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18 of 19 people found the following review helpful
on June 30, 2002
I read this book three years ago and was very impressed with the way the themes were developed by Esmeralda Santiago. The book is a reflection of the Puerto Rican society in the time when Esmeralda Santiago was a young girl. Therefore, it is true reflection of how many Puerto Ricans lived and struggled to ascertain life's most basic needs. I like the fact that Esmeralda did not leave a pillow unturned while describing family situations, how the father left the family to survive with very little income and lastly their move to NYC in search of better opportunities.
The reader can identify with Puerto Rican culture and what it means to be Puerto Rican because of the way Esmeralda describes her life in a language that's very adecuate, full of descriptions and expressions of her deepest sentiments. The beauty and simplicity of her vocabulary facilitates one's understanding of the book, the themes and situations presented. Overall, it is an exemplary memoir that paints a very real description of the ups and downs of the Puerto Rican society in the fifties. I recommend this book to all those who are fond of literature of any kind.
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Leí este libro hace tres años y quedé muy impresionada con el tema que ha sido muy bien desarrollado por Esmeraldo Santiago. El libro realmente es un reflejo de la sociedad puertorriqueña en aquella época cuando Esmeralda Santigao era niña. Por lo tanto, es un retrato real de como muchos puertorriqueños vivían y luchaban para tener las cosas más básicas de la vida. Me gustó mucho el hecho de que Esmeralda no escatimó en los detalles al describir los episodios de su familia, de como su papá dejó a la familia para sobrevivir con pocos recursos y finalmente de la mudanza a Nueva York en busca de nuevas oportunidades.
La manera en que Esmeralda describe su vida en un lenguaje adecuado, lleno de descripciones y de expresión de sus más profundos sentimientos hace que el lector se identifique con "la cultura puertorriqueña" y lo que significa ser parte de esa cultura siendo puertorriqueño/a o no. La belleza y sencillez de su léxico facilita la comprensión del libro y el entendimiento de los varios temas y asuntos que se presentan. Por lo general, es un libro ejemplar que pinta una descripción muy verdadera de los avatares de la sociedad puertorriqueña en los años cincuenta. Recomiendo este libro a los amantes de la buena lectura.
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13 of 14 people found the following review helpful
on January 28, 1999
Hola:Yo soy puertorriquena y vivo en Illinois.Hace unos meses una amiga me recomendo este libro (Cuando era puertorriquena)y no pense que me gusatria tanto.Me llevo de regreso a mi isla querida en un vuelo directo,esa isla maravillosa donde quisiera estar cada dia.La realidad es que la isla que ella describe yo no la conozco tal y como ella lo dice porque hoy en dia es muy diferente.LLena de progreso y civilizacion.Pero atravez del libro senti el espiritu de lo que realmente uno es.Puedes vivir en cualquier lugar pero ni aun el frio que trae la nieve puede borrar esa sangre latina que corre por nuestras venas.Y como puertorriquena que soy me siento orgullosa de cada uno de mis paisanos que decide superarse lejos de su hogar,de su cultura.De aquel que puede salir de su pais y demostrar que no importa donde este puede ser una persona de bien.Eso es digno de admirar.Saludos y felicitaciones a Esmaralda Santiago por este libro,realmente es un exito.Te deseo que continues adelante. Gracias, Yeidy Michelle Soto
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9 of 9 people found the following review helpful
on July 30, 2000
I highly recommend this book to anyone who can appreciate the story of a young woman's physical, emotional and personal migration cycle. The book provides wonderful insight and detail regarding the Caribbean island of Puerto Rico as well as the trials and tribulations involved in moving to another place (especially the US), losing a father, learning a new language and exploring new things. Read it, you'll love it.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
on June 19, 2003
I give 5 stars, not because I was necessarily challenged in weighty intellectual "profundities" (as one of the critics above states), but simply because the quality of story-telling (at least in the Spanish version) is insurpassable. I was able to see right into the heart of Esmeralda's thinking. She was almost always eloquent beyond her years; at first I thought that this wasn't accurate for a girl of her age; but in retrospect, I think that the author knew this beforehand and realizes that her character is indeed representative of the many children or tíneyers who are absolutely brilliant but are perceived to be not so bright because of a spoken language. I would like to find out if this was a subtility that she wanted to communicate.
With that said, my favorite aspect of Esmeralda's eloquent subtilities is her honest, authentic anger towards haughty and egotistical people. I believe that E. Santiago was intending also to disfrazel the machista haughtiness that existed in Po'rico. I wanted to reach into the story and punch her Papi in the face. What a pig! I grieves me to think that such a man really existed! Another thing, the move to New York, wonderfully contrasted with Macún - and the innocence of perceiving the jews, italians and blacks throught the eyes of a sweet girl with no prejudices - a brilliant girl indeed! How was she able to dislodge herself from all of the enticements of having prejudices so quickly formed? The best part of the entire novel - a definite tear-jerker - is the rapid dénouement punched at me (the first sentence of the epilogue). I didn't expect it; it had sort of a Great Expectations twist there at the end; if there were ever a movie based on this story, I think that that would be the brilliant finish of the story. The human spirit inside of each of us hopes and believes: "Un día de estos, un día de estos." We all relate so well with Esmeralda that I strongly suggest that this book be included in ethnic-american/hispanoamerican classes and reading circles. This is a must. It's already been successful at Pittsburg State University (KS) with Greg Brown and Dr. Edmée Fernández; try it.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
This is the Spanish text edition of "When I was Puerto Rican", a rich and evocative memoir of the author's chaotic childhood. Growing up in rural Puerto Rico, while often living in primitive conditions, the author's lush and lyrical prose paints a vivid picture her early life. The flavor and rythms of her island home come alive under her expert hand, creating an unforgettable picture of her early childhood.

The author grew up in a poor family. During her childhood, she lived in Puerto Rico with her unmarried parents, who were always at war with each other, as her father was a somewhat irresponsible philanderer. It was her mother who centered the family and who always sought a better life for all of her children. When an irrevocable break occurred between her parents, her mother moved to New York during the nineteen sixties, eventually settling with her seven children in the mean streets of Williamsburg, Brooklyn in New York City.

The author details her life's journey from rural Puerto Rico to Brooklyn. The author was transplanted to Brooklyn at the age of thirteen, and her description of her life in Brooklyn is every bit as interesting as that of her life in Puerto Rico. Her oftentimes bewildering transition from her native, Spanish speaking Puerto Rico to an English speaking environment is engagingly chronicled. The author takes the reader on her journey through Brooklyn's public school system to the prestigious High School of Performing Arts, where she graduated and went on to attend Harvard University on a scholarship.

This coming of age memoir is so engagingly written that I was left with the desire of wanting to know more about the life of this remarkable woman. I was also very taken with her writing style. So, I went ahead and bought every book that this author has ever written and look forward to reading each and every one.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
on March 1, 1999
THIS is the Puerto Rico I remember. These are the phrases I remember from my childhood that I don't hear as often anymore. What a wonderful memoir. It's scary: if I were to write my own memoir as a young girl in Humacao, Puerto Rico, this would be 90% on the money. WHAT A JOY TO READ!!
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
on September 27, 2006
En este excelente libro Esmeralda Santiago nos introduce a sus recuerdos de la infancia en Puerto Rico como se desarrolla hasta su adultes. Utilizando su especial manera de escribir Santiago relata la dura vida que sufrieron miles de puertoriquenos a mediados de siglo, y los eventuales cambios y transformaciones sociales que le precedieron a este periodo. Cualquiera que lea este libro podra imaginarse a Negui y su familia en sus que haceres y ocurrencias. Puerto Rican or not you can read this book. It's excellent. A must read.
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6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
on May 15, 1999
"Cuando era puertorriquena" es uno de los libros màs exquisitos y ricos en veracidad sentimental del puertorriqueno de esa epoca. Recomiendo su lectura, llena de descripciones, que transportan a una realidad historica. Vemos como su talento la ha colocado en uno de los sitiales mas prominentes de la literatura latina contemporanea. Exito en tu presente. SC
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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
on March 19, 1999
Es una lástima que Esmeralda Santiago haya decidido traducir ella misma su libro. Sus errores en español distraen de una historia bien contada. Me encantaría sugerirle a la autora que siguiera los pasos de Julia Alvarez quien no solo consiguió un excelente traductor para "En el tiempo de las mariposas" sino que además tenía un asesor para los regionalismos. Por mi parte, de volver a leer a Santiago, iría a la versión original en inglés.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on November 3, 2005
I bought this book at a fair. There was a "Spanish Only" book stand and I started a conversation with the lady about how homesick I was and she said this is what I needed to read. I'm a younger generation, but I loved it because my Grandmother was not from the city so I read a lof of things that reminded me of her. But there were even some expressions and cultural aspects that have obviously remained the same. The book was extremely interesting and I cried and laughed (and I tend to read in public so I got a couple of weird looks). It really hits home and gives a very accurate view of life in "el campo" in Puerto Rico during the times of depression, but does it in a way that still allows you to notice the beauty of our culture, our people. I am reading the sequel right now and already ordered the last of the three. She's an amazing narrator. Enjoy!

[...]
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