger
sending the black girl
Crip walking into eternity?

Some days, my only Lord is Audre.

Rosa Alicia Clemente (born April 18, 1972) is a United States community organizer, independent journalist and hip-hop activist. She was the vice presidential running mate of 2008 Green Party Presidential candidate Cynthia McKinney in the 2008 U.S. Presidential election.[1][2][3]

Clemente was born and raised in South Bronx, New York. She is a graduate of the University of Albany and Cornell University.

Clemente’s academic work has focused on research of national liberation struggles within the United States, with a specific focus on the Young Lords Party and the Black Liberation Army. While a student at SUNY Albany, she was President of the Albany State University Black Alliance (ASUBA) and Director of Multicultural Affairs for the Student Association. At Cornell she was a founding member of La Voz Boriken, a social/political organization dedicated to supporting Puerto Rican political prisoners and the independence of Puerto Rico.

Clemente has written for Clamor Magazine, The Ave. magazine, The Black World Today, The Final Call and numerous websites.[4] She has been the subject of articles[5] in the Village Voice, The New York Times, Urban Latino and The Source magazines. She has appeared on CNN, MSNBC, C-SPAN, Democracy Now! and Street Soldiers.[6][7] In 2001, she was a youth representative at the United Nations World Conference against Xenophobia, Racism and Related Intolerance in South Africa and in 2002 was named[citation needed] by Red Eye Magazine as one of the top 50 Hip Hop Activists to look out for.

In 1995, she developed Know Thy Self Productions (KTSP), a full-service speakers bureau, production company and media consulting service. Seeing a need for young people of color to be heard and taken seriously, she began presenting workshops and lectures at colleges, universities, high schools, and prisons. Since 1995, Clemente has presented at over 200 colleges, conferences and community centers on topics such as “African-American and Latino/a Intercultural Relations”, “Hip-Hop Activism”, “The History of the Young Lords Party”, and “Women, Feminism and Hip Hop”. KTSP now includes an expanded college speakers bureau which has produced three major Hip Hop activism tours, “Dare to Struggle, Dare to Win” with M1 of dead prez and Fred Hampton Jr.; “The ACLU College Freedom Tour” with dead prez, DJ Kuttin Kandi, Mystic and comedian Dave Chappelle; and the “Speak Truth to Power” Tour a collaborative tour of award winning youth activists.

More Information on Rosa Clemente

‘‘Hamilton’’ is a musical biography about the very white, very dead Alexander Hamilton, in which most of the cast is ‘‘other,’’ including Lin-Manuel Miranda, the show’s Nuyorican creator and star. Some of its audacity stems from the baldness of its political project: In changing the races of the founding fathers from white to brown, it pushes back against the currents of racial appropriation. It also infuses the traditional melodies of the American musical with so many genres of hip-hop and R&B, sometimes in a single number, that the songs themselves become something new. Political debates are staged as rap battles. Daveed Diggs’s Thomas Jefferson becomes the best good thing that never happened at the Source Awards. Artistically, Miranda has created a great night out. Racially, the show tags the entertainment industry status quo with color. It’s obviously musical theater. But damn if it’s not graffiti too.

The strangest play I’ve ever read and seen performed was Marisol by the Puerto Rican playwright José Rivera.

For those of you not familiar with it, imagine an episode of Supernatural except the protagonist is a Nuyorican woman with a black guardian angel who warns her that everyone is going to overthrow God because he’s super worthless now.

Just in case you think I’m exaggerating:

I was watching

a video of last year’s Puerto Rican Day Parade, and I am really disgusted. The annual parade is NOTHING like the parade in Rio Grande on the Island or anything like it. I understand that the Puerto Ricans who live in the States want to represent where they are from, but not this way. The Nuyoricans that attend this don’t know how to speak Spanish, don’t know the history, don’t eat the food specific to Puerto Rico like mofongo, and the only reason they dance to reggaeton is because all it is shaking their ass. When I was little I always wanted to go to the parade to rep my island, but now I look at it and I’m like “What was I thinking?”. If you go to Puerto Rico, the people are disgusted at Nuyoricans who “pretend” to be Puerto Rican for that one day. My brother refers to it as “the day that all the fake Puerto Ricans come out”. I’ve even heard some Puerto Ricans say that they are ashamed to be Puerto Rican. I am considered a Nuyorican because I was born in the states, but I speak Spanish, I go to the island every year, I have read the history of Puerto Rico countless times, I eat pillononos and rellenos de papa, I know the steps to salasa and their pioneers - I consider myself absolutely Puerto Rican. There really should be a clear distinction made between Nuyricans and Puerto Ricans.

Shoutout to all my Puerto Ricans born on the island and those born in the states who actually know their shit.

When we started on Power, I was committed to respecting the differences among Spanish dialects: Dominican, Nuyorican, Mexican, etc. I wanted the language our characters spoke to be as specific as possible, to reflect New York as it is. In L.A., Latinos and Asians often get lumped together, with actors often cast without regard for specificity. Latinos often are thought of as “Mexican” in L.A., and many people fail to notice if a Colombian guy plays a Mexican drug dealer with a Colombian accent. Would you cast an Irish actor as an Australian and not have him change his accent? Then quit doing that in Spanish.