6. Piri Thomas’ Down These Mean Streets (Part 2)

 

February 26
1. READ: Piri Thomas, Down These Means Streets, (p. 155 – 238)
2. READ: Veronica Crichlow,  Transgression and Taboo: Critical Essays, “Crichlow – Running Down These Mean Streets and Sex” (PDF)
3. PRESENTATION:

February 28
1. READ: Piri Thomas, Down These Means Streets, (p. 239 – 337)
2. Term project abstract due (in Course Wiki)
3. PRESENTATION: Romy & Joseph

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102 Responses to 6. Piri Thomas’ Down These Mean Streets (Part 2)

  1. jayrodriguez13 says:

    I feel that in this book, to be masculine is to be the baddest and strongest. Case in point, Piri’s fight with the big Swede. It began on pages 189-190 with their little argument about coal. And then came the insults from Piri, saying that “… the only thing [Piri] would break up and send down the chute in little pieces would be [the Swede’s] faggot ass” (190). Of course this leads to the Swede retorting and telling Piri he would “… break [Piri] just once in half,” (190), both men, of course, not wanting to seem like a chump or “punk out” in front of the people who could hear them. Again, showing that being “hombre,” being masculine, is a verbal cock fight among these men. Who can be the wittier man, whose tongue is sharper; these are part of what it takes to be “masculine” in this book. Of course, that’s not all that it takes to be masculine, there is also the physical aspect, the literal “peleas de gallos” (Cock fights) that take place as well. Again, we go to the fight with the Swede.

    When the Swede finally caught up with Piri on deck, of course a fight ensued (190). Both men tried to pummel the other, trying to assert their dominance in this group. Piri defeated the Swede, but did so in a way where he was in a position to end the Swede’s life, and backed out of such opportunity. So, Piri asserted his dominance as an “hombre,” for the most part. However, being “hombre” means you don’t take any criticisms either. Therefore, when Isaac criticized him and called him “yellow” (190), Piri got very defensive, angry even. This is when the violence in the book begins to take a turn for the worst, as Piri realizes that if he really wants to be “hombre,” he has to be ready to kill if need be. This book is just pushing the thought that to be violently dominant is to be masculine. However, I still really enjoyed this book because of Piri’s growth throughout the entire book.

    • Jean-Claude Nicolas Jr. says:

      Sure Piri was made to feel like a man through the use of violence. My argument is that Piri has a skewed view of what it is like to be a man. Piri could have fought the swede and chopped him down with his words. That would have been a wound the swede would not have easily healed from. It was noble for Piri not to have taken the man’s life, yet Piri did not have to find himself in those working conditions in the first place; if he was more educated

    • Britaney Guzman says:

      I agree, there was definetly the idea of physical dominance and being aggressive as a significant way for Piri’s masculinity to be judged. I thought it was interesting he acknowledged an aspect to fighting that I hadn’t thought about, more so the mental side. Piri knew in order to beat Swede he had to get the approval of the other boys in the gang, sort of an “alpha male” thing.

    • misharo says:

      I agree with you Jay! It definitely seems that Piri’s perception of being a strong man is to be aggressive and mean. This actually ties into the reading and the “categorical behaviors of machismo” Some of them listed were aggressive, loud-mouthed and insecure. These all are some attributes of Piri. His fight with the Swede is a great example of how he isn’t backing down because he is a man and won’t be punked by anyone.

    • arussell11 says:

      In order to say that he believes it’s manly to be violent we have to understand where that perception came from. We see time and time again that it is important to have dominance over your woman if you are a Latino male but where does other violence come in? Piri was surrounded by violence most of his life but the violence that he exhibited was not the same as what he saw. How do we explain this?

  2. dipali1991 says:

    I agree with this. Violence defiantly was a main factor in this book, and it symbolized masculinity. This point can relate to everyday life in general and peoples view on masculinity. You can see that in our world, the man who can fight is always viewed as “bigger and badder” then the man who is weak and cannot fight. If two men are in a fight, and one “loses” then he is viewed as inferior to his opponent. The fact that Piri is constantly fighting this this book further confirms that men think that they are more masculine if they fight instead of backing down. I do not agree with the fact that is it necessary to fight and I think that people should understand this. Fighting is actually a negative thing and should not be viewed in a positive way!

    • Elise316 says:

      I am in total agreement with you, but still curious as to why masculinity continues to be perceived in this way. I think it is very rational that it takes a stronger person to do the right thing, to avoid violence, and settle issues peacefully. As reasonable as this is, why does the violent masculinity still hold such a prominent place in our society? What will it take for this rational thought that is shared by SO many people, to overcome the stereotype of violent and dangerous masculnity?

    • misharo says:

      I appreciate your opinion that “fighting is negative and should not be viewed in a positive way” although I can not say I completely agree with this. It ALWAYS depends on the circumstance in my opinion. It is good to fight for what you believe in and sometimes fighting physically is what it boils down to. Now you’re argument stands true because in the novel Piri fights plenty and most of the altercations he did get into could have been avoided.

    • Lauren Todd says:

      Totally agree with you too about how violence is perceived and how people should not be fighting to display masculinity. I feel like even over the past 50 years with classes such as this and in schools children are being taught that violence is not the answer to anything. I feel that the idea of it being positive is being reduced every year and hopefully soon it will only be viewed as negative.

    • Lima James says:

      I also agree that violence is definitely a symbol of masculinity not only in this book, but also in the general public. And it is very true how if one loses in a fight or better yet backs off from a fight and makes the better choice of not getting into that fight, that individual is seem as less powerful, scared, and perceived as un-manly. I feel like this is just one of those notions that will continue to cycle in the world around us.

  3. Jean-Claude Nicolas Jr. says:

    Well, i am excited for Piri as he musters courage to be open-minded and explore the south. I believe its hard to go past what you are born into. I further respect Piri for not burning his bridges back in New York. Piri transitions from using physical force to gain what he thought he needed in life at that time, to using his mind to improve his situations. In my opinion, true masculinity is displayed when one realizes and accepts their roots, where they came from, yet is bold enough to move ahead.

    Perhaps inadvertantly, this book seems to promote violence. I subscribe to the thought that the pen is mightier than the sword. Piri should have taken notice how even back in his elementary school days, the ones who were educated were able to get ahead. Look at the principal who chased Piri all the way up to his apartment building. The principal tried to jive talk and decieve Piri’s neighbor into thinking he wasn’t going to hurt Piri. Yet his intention to hurt Piri was made clear from the chase. Instead of Piri using racism as a crutch, an excuse for dropping out, he should have used racism as his driving force to get ahead in life so that racism would have not been able to affect him in his adult years of success. When he moved to the “paddy” school and noticed how those students were educated, he should have recognized how education would have been his meal ticket out of poverty and desired the same.

    • Jacob Finlan says:

      I don’t think that Piri means to promote violence in his writing, but rather inform readers of what it was like to grow up in Spanish Harlem, and his trials and tribulations throughout his life. Mr. Thomas wrote in an interview that when he was writing Down These Mean Streets, he basically was letting his hate spill out through the words that he was writing.

      In a sense, I think that it was therapeutic for Piri to write this book, and it helped him move on past some of the things that happened to him in his life.

      • JessicaRaugitinane says:

        I agree that this memoir is therapeutic for Piri. In the second part of the book, Piri has many scenes where he is looking into mirrors and describing the person he sees. For instance on page 275, Piri looks into a two-sided mirror and “saw a small brown face, bleary-eyed from an overdose of wanting to be free; then [Piri] turned the mirror over and saw [his] face enlarged, bloated with prison time…” Another instance is on page 321, when Piri “dug [himself] in the mirror. What [he] saw shook [him] up. [His] eyes were red from smoke and [his] face was strained from the effort of trying to be cool.” These mirror scenes demonstrate Piri’s self-reflection. He must analyze himself and physically see the damage that he is causing to his own body in order to realize and change his ways. I think the mirror represents Piri finally coming to terms with himself. He no longer cares about how others see him, like he did when he was younger when it came to peer pressure. He also no longer seeks the approval of others like he did with his father. Now, Piri is able to judge himself only by his own standards. Piri matures into a man that cares for himself and yearns to better his own life for his own well-being, not for anyone else’s.

      • Lima James says:

        I also agree with Jacob in that this book is like the re-telling of what Piri went through in this life and what he had to do in order to “Survive” in the situations that he was in. I don’t think the book was promoting violence in any way, but that the portrayal of violence was essential to show what he experienced in his life since in was a huge part.

    • arussell11 says:

      I definitely disagree in that Piri used racism as a crutch. He was uneducated and knew nothing else. This lifestyle was what he grew up around and was somewhat of a perpetual cycle. What Piri could do to stop the cycle is to go back and talk in schools to kids who he sees were just like him. In this way, he would be touching people on a larger scale in a way that is relatable. It is important to understand that Piri’s vision was clouded because of his lack of guidance. It’s hard to say that he should have just realized that education was the key to success.

  4. Elise316 says:

    Page 216 reads “I said, Listen, maricon if you wanna die, then we’re kidding; otherwise we’re not. Just put the money in a paper bag. Your wallet, too. Louie, if the motherf__ makes a move, f__ him up good.” “Louie just stood there, like he wished he was some place else, but for that matter, so did I. This ‘macho’ act serves as another of the initiations Piri goes puts himself through even though he admittedly wished he wasn’t there, in that situation. This brings us back to Piri’s constant desire for belonging and need for approval from his peers. Piri has engaged in sexual acts he didn’t want because he didn’t want to stand apart from the rest of his crew. Then again later he gives into drugs defending his reputation from being labeled as a punk.

    He engages in behaviors at the prompting of his peers that he wouldn’t engage in on his own. What does this say about his masculinity? All of these activities were done to make Piri’s reputation more tough, more intimidating, more ‘masculine’. As it was brought up class, being in Piri’s situation seems to make him very weak, and easily manipulated. Isn’t this the opposite of stereotypical masculinity?

    • jayrodriguez13 says:

      I wholeheartedly agree with you, Elise. In my opinion, I feel that Piri’s lack of… Breaking Away (for lack of better term) shows that Piri is very gullible and easy to mold. In fact, I feel that, if he wished to be a real man, he would be his own person. Instead of following his friends and doing whatever the ‘stud,’ or really cool guy, suggests, he should suggest ideas of his own. Perhaps ideas that don’t involve something that would make them all uncomfortable, such as receiving sexual favors from homosexual men. And if he feels uncomfortable at what was suggested, he should stress his concerns and not be afraid of being deemed “unmanly” or “being kicked out of the Man Box,” as Jean-Claude would say.
      If you think about it, Piri’s being easily manipulated inevitably leads to his downfall as well. If he didn’t make the decisions he did based on the peer pressure from his “crew,” then he most likely would not have ended up addicted to heroin. He might not have ended up in jail either. He was prompted into doing these things by his need to not be seen as a punk. And in the end, he ended up paying a hefty price: years of his life. Something that he can never get back.

