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Caribe in Nueva York

Caribe in Nueva York

Nathalie Handal


Un Caribeno tells me:

we are spoiled here

we eat burgers, fries

arroz y habichuelas negras, platanos1

for two dollars and ninety-nine cents                                          5

others starve, looking for a few bits-

We forget hunger . . .

I love America

but I dream of mangoes

Cafe Santo Domingo, merengue,                                               10

salsa, bachata, son2

I can't forget the sun on my back

in my eyes

but this is Nueva York in winter

and I can't see the beautiful brown legs                                      15

of las mulatas3

can't see their curves as they move

in the streets of Brooklyn, Bronx,

in the Upper West

Washington Heights...                                                               20

Now I eat at Lenny's Bagels and Gray's Papaya

I look at the Hudson

instead of the Caribbean waters, los malecones.4

Proud of Gloria, Shakira, Mark', JLo

Juan Luis Guerra, Celia Cruz5 ' . .                                                25

I dream of la tierra6

where we were born,

I walk Central Park

with our islands in my Pockets

and my gloves on.                                                                    30                                             [2005]



1arroz,,rice;habichuelas negras, black beans; platanos, plantains;

2son, typical music frorn Cuba.

3A fernale of multiracial heritage.-Eds.

4los malecones, waterfront boulevards.

5Gloria, Shakira, Mark, JLo, Juan Luis Guerra, Celia Cruz are all Latino performers/musicians.

6tierra, land


Caribe in Nueva York

1 Who are the two speakers in the poem?

2. Identify at least three different cultures or ethnicities referred to directly or indirectly through allusion. How does Handal refer to them (e.g., language, food, place)?

 How do these contribute to the point Handal is making?

3. The speaker alternates between first-person singular and plural. Who are "we" or "our" meant to include?

4. How do you interpret the juxtaposition of the following lines: "We forget hunger . . . / I love America" (ll. 7-8?) Is Handal's speaker callous? resigned? arrogant? ambivalent?

5. What is Handal's purpose in using Spanish in this poem? In the notes' she explains some of the language and allusions but not everything. Why? 

Depending on whether or not you knew the meaning of "Un Caribeno" (a male from the Caribbean), how would your understanding or experience of the poem change?

Reading of Caribe in Nueva York

Interview/Talk - Good intro with description of her work