Introduction: Nuyorican Language

By:  Elizabeth Fletcher and Stanley Demosthene

Nuyorican Poetry (PowerPoint)

Miguel Algarín

-Puerto Rican writer born September 11, 1941

-co-founder of the Nuyorican Poets café with Miguel Pinero

-family raised him in a household which had a love for all things involving culture

-greatly influenced by the works of Shakespeare, who also motivated Algarin to have his own place to tell his story.

-Nuyorican Café began in 1973 in his living room where other poets and artists would gather

-eventually too many people began showing up, and Miguel looked to move to a larger, more comfortable location.

Miguel Piñero  


¨Co founded the Nuyorican Poets café

¨Born in Puerto Rico, moved to the Lower East Side, NY at age 4

¨Lower East Side


Definition of Nuyorican

n. A Puerto Rican living in New York or one who has lived in New York and returned to Puerto Rico.

Introduction: Nuyorican Language

¨Survival for the New York Puerto Ricans

¨The significance of the poet

Three Survival Possibilites for Puerto Ricans in New York

-labor for money and exist in eternal debt

-refuse to trade hours for dollars; “hustle”

-possibility to create alternative behavioral habits.

  The Importance of Family/Community

¨Maria , The First Choice

¡-“…has been working ever since I was born and she plans to keep on working. She feels safe when she works. She feels proud.”(9)

¨Joey’s house, The Second Choice

¡-“people who will comply with a renegade’s law: cheat, lie, strike, kill, deal, sell, buy, rob, cut, choke.”(10)

¨The Renegades and The Dynamics Brothers, The Third Choice

¡-creates ”alternative” behavioral habits

¡-creating laws within a community that protects, rather than threatens the community. The community in turn will look out for you.


The Evolution of Grammar

¨Two problems: (Page 19)

¨1) A language that grows out of street experience is dynamic and erratic

¨2) If the rules of the language do not come from street people, they will come from old systems of rules on new patterns of speech.

¨“The street definition of the Nuyorican artist is that he creates everything from the raw” (Page 23).



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1 Response to Introduction: Nuyorican Language

  1. dipali1991i says:

    Class Handout:
    Dipali Patel


    *Who was Miguel Piñero?
    •Piñero was a Puerto Rican playwright, actor, and co- founder of the Nuyorican Poets Café. He was one of the leading members of the Nuyorican literary movement.
    •Miguel Piñero-Benjamin Pratt
    •Sugar- Talisa Soto
    •Miguel Algarin aka Profe- Giancarlo Esposito
    •Tito Goya-Nelson Vasquez
    •Edgar- Michael Wright
    •Reinaldo Povad aka “Ray”-Michael Wright

    *Plot of Film is mostly Based on Events in Piñero’s Life:

    •Piñero was a film based on the true life of Miguel Piñero.
    •The film portrayed Piñero as a criminal, junkie, famous poet, and a good friend all tied together in one.
    •Piñero started stealing at a young age and ends up in jail, and when in jail he writes his first poem which was called Black Woman with a Blonde Wig On. He also develops a play called “Short Eyes” which was by far his most famous play. Joseph Papp notices the play and he brings it to the attention of Broadway where it becomes a hit!
    •After the success of Short Eyes, Piñero’s life slowly goes downhill. He turns to drugs, mainly heroin, and basically needs this substance to survive.
    •The doctor tells him that his liver is failing, so Piñero knows that he doesn’t have much time left but continues to drink which will lead to his ultimate downfall.

    *Short Eyes: One of Piñero’s Most Famous Plays

    •Pinero’s most famous play was Short Eyes .
    •The play is a drama based on Piñero’s experience in prison and with his inmates.
    •Play was first debuted in the 1974 at the Riverside Church in Manhattan
    •Joseph Papp saw the play and was so impressed that he moved the production to Broadway
    •From Broadway, the play went on for production in the Public Theatre, and then eventually to the Vivian Beaumont Theatre
    •Play nominated for six Tony awards
    •Won the “New York Drama Critics Circle Award” and “Obie Award” for best play of the year
    •First play written by a Puerto-Rican to be put on Broadway

    *Piñero&Puerto Rico:

    •Piñero visits Puerto Rico in the film, and while giving a speech to some well educated people he becomes upset and says, “ Be Puerto Rican and don’t fake what you are!”
    •Piñero becomes angry at the scholars when they claim that he is misrepresenting the Puerto Rican people and heritage because he associates the Puerto Rican people with his Nuyorican viewpoint
    •It seems that Piñero is mad that the Puerto Rican scholars are putting on an “Americanized” act of what they are, and he does not think that they are being loyal to their true Puerto Rican heritage
    •Piñero associates being Puerto Rican with being poor and living on the streets like he did, and he doesn’t understand that it is ok to be educated and use proper language so he looks down on these people to whom is is giving his speech and thinks that they are misrepresenting Puerto Rico
    •Piñero identified himself more with the streets of the Lower East Side where he grew up, and the street culture that was associated with this environment and lifestyle more than his Puerto Rican heritage
    •The fact that he created the term “Nuyorican” shows that he did not completely consider himself to relate to the Puerto Rican culture back home or in Puerto Rico
    •Pinero’s love for the Lower East Side is clearly seen when he asks for his ashes to be scattered on the streets of the Lower East Side

    *Piñero and Emotion:

    •All throughout the film, Piñero is constantly under the influence of hard drugs (mostly heroin and coke), dope, or alcohol
    •He refers to himself as a “junkie”
    •He continues to drink even though the doctor sternly tells him that his drinking is killing him
    •Might be using these substance to numb himself of the emotion he feels because he doesn’t know how to express his emotions to other people or he might not want to feel emotion at all
    •His plays were an outlet for him to release his emotion, but once his fame floats away, it seems that he does not know what to do and turns to drugs more than he ever had before
    •Piñero hides his emotion when people ask him about his friend Tito Goya
    •Piñero hides emotion when it comes to Sugar. He asks her to marry him but cannot give a reason other than physical as to why she should do this. (property, etc.)
    •Shows no emotion toward his mother when she comes to visit, until she says that she implies that she might not have much time left “I’ll make you proud mama”

    “Movie Review Pinero”. New York Times. 2 March 2012.

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