Bodega Dreams – Book I, Rounds 1-4 Summary & Analysis

Ernesto Quinonez

Bodega Dreams

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Bodega Dreams – Book I, Rounds 1-4 Summary & Analysis

Book One: Because Men Who Built This Country Were Men from the Streets 

Round 1 Summary: Spanish for “Toad” 

The book begins with an introduction to Sapo, who even in junior high had a reputation for biting. Although his real name is Enrique, Sapohis nickname, meaning “toad”, due to his “huge mouth framed by fat lips, freaking bembas that could almost swallow you” (3). Sapo has an innate self-confidence that causes the narrator, Julio, to admire him. Sapo is his pana—his friend.

Nicknames and monikers are important in el barrio because they make you someone. Throughout his junior high years, Julio desperately wants to be someone, so he fights anyone and everyone, since he has nothing to lose. He also distinguishes himself by painting R.I.Ps (graffiti memorials to people who have died) around the neighborhood. Due to his fighting and his “high, flat cheekbones, almond-shaped eyes, and straight black hair…and because kung fu movies were very popular at the time” (8), Julie earns himself a new name, Chino.

Chino and Sapo are classmates at Junior High School 99, also named Julia de Burgos after the Puerto Rican poet. The school is divided into white teachers with power who hate their jobs and Hispanic teachers, themselves the descendants of Puerto Rican immigrants, who encourage their students to work hard. Many of the students see no connection between their existences in Spanish Harlem and what they are learning in school, since their culture is not celebrated or respected by the establishment. Chino observes that, “The whole time I was at Julia de Burgos, I had no idea the school was named after Puerto Rico’s greatest poet, had no idea Julia de Burgos had emigrated to New York City and lived in poverty while she wrote beautiful verses” (6). Their junior high lives are marked by fighting, selling joints, arguing with their teachers and cutting class.

In junior high Chino meets Nancy Saldivia, called Blanca because of her religious devotion. She has a “face that could envelop you, almost convert you” (9). She earns the respect of everyone except Sapo, who doesn’t believe religion makes a person…

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