"Brothas Under the Skin"


Below is an excerpt from one of my favorite books "Down These Mean Streets" by Piri Thomas, a famous Puerto Rican writer. It is an excerpt that highlights a major issue within, not only the 'Puerto Rican', but so-called Latinos in general. Miseducated and in denial.

"Brothers under the Skin"

My day dreaming was splintered by my brother Jose kicking at the door in sheer panic. "Hey, who's in there?" he yelled.

"Me,man,me," I yelled back. "Whatta ya want?"

"Let me in. I gotta take a piss so bad I can taste it."

"Taste good?" I asked softly.

"Dammit, open up!"

I laughed, and reached out my dripping hand and flipped the latch. Jose rushed in like his behind was on fire. His face had a pained look on it. "Chri-sus sake," he said, "you made me piss all over my pants."

"It'll dry, man, it'll dry."

"Aggh," he said as he relieved himself. "That feels good." I looked at my brother. Even his peter's white, I thought, just like James's. Only ones got black peters is Poppa and me, and Poppa acts like his is white , too.

"Poppa's home."

"Yeah. Hand me the towel, simple."

"Damn, Piri, you made me piss all over my pants," Jose said again. He pulled back the towel he was offering me and began to wipe his pants with it.

"Man, turkey, what are you doin'?" I said. "You drying that piss and I gotta wipe my face with that towel."

"It'll dry, man, It'll dry."

I yanked the towel outta his hand and carefully wiped with what seemed to be the part he hadn't used.

"You know somethin', Jose?" I said.

"What? Jesus, I hope this piss don't stink when it dries."

"I'm goin' down South."


"Down South."

"What for?"

"Don't know all the way," I said, "except I'm tryin' to find somethin' out."

"Down South!" He said it like it was nuts.

"Si. I want to see what a moyeto's worth and the paddy's weight on him," I said.

"Whatta ya talking about? You sound like a moto who's high on that yerba shit. And anyway, what's the spade gotta do with you?"

"I'm a Negro."

"You ain't no nigger," Jose said.

"I ain't?"

"No, You're a Puerto Rican."

"I am, huh?" I looked at Jose and said, "Course, you gotta say that. 'Cause if I'm a Negro, then you and James is one too. And that ain't leavin' out Sis and Poppa. Only Momma's an exception. She don't care what she is."Jose didn't look at me. He decided that looking at the toilet bowl was better. "So whatta you got to find out eh?" he said. "You're crazy, stone loco. We're Puerto Ricans, and that's different than being moyetos." His voice came back very softly and his hand absent-mindedly kept brushing the drying wet patch on his pants.

"That's what I've been wanting to believe all along, Jose," I said. "I've been hanging on to that idea even when I knew it wasn't so. But only pure Puerto Ricans are white, and you wouldn't even believe that if you ever dug what that white paddy said."

"I don't give a good shit what you say, Piri. We're Puerto Rican, and that makes us different from black people."

I kept drying myself even though there was nothin' to dry. I was trying not to get mad. I said, "Jose, that's what the white man's been telling the negro all along, that 'cause he's white he's different from the Negro; that he's better'n the Negro or anyone that's not white. That's what I've been telling myself and what I tried to tell Brew."

"Brew's that colored guy, ain't he?" Jose said.

"Yeah-an' like I'm saying, sure there's stone-white Puerto Ricans, like from pure Spanish way back-but it ain't us. Poppa's a Negro and, even if Momma's blanca, Poppa's blood carries more weight with Mr. Charlie," I said.

"Mr. Charlie, Mr. Charlie. Who the fuck is he?"

"That's the name Brew calls the paddies. Ask any true corazon white motherfucker what the score is," I said."I'm not black, no matter what you say, Piri."I got out of the shower and sat on the edge of the tub. "Maybe not outside, Jose" I said. "But you're sure that way inside.""I ain't black, damn you! Look at my hair. It's almost blond. My eyes are blue, my nose is straight. My motherfuck'n lips are not like a baboon's ass. My skin is white. White, goddammit! White! Maybe Poppa's a little dark, but that's the Indian blood in him. He's got white blood in him and -"

"So what the fuck am I? Something Poppa an' Momma picked out the garbage dump?" I was jumping stink inside and I answered him like I felt it. "Look, man, better believe it, I'm one of 'you-all'. Am I your brother or ain't I?"

"Yeah, you're my brother, and James an' Sis, and we all come out of Momma an' Poppa- but we ain't Negroes. We're Puerto Ricans, an' we're white."

"Boy, you, Poppa and James sure are sold on that white kick. Poppa thinks that marrying a white woman made him white. He's wrong. It's just another nigger marrying a white woman and making her as black as him. That's the way the paddy looks at it. The Negro just stays black. Period. Dig it?"

Jose's face got whiter and his voice angrier at my attempt to take away his white status. He screamed out strong, "I ain't no nigger! You can be one if you want to be. You can go down South and grow cotton, or pick it, or whatever the fuck they do. You can eat cornbread or whatever shit they eat. You can bow and kiss ass and clean shit bowls. But-I-am-white! And you can go to hell!"

"And James is blanco, too?" I asked quietly.

"You're damn right."

"And Poppa?"

Jose flushed the toilet chain so hard it sounded as if somebody's neck had broken. "Poppa's the same as you," he said, avoiding my eyes, "Indian."

"What kinda Indian?" I said bitterly. "Caribe?" Or maybe Borinquen? Say Jose, didn't you know the Negro made the scene in Puerto Rico way back? And when the Spanish spics ran outta Indian coolies, they brought them big blacks from you know where. Poppa's got moyeto blood. I got it. Sis got it. James got it. And mah deah brudder, you-all got it! Dig it! It's with us till game time. Like I said, man, that shit-ass poison I've been living with is on it's way out. It's a played-out lie about me, us, being white. There ain't nobody in this fucking house can lay claim to bein' no paddy exceptin' momma, and she's never made it a mountain of fever like we have. You and James are like houses--painted white outside, and black'n a mother inside. An' I'm closer to being like Poppa--trying to be white on both sides."

Proper Education Always Corrects Errors

No comments: