This is my first post on the blog, so this seemed to be a perfect topic for me to start with: what is a Nuyorican?  It’s probably one of the most asked questions by audience members at the post-show Q & A discussions.  Understandably, many audience members had never heard of the term (I must confess I hadn’t either before reading the script).

Quite simply, Nuyorican is a combination of the phrases “New York” and “Puerto Rican” and refers to people of Puerto Rican culture living in or near New York City. The term originated around the mid-to-late ’60s and was popularized in 1975 when the Nuyorican Poets Cafe was founded by poets and playwrights Miguel Pinero (“Short Eyes”), Pedro Pietri (“Puerto Rican Obituary”), and Miguel Algarin in NYC.

Today, over 30 years later, the Nuyorican Movement remains strong and continues to thrive with artists and everyday people who proudly call themselves Nuyorican.  To be Nuyorican is not simply a category on a census form: it is a state of mind. It is to be part of an intellectual movement. It is to have pride in their past and their present. It is the fight through a common struggle. It is strength.

That is why “Patrick” is adamant in wanting to be identified as Nuyorican and why he is ultimately disappointed, and later becomes disillusioned with the situation at Belmont College, when he feels he cannot.

In closing, I’d like to thank all the audience members who’ve stayed for the Q & A’s and shared their feelings on the play and the topics it raises.  It’s a tough subject matter and there are no easy answers, but it’s always great to have a dialogue and hear different viewpoints – because we’re all in this together.

10 Responses

  1. I have noticed that among island-born Puerto Ricans, the term “Nuyorican” seems to be used as a kind of derogatory statement. It is sort of like saying “You New York Puerto Ricans are not as Puerto Rican as us.” Any thoughts on this or am I just imagining this?

    Khalil Al-Puerto Rikani

  2. Khalil-

    In the research that we had come across, it seemed clear that Nuyorican was a word that carried a good deal of pride – there’s a thriving art community in New York that embraces the Nuyorican identity, for example. We didn’t find any examples of what you’re describing, but of course that doesn’t mean they’re not out there. It’s likely that the word can have either positive or negative connotations, depending on your perspective.

    Certainly the way the term is used in this play, it’s an identity that Patrick is very proud of and has a strong personal connection to.

    Thanks for the question.

  3. Khalil –

    Thanks for your interest and new take on this topic. That is interesting if indeed there’s developed a different (negative) connotation with the term “Nuyorican” as used by some people. As Nat stated, there was no indication of this in the research for the play.

    We know that Nuyorican was a term created by these artists out of a sense of pride of their experiences living and growing up in NYC. Over time, it is very possible that jealousies and one-upmanship within a culture can distort original meanings/intentions.
    Hopefully “Nuyorican” will continue
    to remain a positive symbol for that culture for years to come.

  4. Perhaps there was an misunderstanding about what I have stated. I was not speaking about the way the term “Nuyorican” is/was used among New York born and raised Puerto Ricans. Of course they may a considerable amount of pride in this term. I know I had a lot of pride in the term when I was growing up.
    My point is that the term “Nuyorican” is not viewed the same way amongst island born and raised Puerto Ricans. One book that I can cite off hand that argues this point is Professor Raquel Rivera’s . In her book she says that the term originated in the island as a negative term against the New York Puerto Rican. She gets into this issue when she explains why she did not title the book .

  5. Sorry my last post is missing some words. The book is New York Puerto Ricans in the Hip Hop Zone

    Khalil Al-Puerto Rikani

  6. Not a misunderstanding exactly – it’s just that we’re focused on the history of the term “Nuyorican” as it’s relevant to Spinning into Butter. The character of Patrick claims the identity with pride, and we were looking for information that provided context for that.

    We didn’t include Rivera in our research, but her book looks fascinating – and her myspace blog is a great discussion of identity and culture and music.

    You’re saying then that the term Nuyorican was first used in Puerto Rico as a negative, and then claimed as a positive by Puerto Ricans living in New York? I would assume then that Nuyorican art, especially music, would be frequently seen and heard in Puerto Rico. Do artists downplay the term to be more successful in Puerto Rico, or has it lost some of its negative connotation at this point? Is that one of the issues explored in the book?

    Thanks for the discussion and for pointing me to Professor Rivera.

  7. Hello; this is a belated response to the history of the name ‘Nuyorican’. It was, indeed, initially a derogatory term that Miguel Algarin turned around to use as a positive identifier. He states this in an interview in the book “Puerto Rican Voices in English: Interviews with Writers” by Carmen Dolores Hernandez.

    The uniqueness of this term is not only the melding of origin and destination, but also of spinning the term the islanders called those touched by North American culture in a negative way into something that promoted the strength of those who struggled in coming to New York. It gave an identity to the struggle and experience and the literature that came from that. Nuyoricans who embrace this name are embracing a duality that makes us more than what either culture individually brings to the table. We are the syncretism of our island home and this large, great, bustling city where we seek opportunity and struggle to be heard.

    Thank you.

    Nerva Vels

  8. Hello
    I’m lookin for books about the Nuyorican Movement and especially about Miguel Pinero. Do you have any recommendations?
    Thank you.

  9. Nuyorican as much as it is a term for ethnic identification, it is a Literary School as well as art movement in the same term “Beat” or “Surrealist” is used. Puerto Ricans living in New York indeed were degraded with the terms “nuyorican” & “gringo” but in the huge scope of it all, Nuyorican is a Literary School that has affected the cultutre of Puerto Ricans in New York City as Art will always affect life and imitate it

  10. rosie perez directed a good documentary about being nuyorican, its called soy boricua, pa que tu los sepas.

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