    • Bethany Sullivan says:

      I think you’re absolutely right. Throughout the book Piri only ever thinks of his ‘rep’; he seems to do EVERYTHING for his reputation, never because he wants to do it. He always gives in to peer pressure and he never stands up for his own opinions or desires because he is so concerned with looking cool and not punking out. This reminds me of a point one of my professors for another class made: she was talking about how ‘manly’ men beat up any man who does things men ‘shouldn’t’ do. She commented that they think they’re being brave when they enforce societal gender expectations by beating up a man who cross-dresses, but if they ever tried to walk out into public wearing a dress or a skirt or high heels they would understand just how much courage that takes for a man, and they would realize that they are not the brave ones at all; the man who defies society’s gender expectations is actually much braver than the man who obediently does exactly what society tells him to do. Piri is an example of the latter, rarely (if ever) of the former.

    • Katheryn Maldonado says:

      I agree with the point you brought up in your post. There is no doubt that Piri constantly felt the need to prove himself to others. Throughout the novel, Piri continuously sought out to be masculine and tough, and never to punk out. I think this aspect of his personality does not make him gullible, but I think it has a lot to do with his environment. Growing up is Spanish Harlem and in the time period of the book, was not an easy thing. I think that most young men living in bad neighborhoods have to constantly prove themselves still today, because of the violent and tough atmosphere. Most young men in places like Harlem, are thankful to be alive everyday. I believe Piri’s emphasis on toughness was what allowed him to survive in Harlem.

      • Elise316 says:

        Do you think the circumstances of growing up in Harlem made the emphasis on toughness more exaggerated than say if he grew up in a New England suburb? The reason I ask is that I think a lot of young men growing up even outside of a dangerous city think they need to be tough to prove themselves and fit in with a crowd. I definitely agree that the stakes are raised in a place like Harlem, however this idea of gaining acceptance through exaggerated macho-ness is a widespread issue.

    • Lauren Todd says:

      That is so true Elise! I actually did not look at it at first in that way as his acts being the opposite of masculinity, but you make a very accurate perception. It’s ironic because throughout the novel we see his endless desire to be ‘hombre’ and in with many of his choices it shows he’s the farthest thing from it.

  5. Elise316 says:

    When Piri is in prison he can’t accept the fact to be true. He says the days go by and it just doesn’t settle in the fact that he is actually there. I think Piri is harder to accept some things than others might be…I am brought back to the scene when he is trying to get a job with his white friend and is discriminated out of hire due to his dark skin. Even though it is immediately clear to him as soon as his friend gets the job and he doesn’t he still insists on asking each candidate that leaves the building whether or not they got the offer and of course it correlated with their skin color. Piri needed that process before he was able to truely accept that he had been discriminated against on account of his resemblance to an african america.

    On page 257 Piri says: “The food wasn’t bad once you accepted it with the same readiness you accepted your prison sentence.” Similar to the way that the initial ludicrus idea of being black eventually was something Piri came to identify with and accept, being in prison was the same way. As much as he couldn’t believe that he was really here, and how much he wondered about life outside and what Trina was up to, he eventually made his life tailored to the circumstances of being in prison.

    • Katheryn Maldonado says:

      I think that was a very interesting point you brought out in the novel. I completely agree with the fact that Piri became content with the prison food, similarly to the idea of being black. I think by the end of the novel he found an inner state of peace where he accepted the circumstances he was dealt. I think finding inner happiness comes with age and maturity. I also think that Piri’s prison sentence forced him to think in such a way. I think in prison he realized that life is too short and really wanted to make a realistic change in his life. I think you brought out a great point!

      • Elise316 says:

        Yeah its true Piri did realize life was too short and needed to make some changes in his life. I agree one of the changes was an over all acceptance of his circumstances instead of always analyzing and analyzing and wishing he was dealt differently.

      • Lima James says:

        I agree that Piri’s life in prison was a stage of realization of the past and the things that he has done. He basically got into the mindset that he is going to be there for awhile, so he might as well get comfortable.

        I also felt that the love that he still had for his girl also kept him alive and made him want to go back to a better life. Because you can see him lose that positiveness when he finds out that she had gotten married.

    • Lauren Todd says:

      This is an interesting point! We see the same theme that with time and understanding growing more comfortable with accepting yourself for who you really are. And that is what Piri did with race and with prison life he came to terms with the truth and then living with the truth. This is a good connection you found in the novel!

  6. franciscotorres01 says:

    Masculinity is an ideology in accordance to the article we read this week and as such Piri very much emphasizes that ideology. Men are not born men, but instead boys are made to become men. Piri became the violent individual he was in an attempt to become a man in the eyes of his father and friends. Piri got beat up to show he was a man, but still, did that really make him a man? “Man” is constructed from birth and its very hard to deviate from this idea, but it should not define man and becoming a man is such an antiquated notion. Men should just strive to be whatever they wish to be and if that is the social norm so be it, but it should not be lined out for them.

    We can bring up the scene were Piri goes to the homosexuals house and does those acts and think is that the social norm for masculinity? Godelier, from the article for this week, tell about the Baruya and what they do with semen and young boys; is that “homosexual”? What im trying to get at is that these acts were seen as ok, but the second you did it for the wrong reason not socially accepted by the group then you were labeled gay. Heterosexuality and homosexuality is all socially and culturally constructed. They do not really exist. They are both sexuality at its route and that does not define who you are having the sexual act with, its just a sexual act.

    • klakotko says:

      I like that you emphasized the fact that Piri believed one has to become a man and that one is not born a man because I feel like this was very vital to the novel as a whole as seen in his entire characterization. Everything alluded to the idea that it is a journey from actual events to small diction throughout the text. More specifically when he matured in numerous was in jail. When he was referred to as ‘boy’ that was signifying authority and a higher power. I think as a theme this idea can be simply the result of society however. The idea of becoming a man instead of being born a man showcases the societal need for hierarchy in every aspect. It allows for an actual specific pyramid of dominance and power to be established. Not only is the man above the woman but older men are above younger men.

