Here are a few paragraphs the class came up with in response to passages that may be useful for the final exam:
Alex created a superhero named El Coquí, who gained his superpowers after he received a box containing a vejigante mask. The mask belonged to his father and represents Alex’s ancestral connection to Puerto Rico. Alex relates El Coquí to his culture and identity. He wants to connect Puerto Ricans to himself and each other by making El Coquí the protector of the Nuyoricans (Puerto Ricans from New York). Alienation is expressed by Alex in how he negotiates his connection to Puerto Rican-ness even though he doesn’t speak Spanish.
In Scene 7 (ps. 29-30), Yesica explains to Alex (as El Coquí) that their neighborhood bodega has been turned into a French bistro due to gentrification. A place that was once familiar and welcomed the people of the neighborhood has been taken away from the community. Yesica argues that the bodega brought a sense of authenticity to the neighborhood. This passage is useful because it illustrates the cultural identity of those who live in Sunset Park. Yesica captures photos of the activities that took place in the bodega when it stood: guys trying out their freestyles, high school kids buying bacon-egg-and-cheeses for breakfast; Doña Consuelo buying her lottery scratch-off; and people buying loosies. The owner of the bodega knew everyone by their name and gave them a sense of belonging. Now that is being taken away and, as stated by Yesica, “Everything is gone.”
In Scene 13 (p. 51), Joe says in an advertising meeting, “I know the actress is Mexican, my point is she’s not a pepper.” This passage useful because, as a Latina, I feel like it encapsulates how the play critiques the complete ignorance about Latinx culture and the pervasive stereotypes by which it is represented in American culture. The media takes advantage of our status in society or decide to see us as a step lower from them and feel entitled to steal from our cultures, think that we’re all “loud” and passionate or “spicy.” This play is about the fight we as Latinx people have with society. Living in this kind of society, where we have to fight for a way to be heard but this battle is also portrayed as being too sensitive, even though we’re talking about our identity and how we want to see ourselves. Alex and Joe show some of these issues in the play, in how they don’t feel connected to their roots, and I feel that this has to do with being surrounded by ignorance and exploitation. No one can come and tell me who I am: that’s my choice and they don’t know where we came from, how we’re here and the story behind our lives.