1 When I was Puerto Rican By Esmeralda SantiagoSantiagos memoir stretches from the time she was four years old through her early adolescence at age14. The memoir is centered in the Puerto Rican towns of Macún and Santurce until Santiago is 13,when she, her mother, and her siblings move to the United States. The final three chapters take placein Brooklyn, New York. The book can also be taught thematically, focusing on macro-level developmentof sociological and historical themes. CHRONOLOGICAL DISCUSSION QUESTIONSPrologue: How to Eat A Guava1. What tensions does Santiago introduce immediately with her comparison between imported "Shop and Save" guava and native, home grown guava?2. Why does Santiago begin her childhood memoir in the present?3. Why does Santiago frame her narrative around fruit?4. What is the relationship between food and culture?Jíbara1. How would you characterize the Santiagos home in Macún?2. How is the familys socioeconomic status revealed?3. What is a jíbara?4. What is the significance of a word and category like jíbara?5. How is the term jíbara related to the history of Puerto Rico?6. How would you characterize the relationship between Mami and Papi?7. What is the significance of Esmeraldas nickname, "Negi"?8. How would you characterize Esmeraldas relationship with her sibilings?Fighting Naked1. Who is fighting naked in this chapter?2. How would you characterize Mami and Papis relationship based on the new information revealed in this chapter?3. How does Mami feel about Macún?4. How would you characterize Mami in her relationship with Papi?5. How would you characterize Mami when she leaves Papi?6. What lessons does Santiago learn at school?7. How are the children socialized?8. How do they learn to categorize other people?Someone is Coming to Take Your Lap1. What new meaning does jíbara take on in Santurce?2. What is the difference between Macún and Santurce?3. Describe the different homes Santiago has lived in so far.4. Is life "better" in Santurce?
25. Why does Santiago discuss blood pudding with her mother?6. Why does Santiago discuss sin with her father?7. Why do Mami and Papi reconcile?8. Where does Santiago believe her true home is?9. Why does Mami agree to return to Macún?10. What is the significance of Jurutungo?11. Why is the idea of Jurutungo important in a chapter about reconciliation between Mami and Papi?12. What is the significance of Don Bertos death?13. How does Mami explain New York to Esmeralda?14. Why do Mami and the children dance in the rain?The American Invasion of Macún1. What is the teacher trying to teach the children?2. What do the children actually learn?3. Why do the Americans come to Macún?4. What do the Americans try to teach the women?5. Do these lessons have any significance?6. What are the cultural problems with the charts and information?7. How do the American experts treat the women?8. How do the women treat the experts?9. How does Mami characterize the United States?10. How do the people in the community characterize the United States?11. Why do the children receive free food?12. What does Ignacio share with Esmeralda about the United States?13. What makes Esmeralda angry at the end of the chapter?14. What is the significance of the elections?15.What is the relationship between the box of clothes and the free food? How are they different? How are they the same?Why Women Remain Jamona1. What has Esmeralda learned about the relationships between men and women?2. What has Esmeralda learned about the societal expectations for men and women?3. With whom does Esmeralda identify, the jamona or her father?4. How does Esmeralda feel about her father in this chapter? Why?5. How would you characterize Esmeraldas relationship with her grandmother?6. What is significant about the relationship between Esmeraldas grandmother and grandfather?7. What is significant about the relationship between Esmeraldas grandmother and her mother?8. What role does religion play in this chapter?Mami Gets A Job1. Why does Santiago describe the hurricane?2. What do we learn about the people in the village?3. How would you characterize the familys neighbors?4. How does your early characterization of the neighbors change when Mami gets a job?5. What is significant about Mamis decision to work?6. What happens to the family when Mami works?
