LaGuardia Community College 2002-03 Common Reading
Esmeralda Santiago, When I Was Puerto Rican

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Study Questions for the "Letters from New York" Chapter
  1. In the beginning of the chapter, there are 5 lines of text printed in italics. What are they supposed to be? (p. 155)

  2. In what ways did the boleros reflect and/or distort the notion of love?

  3. Who was Felipe Rodriguez? Why was he important in the chapter?

  4. Why did Esmeralda mention Felipe Rodriguez and her parents' quarrel in the same paragraph? (p. 158)

  5. Esmeralda enjoyed learning from Mami how to iron clothes. What was the most important reason that made her happy?

  6. The Santiago family's house was right behind a bar. What kinds of problems did it pose for the children? (p. 155 - 156)

  7. Why did Esmeralda feel insulted and belittled by Tata's letter? (p. 157 - 158)

  8. Esmeralda threw away Tata's letter in a very disrespectful manner. What was Mami's reaction? Are you surprised by Mami's reaction? Why?

  9. What kind of exotic food did the Santiago family eat to celebrate Christmas? (p. 160 - 162) Why was it important for Esmeralda to describe these things for the readers?

  10. Visit this site to find out more about how Christmas is celebrated in Puerto Rico. Point out the major differences between an American Christmas and a Puerto Rican Christmas.

    Image adapted from:

  11. Esmeralda felt betrayed by Mami when she learned about Mami's plan to visit New York in a public setting. Locate the section where this conversation happened, and summarized the exchanges that took place.

  12. Esmeralda also felt that Tio Lalo and Aunt Angelina were hypocritical and psychologically tortured her when she was painfully waiting for Mami's return. Find the incidents and the dialogs that Esmeralda provided to the reader.

  13. When Mami finally returned from New York to Puerto Rico, she brought hopes of a better life to the children. How did Esmeralda feel about these potential changes?

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