37. What is Papis role in caring for the family?8. How does Esmeralda explore and encounter sexuality in this chapter?9. How is Esmeraldas budding sexuality related to Mamis decision to work?10. How would you characterize Esmeraldas relationship with Tato?11. What happens to Raymond?12. What is Esmeraldas role in the family now that Mami works?13. Is Raymonds accident Esmeraldas fault?El Mangle1. How would you characterize El Mangle?2. Why is Esmeralda afraid to use the bathroom?3. What rules do the children have to follow in El Mangle?4. What rules did the children follow in Macún?5. How is Esmeralda treated in school?6. How would you characterize Sra. Leona?7. Why doesnt Sra. Leona teach in English?8. Why does Esmeraldas mother move the family to El Mangle?9. Why does Esmeralda have to close the dead babys eyes?10. What is the significance of the dead baby scene in this chapter?11. Why does Esmeralda like cartography?12. Why does Esmeralda have a confrontation with Sra. Leona?13. What is the significance of Papis arrival?Letters from New York1. How would you characterize the new house?2. What upsets Esmeralda about Tatas letter?3. How does the family celebrate Christmas?4. What is the significance of Esmeraldas ironing lesson?5. Why does Mami travel to New York?6. Why cant she find help in Santurce?7. Why does Esmeralda have to stay with Lalo and Angelina?8. How does Esmeralda feel about Lalo and Angelina? Why?9. What is different about Esmeraldas feelings about "Evangelicals" and "Catholics"?10. What role does religion play in this chapter?11. How does that compare to religions role in "Why Women Remain Jamona"?Casi Señorita1. Why is Esmeralda casi señorita?2. Why do the children attend the Baptist church?3. How is this church related to the other two religions introduced in the book?4. How is this chapter related to other chapters about women and womens roles?5. What happens when Esmeralda takes piano lessons?6. What happens when Mami returns to New York?7. What is important about this chapter in relation to the rest of the book?Dreams of A Better Life
41. What happens when Mami returns?2. What is Mamis new look?3. Where were the children while Mami was gone?4. How would you characterize the new house?5. Why does Papi spend time in the shack behind the house?6. What does he do there?7. How would you characterize Mami and Papis relationship?8. Why does Mami want to get married?9. What is the relationship between Mami and Papis relationship and Esmeraldas new boyfriend?10. What is the symbolic significance of the gardenia?11. How is Esmeraldas thinking about men influenced by her romance novels and radio shows? How is her thinking influenced by Mami and Papi?12. What happens to Mami and Papis business?13. How is New York presented in this chapter?Angels on the Ceiling1. What is New York like?2. How would you characterize Brooklyn as compared to Puerto Rico?3. In what ways is life different for Santiago?4. In what ways is life the same?5. Does the family have a better life in Brooklyn? Why or why not?6. How would you characterize the homes the family lives in?7. How would you characterize the neighborhoods the family lives in?8. What is the significance of bilingual education in Brooklyn schools?9. How would you characterize Santiagos desire to be placed at a grade-appropriate level in school?10. What is the significance of the class that Santiago is placed in?11. What is the significance of the ways in which Santiago classifies the other girls in her new school?12. What is Santiagos new home life like?13. In what ways does Santiago "come of age" in Brooklyn?14. What role does Marilyn Monroes death play in this chapter?You Dont Want to Know1. How would you characterize Mami and her search for love?2. What role does sexuality play in this book?3. What role does Esmeralda play in the community as someone4. Who is able to translate at the welfare office?5. What is Esmeraldas relationship like with Francisco, Chico, Tata and Julio?6. What does Esmeralda learn about her father? How does this change her opinion of him?7. How would you characterize the lifestyle the children lead in Brooklyn?8. How does their "new" life compare to life in Puerto Rico?9. How does Santiago feel about Puerto Rico? Brooklyn? Manhattan?10. What do you think Santiago believes you "dont want to know"?
5A Shot at It1. Why do the teachers help Santiago?2. What schools do they suggest? What is the significance of these schools?3. What does studying at an elite school like New York Citys School for the4. Performing Arts promise to Santiago?5. Why does Santiago want to leave Brooklyn?6. What does Manhattan signify?7. What is the significance of the monologue Mr. Barone chooses for Santiago?8. What happens during the audition?9. Why do the judges give her another chance?10. What is the difference between the monologue and the pantomime auditions?11. Why does Santiago want to perform well? What does she think shell earn if she attends the new school?Epilogue: One of These Days1. What happens to Santiago at the end of the book?2. Does she achieve the "American" dream?3. The title of the book, When I Was Puerto Rican suggests that Santiago is now something different.4. How would you characterize her identity?5. What is the relationship between identity and success?* La Guardia Community College