    • Ashton Haga says:

      I find it interesting that you posted Piri had to become a man vs. being born a man. One point that stood out to me was Piri’s degradation of women and the way he didn’t think twice about violence against them. This is especially interesting since we don’t hear any stories of Piri’s father beating Piri’s mother (unlike in Freak). Do you think Piri displays violence against women in order to “become a man”? If so, do you think this is because of his environment (el barrio) or some other factor? Do you think Piri’s treatment of women stems from something other than his desire to “become a man”?

  7. Jacob Finlan says:

    Piri’s drug addiction was absolutely fascinating to me. I’ve never done any ‘hard drugs’ and I guess I have just never heard anyone go into great detail what it’s like to detox. Most of the things I’ve heard are like, ‘It was hell’, or ‘I thought I was going to die.’ Piri really gets the point across, like it was literally hell for him to live through it. I can’t really imagine such a feeling, or the feeling of a true addiction. I was however, glad that he was unable to get past his addiction and move on to make something out of himself – at that point in his life, he probably felt that he was never going to amount to anything (or even live, perhaps).

    The chapter ‘Sex in the Can’ was, again, really interesting – it’s interesting how homophobic Piri seems to think you HAVE to be to in prison to survive; his understanding is that if you don’t stand up to the guys violently, they’ll ‘make you their bitch’, and he even advises Chico to take violent action that may earn him more time in jail than allow a man to have sex with him. The earlier scene in the book (we all know which one I’m talking about) seems to allude to Piri’s homophobia later in his life. I knew so little about the way that men in jail view sex that this chapter really interested me.

  8. klakotko says:

    I feel the same way! It was rather eye-opening. I always thought it was kind of weird for ‘men’ and the ‘machismo’ idea to be exemplified in events where hard drugs were being used. In my opinion addiction is more a sign of weakness and contradicts the stereotypes of the latino man being strong and powerful. In this way, Piri doesn’t embody the ideals and I think its interesting to look at the drugs as a source of power itself the control it possesses and affect it has on the stereotypical man.

    • Ashton Haga says:

      I find it interesting that you posted that you always felt drug use was a sign of being less of a man vs. more of one. I agree with this statement. However, I think part of Piri’s experience was when he OVERCAME his addition. I think, in relation to masculinity, Piri beating his addiction was a show of his power over the hold of drugs. Even though he was sick and miserable, he was able to use his strength and battle through the detox stage, proving his manliness.

      • misharo says:

        This is a great point made. As we discussed in class we were looking for times when Piri’s body image may have seemed to be weak and not so masculine and many people said that when he was sick and in “deotx” he was in a feminine position which challenged his masculinity. It is an interesting point but the point you make of him over coming the drugs is a good portrayal of being masculine is interesting as well.

      • Elise316 says:

        I agree that addictions are a point of weaknesses and that Piri could be identified as more masculine when he finally overcame his use. This portion of the story, when he is going through the detox, was eye opening for me as well and I think a very interesting window into the life of a junkie.

  9. Ashton Haga says:

    I recently read an article for another class entitled, “The Gender of Brazilian Transgendered
    Prostitutes”. This article focused on how the sexual role determines how someone’s gender identity is formed. For example, a man penetrating another man is still considered to be heterosexual. However, if a man receives another man, he is no longer considered a “man” but rather “not man”. The following passage illustrates this:

    “One of the basic things one quickly learns from any
    analysis of Latin American sexual categories is that sex
    between males in this part of the world does not necessarily
    result in both partners being perceived as homosexual.
    The crucial determinant of a homosexual classification
    is not so much the fact of sex as it is the role
    performed during the sexual act. A male who anally
    penetrates another male is generally not considered to
    be homosexual. He is considered, in all the various local
    idioms, to be a Uman”i;n deed, in some communities,
    penetrating another male and then bragging about it is
    one way in which men demonstrate their masculinity to
    others (Lancaster1 992:241;c f. Brandes 1981:234).Q uite
    different associations attach themselves to a male who
    allows himself to be penetrated. That male has placed
    himself in what is understood to be an unmasculine,
    passive position. By doing so, he has forfeited manhood
    and becomes seen as something other than a man.”

    While reading this article, I kept thinking about Piri’s sexual experiences. Perhaps this is why he was comfortable accepting the sexual situation in the apartment in Part 1. In addition, perhaps this is why his friend was bragging out his sexual exploits with the transexuals in Part 1. However, while Piri was comfortable receiving sexual attention from the transexuals in Part 1, he was vehemently opposed in Part 2. I found this interesting since in Part 2 he would still be considered a “man” according to this article as long as he was the one performing penetration. I had to wonder if Piri was so against getting a “girl” in prison because of the American influences in how he perceives sexuality. Would this have been different if he had been born/raised in Puerto Rico and was in a Puerto Rican prison?

    • Bethany Sullivan says:

      I think you bring up a very good point. I also wondered why Piri was so opposed to sex in prison, and I think that your explanation makes a lot of sense. I would also argue, though, that Piri wasn’t exactly comfortable with the interaction that took place in Part 1; he let it happen (mostly, I think, in order to maintain his ‘rep’), and physically he enjoyed it, but as it was happening he was thinking about how uncomfortable he was and how he didn’t WANT to be turned on, but no matter how much his mind disliked it, his body still liked it. That being said, I think you’re right that he very well might have reacted differently to the events in Part 2 if he was in a Puerto Rican prison. Having grown up in Harlem, he probably internalized US ideas about homosexuality that made him uncomfortable with any kind of sexual interaction between males.

    • JessicaRaugitinane says:

      I think Piri opposed getting a “girl” and engaging in homosexual acts while he was in prison due to his view of freedom. Piri constantly is counting down the days until he is released from prison and mentions that nothing compares to the outside world. I think Piri felt dehumanized in prison since his freedom of doing whatever he wanted was taken away. Thus, I feel that Piri vehemently defended his heterosexuality while in prison since that was his only real freedom of choice he had. If he allowed himself to engage in homosexual acts when he knew he was heterosexual, this would further dehumanize or emasculate him since he would be giving into the pressures of prison rather than exercising his own free will and ability to choose.

  10. Bethany Sullivan says:

    When Alayce states plainly that “anything’s better’n being a li’l ole darkie” (159), Brew gets really upset. Brew strives to remain proud of his heritage and who he is, even though society makes it very hard. He tells Alayce that she has to fight to feel proud no matter what white people do to her, because shame is exactly what they want to make black people feel; if black people feel ashamed to be black, white people will continue to oppress them. I think Brew makes a very good point. Throughout history this has been true of many different groups in many different contexts; the dominant group treats the oppressed group so poorly that eventually the oppressed group internalizes the dominant group’s ideas of inferiority and superiority; after a point, they begin to believe that they really are inferior to the dominant group, and on some level they deserve to be treated the way they’ve been treated.

    This is exhibited in the well-known study in which young school children were given black and white dolls and asked questions like “Which doll is more beautiful?” and “Which doll is more like you?” Black children pointed to the white doll as the ‘beautiful’ one, the ‘good’ one, and then with shame, and with tears in their eyes, they would admit that the black doll was more like them—the ‘ugly’ doll. Similar oppression and discrimination happened to Native Americans when North America was colonized and before them to the indigenous people of Latin America, as well as many other groups in history. Over time these oppressed groups begin to internalize the dominant messages about their inferiority (as we also saw in Mama Chona’s denial of indigenous heritage in The Rain God).

    Piri’s struggle with his identity as a Puerto Rican and his perception as a black man is not an uncommon experience among Puerto Ricans. Willie Perdomo, part of the Nuyorican Poets’ Café, wrote a poem that captures very much the same experience in his own life. He tries to tell everyone that people are really all the same, but people still feel a need to categorize him. I also found a video of Willie performing the poem out loud. (I didn’t know this until I just looked up the poem text online, but interestingly, the poem is actually dedicated to Piri Thomas).

  11. JessicaRaugitinane says:

    It was interesting to analyze how Piri’s physical body changed throughout the novel. Piri hurt his body growing up with sexual intercourse, drugs, gang violence, and domestic violence (hurting his hand when trying to punch Trina). At the time, it seemed “manly” to do all of these things; he inflicted pain onto his body in order to not punk out. Consequently, his body was skinny and frail, but he felt macho since he didn’t punk out and seemed cool by participating in sex, drugs, and violence.

    However, as a young adult, Piri’s body changes and becomes physically bigger and stronger as he did manual labor in prison. As a result, he also felt stronger mentally and spiritually, as a healthy, clean man once he was released from prison. A major aspect of being masculine is how strong the physical body looks. Thus, I appreciate that the book shows how Piri looked physically stronger once he straightened out his life and became clean. I think this sends a positive message to males that being “macho” or masculine does not always mean giving into peer pressure, but taking initiative of your life and correcting and learning from your mistakes.

  12. Throughout the entire book it is evident that Piri’s mental state goes hand-in-hand with his physical well being. As we discussed in class, Piri was at an emotional low right before going to jail, which coincided with him literally having a hole in body. Prior to that, we had seen Piri battling drug addiction and in the detox scene, it took a loss of sense of self and control of the body for Piri to start the cleansing process. I think that jail was the best alternative (compared to continuing a life of crime and addiction) because it gave Piri time to think and recollect so that he wouldn’t continue on the path that he was heading. In jail, Piri was stronger emotionally/mentally because of religion and wanting to go home, and physically because of the hard labor that he had to do. These factors prove that Piri was better off when he was off of the streets.
    As for Piri’s sexuality, I feel as though Piri took in and embodied more of the negative qualities associated with masculinity. Throughout the book I got the feeling that Piri felt the need to prove his masculinity through his actions. One such example is the scene with the transvestites. Here Piri only follows through with the sexual acts because he wants to be a “man” and not punk out. In the second half I feel as though Piri proved to be more tough and violent—he ends up killing someone for a small sum of money and ultimately serves time for his theft schemes. Between this and his constant womanizing, I feel as though Piri goes through extreme lengths to prove to himself and others that he is “un hombre.”

  13. Gresenia Gil Suarez says:

    The second part of the book I felt like there was a drastic change. I feel like Piri really matured as an individual and for some reason I felt more connected to him and his story in the second half. Perhaps it was because of what he went through, being put in jail having no freedom of any sort. When he starts getting into religion it really touched me for some reason. Although he might not have continued his spiritual finding, he found healing in religion for a time and I believe that really helped him out in getting through his sufferings.

  14. Luis Muniz says:

    Throughout the book I feel that Piri has a distorted view of what it is to be a man. Some aspects of his view of masculinity changes over time but others stay the same. When Piri was younger he was all about not punking out. For Piri, to punk out meant that you were not “un hombre” and you didn’t deserve respect. We still see that view when he gets into the fight on the ship over a few words. He fights and almost kills his opponent, but decides against it. When some calls him out for it and calls him Yellow for not killing the guy he gets angry and feels like that he must always be ready to talk a life. This then leads him down the path of robberies and shootings. Once he is arrested and taken from the life he knew, he begins to change. This change comes when he has a chance to make parol. There is a huge riot in the yard and he has to decided whether he wants to fight back and riot or go inside and keep his chances at parol. He was essential trying to decide whether punking out was worth it or not and ends up not rioting.

    Another aspect in which we discussed in class was Piri’s experiences with homosexuality. I think that his reaction to his experience really did not change. The only real difference between his two experiences is that in the first they were dealing with men who acted, dressed and sounded like women and in second they weren’t. The second time is when Piri is in jail and the other inmates wanted him. If he were do it in jail, it would mean the loss of his masculinity because he would be in the role of the woman, whereas in the first experience he was still in the role of the man and was able to keep his masculinity.

    • Julissa Antigua says:

      I like that you marked Piri’s lifestyle change with the riot at the prison. I also agree that Piri’s thoughts on masculinity change over time. During a period his main priority as a man was just getting laid (by women only of course). But this goes to show that his vies and priorities did change overtime.

  15. Lima James says:

    In the second half of the book, I thought it was interesting how when Piri was in jail, although he was in this mindset of getting comfortable with his conditions and daily life there, he didn’t give into the sexual acts that some wanted him to pursue. Unlike the first half of the book, where is tried to conform to prove his manliness, i felt that in the second half it was the opposite. That he was staying strong to his opinion of not wanting to be a part of it in a way of showing how manly he is.

    He was more stern to his decision. And it didn’t seem like he was confused of what he wanted. but was direct and assertive about his decision. Also, it was interesting to see how in this section he emphases that being manly is being heterosexual and not homosexual. Because in the first portion it was more like, being manly is taking that risk and not backing out and being a wimp. To show that he could do anything and still be a man, a heterosexual and not desire or want another male as his partner. I thought this was very interesting. Because when the two males get married in the prison the way he spoke of it in the book, he had this “ew..this is not the norm” type of attitude.

  16. dipali1991i says:

    It was interesting to see the change in Piri from the beginning of the book to the end of the book. In the first part of the book Piri basically gave in to the pressure of his friends, especially when it came to committing sexual acts. In the second part of the book when he was in jail, he stuck to his morals of “masculinity” and did not give into the sexual pressure from the people around him.

    When Piri was in jail alot of the other inmates were committing sexual acts that involved men on men. Some people might say that this is homosexual, but in jail where you are locked up 24/7, most of the men became sexually frustrated so they performed anal sex on their fellow inmates. It was hypocritical in a way because in jail this was the “masculine” thing to do, while if this was done outside of jail it would be viewed as “homo”. The inmates around Piri would perform anal acts on their weaker inmates to seem more dominant. This was the manly thing to do, but Piri refused to take part in these actions. Deep down he knew that he shouldn’t do it, and instead of giving in to the pressures of his peers he refused to do this, which made me see him as a bigger person, and changed my opinion of him.

    Throughout the book, Piri really grew up. In the beginning of the story, and all throughout the first part, Piri would do anything to prove that he was masculine. In the second part of the book, I feel that Piri started thinking for himself. Even though he obviously still wanted to be seen as masculine he lived for other things, and thought for himself. As much as he wanted to be accepted by his peers in jail, he refused to take part in something that he wasn’t comfortable in, which I respect.

  17. arussell11 says:

    Piri’s sexuality is an interesting theme to be attentive to throughout the progression of this work. We see that Piri actually engages in homosexual activity in the first half of the book. While he was on drugs at this point, he voluntarily put himself into that situation. Yet his encounters with his sexuality change greatly as the story-line moves forward. We see Piri having sex with many women, including a White whore in Texas. His sexual acts with women serve as a way for him to portray his masculinity and dominance.

    As his life changes and he goes to jail, he views sex in a very different light. Now, it is a matter of not engaging in sexual acts in order to still be considered macho and manly. This theory completely negates the life that he was used to because even when Piri engaged in sexual acts with a man, his machismo was never questioned. Here in jail, if you had sex with another man, you were considered to have been made a girl, and there was no coming back from that. The dynamic had changed and Piri had to follow suit, regardless of whether or not he believed it was right. He had an image to portray and he had to follow the rules of the land in order to keep that desired image.

    • Julissa Antigua says:

      I also think that Piri used sex as a way to feel and show that he was in control and powerful. Piri’s manhood was clearly very important to him since he refrained from any sexual acts while in jail. In my opinion Piri’s was thinking, well I don’t have much but at least I have my masculinity.

  18. Carlos Perez says:

    In the second half of this book we see the side of Piri as more of an adult and alot like the other books it exposes Piri’s persceptions and ghosts from his past. Piri continues to drag a lot of the same issues he faced as a child. He faces his sexual confusion from his influences and he also gets into situations of violence a way to prove his level of masculinity. I feel that when Piri was in jail he was put into situations where homosexual acts were happening and this causes more of confusion in Piri. I dont agree with the fact that someone said it is caused by sexual frustration. This has more to do with a person’s identity then sexual orientation. If a person wants to be with men then they will do that and vice-versa.

  19. SPRING 2013 POSTS & COMMENTS

  20. I think that what stuck out to me most in the second part of the book was Piri’s ongoing struggle with identifying with a particular race. When Piri and Brew get on the bus to go down south, Brew automatically goes to the back of the bus, knowing that he will be forced to once they cross the Mason-Dixon line; this didn’t even cross Piri’s mind. “I laughed and said, ‘Dig it.’ But in my mind, I hadn’t thought it was going to apply to me.” (p. 166) You see this type of mindset from Piri again when they get to Mobile. Piri goes into a “white restaurant” thinking that he will have no problem getting served, but to his surprise, he is refused service because they thought that he was black.

    After meeting Gerald Andrew West, Piri felt that he could really relate to what he was going through, since he too was different. This got him to thinking, and when talking to Brew, he tells him, ” I can’t held feeling both paddy and Negro. The weight feels even on both sides even if both sides wanna feel uneven. Goddammit, I wish I could be like one of those lizards that change colors. When I’d be with Negroes, I’d be stone Negro, and with paddies, I’d be stone paddy.” (p. 180) On the boat on the way back home, Piri gets into a physical altercation with one of the firemen. Piri has the man in a chokehold with the option of killing him, but he chooses not to. Another worker, Isaac, calls him “yellow”, saying, “Unless your wiling to kill at the exact moment you have to, you’ll be a pussy bumper for the rest of your life. You have got to have the heart not only to spare life but to take it. You can only spare it now, but maybe you’ll learn. I don’t mean that you’re yellow in heart, just in instinct.” (p. 191)

    All of these different experiences with how he is perceived and treated in regards to his race leaves him torn. He is trying to relate to various races, but at the same time, never feels like he really belongs 100% to any of them. In my opinion, the anger and pain that this lack of self-identification caused him is what ultimately led him to this life of drugs, violence, and crime.

    • On page 191 when Piri has the throw down with the Swede, I was half expecting Piri to lose control and actually kill him. I found a new sense of attraction and faith in Piri when he relates that he doesn’t want to kill if he doesnt have to. He says, “…I’ll do it, but it gotta be a good reason.” I really liked that he shared this with us, because it shows his corazon again. Having corazon even after losing your best friend in the South is tough.
      I think the whole scene with Piri and the Swede had less to do with race (however a difference in communication styles may have had something to do with it) and more to do with conflicting senses of masculinity.

  21. The second half of DTMS, we see Piri growing a lot in his views about race and class, but his sense of masculinity is more or less the same. Piri has all but ceased fighting against being categorized as black and vehemently trying to maintain is puertorriqueno identity. We see Piri take charge of his experiences of race as he decides to go down south and then to travel the Atlantic in order to gain perspective as to where he falls on the “color” spectrum.
    Piri takes his knowledge of Southern talking to the next step when he “got back at his Poppa” by answering him in a southern drawl. Somehow he knew this would set Poppa over the edge, and they began to fight, coming to a fruition in drawing knives and bats. In this way, Piri has not grown in his masculinity, but has gotten more hypermasculine.

  22. Brittany Demers says:

    I think it was good for Piri to meet Gerald. Gerald was able to give Piri a different perspective on racism by saying “So I ask you, if a white man can be a Negro if he has some Negro blood in him, why can’t a Negro be a white man if he has white blood in him?” (Thomas, 176). This definitely didn’t settle well with Brew. Brew seems to be a little bit closed minded on what your skin color says about your race/ethnicity. I feel that he acts like this because he has been treated very poorly in relation to his skin color and he has probably seen people with all different skin tones treated the same way. I’m really curious about where Brew went. He was really close to home, so maybe, like Piri suggested, he went home. I just feel that Brews disappearance was sketchy. It was very sudden and he didn’t mention anything to Piri about leaving.

    I can’t say that I didn’t expect for there to be fights on the ship. When Piri got into a fight with the Swede I thought of it as just another time to prove who is the toughest, and most masculine. After the comments about how Piri should have killed the Swede from Isaac, I realized that it was very important to be tough on the ship but i think he took it a little far. Piri then replies “If the time comes an’ i gotta cool somebody for good, I’ll do it, but it gotta be a good reason” (Thomas, 191) and I think that this a little better than what Isaac said. I just feel bad that lives have to be taken to prove masculinity.

    I had a feeling that Piri was going to end up addicted to drugs. I thought his drug use in the first part on the book was foreshadowing for it. I feel bad that people think doing drugs makes them masculine. Piri’s drug habit was expensive and very intense. I’m glad one of his friends was willing to help him quit though.

    • I would like to speak to the point you make about Brew being closed minded as to what the true meaning of skin color means for us. I do believe that Brew has been treated unfairly and discriminated against due to his darkness, however the description of Piri’s skin color doesn’t lead us to believe that Piri was THAT much lighter than Brew. This is interesting to me because if they were close to the same tone, then wouldn’t Piri have felt the same levels of discrimination that Brew did?
      Of course, Brew grew up in the South and he was “just black” where as Piri grew up in Harlem and he had a Latino identity that….somehow made him more superior? I don’t really understand the mindset of the dominant group, but if you haven’t guessed, it confuses me and makes me really uncomfortable.
      I also hated that Brew’s disappearance was sketchy and not at all explained, it legitimately made me uneasy.

  23. Amber Jones says:

    In reading the second half of the book it was very emotional and definitely pulled at my heartstrings. The trails and tribulations Piri went through was unfortunate. The reason why he went through an immense amount is because his of his rocky childhood and the disconnection he felt with his father. Without guidance Piri surely relied on his friends such as Brew to help him figure out himself. In this chapter we see Piri struggle greatly with his ethnicity. He lets the color of skin dictate what he truly is. His friend Brew elaborates on this notion, “ Hold on, baby, Brew said. Sure he’s a Porty Rican, but his skin makes him a member of the black man’s race an’ hit don’t make no difference he can talk that Porty Rican talk. His skin is dark an’ that makes him jus’ anudder rock right along wif the res’ of us, an’tha goes for all the rest of them foreign talkin’ black men all ovah tha’ world (Thomas 159). This is essential to point out. If Brew knew it or not he was basically defining Piri; he made it seem that since he looked a certain way he would be treated a certain way therefore he must act a certain way. Although Piri knew that he was Puerto Rican he took Brew’s knowledge and used it throughout his life. He understood that his dark skin would be perceived as being African American and instead of denouncing this trait he actually played into it. On the first day of class we talked about all these traits that men in general possess and I believe that one trait that men possess is the strength to stand up for himself if he does not believe in something. The unwillingness for Piri to take ownership over himself and what he is seems to me as being weak. Every time that someone called him “black” he should have taken a stand and told them otherwise.
    Throughout the second half Piri tried to sustain his masculinity and even at the most vulnerable states in his life. For example when Piri is shot lying on his death bed he can not even let go of his masculinity views and just for once be vulnerable and open, instead we still see his willingness to be strong. “ I felt my mouth forming word, “ Mommie…I don’t’…Mommie no quiero morir… “ I talked inside, I cried inside, I wouldn’t let them see me afraid…the everything dissolved to nothing; I fell asleep” (Thomas 238). When I read this I was very much taken aback, I was surprised that at such an intense moment where he was on the verge of death he felt like he still had to maintain a manly image. The perceptions of others were still essential to him; he didn’t want to seem afraid in front of others, although he was afraid he held that in.

    • Desiree W. says:

      I agree with you, he really is struggling with his identity a lot in this chapter and this is painful. But I always keep in mind the time the book is set in, racism was very much still alive and in practice there. So regardless of what you identified yourself as you were always labeled by the color of your skin first. And as soon as there wasn’t this clear “black or white” label more problems would arise as Piri is suffering from right now. He says it very well in the book himself in the last section, he doesn’t want to be black because the black man’s struggle is way too much of a burden than what he can handle. What he will realize is that the struggle is there regardless of what you are, if you aren’t a “paddy” life will never be easy for you.

  24. What I found to be the most outstanding theme, was the issue of race. As Latino-Americans of color we are often placed in this Black or White box. In that comes a lot of identity issues. Often people are confused as what you are or where you come from regardless of nationality. These type of identity issues often lead to insecurities and wether some is white or black enough for their race. Piri for example, is American and Puerto Rican. His skin color too dark for people to recognize him as Latino, and Black People see as one of their own. This is something Piri struggles with given that no one seems to recognize his roots. He has gotten to the point where he no longer corrects people.

    So the question is, Is masculinty defined by skin color? I believe that is not, even though people stereotype that the darker you are the tougher you are. If masculinity is portaryed as having a tough guise then, the fact that Piri is dark makes him more “masculine.” In the book, the girl who he drinks with makes a comment that implies that she is of lighter skin color, and he reacts surprise on her emphises of being white and takes it personally.It is clear that it still bothers him, because it almost pokes fun at the fact that people think he is too dark to be puerto rican. I was personally shocked to see a male react so stronly over his physical appearance, this if anything seems rather “feminine” of him. Yet it can also be attributed to another masculine trait which is pride. He probably simply was to be recognize for what he is, and be proscevuted for his races struggles, and not take upon another.

    • sorlyz says:

      I agree, Lisette. Skin color is not what defines masculinity. Although Piri has many issues with his identity because of how dark his complexion is, this does not make him second guess his masculinity. He is “macho” and an “hombre” because he is fighter, a protector, and a lady’s man, to a certain degree anyways. Piri’s biggest issue with the color of his skin stems from the observations he has. He believes that his father doesn’t treat him the same because he is the darkest (pg 22), his mother calls him “negro” and he has been denied jobs because of his complexion. Piri’s life is made much more difficult because he is not only Puerto Rican and poor, but he is a dark-skinned Puerto Rican trying to survive in a White world during the Depression. Piri’s dark complexion is responsible for many of his troubles but those trouble do not effect his masculinity.

  25. In the Hung Down chapter, I noticed how drug culture in Harlem helped to bring out certain intricacies in Piri’s machismo character traits. The mean streets of Harlem has made Piri succumb to the pressures of drug influences, and has led Piri to become hooked on heroine, and on selling it too. We see Piri’s sense of masculinity manifest itself when he relates how he has to be “a lot harder” to be a pusher, and having a soft heart was no way to make money (202).

    We also see a deterioration of certain machismo qualities in Piri when he is trying to “kick” his habit in 203- 210. We see him become dependent and weak as he is going through the withdrawal period. Of course he was in a lot of pain, but I argue that a lot of the pain had not only to do with the chemical withdrawal, but also to Piri succumbing to being demasculinized by being locked in a room with bars and having everyone know that he was weak and fragile. This stands in stark contrast to the strong, willful, in-control type of masculine character we have discussed in class.

    • Desiree W. says:

      I agree with you Chris, its almost as if we see him portraying a drug addiction and the feeling of dependency as a feminine trait. So in turn he kicks his habit because he feels as if it doesn’t show that he is “machismo” since being dependent upon something or someone would make you less of a man and more of a punk or lacking “heart” as he says. Being weak is also an undesirable trait because that means that you go from being the protector to someone that needs protection and hes always trying to prove himself that he is bad enough and has enough heart, to show this side of him he would loose respect and a sense of pride. (His Big fear.)

  26. Romy Garcia says:

    One on-going topic in the book is Piri struggle withself identity; accepting what he was and understanding what he wasn’t. In chapter 17, “Gonna Find Out What’s Shaking” Piri decided to go down south to Norfalk, Virginia and Brew has agreed to come along. As they are saying their farewells to Brew girlfriend Alayce she tries to let Brew know that it was not a good idea for a “negro” to go down south and tries to talk him out of it. Alayce made a comment towards Brew about his mom and how he wouldn’t be making her proud by smiling at Mr. Charlie; this triggered Brew to think of his experience before coming to New York and his automatic response was to smack her. Brew goes on to talk about an event where he was verbally harassed by two white men whom he nearly killed for disrespecting him and his race. Brew talked about his traumatizing experience and pretty much made it clear to the readers why he was so proud to be black. After understanding Brew’s anger and reasoning for being such a proud black man Piri goes on to ask himself if he has the right to be as mad for not being a patty like his mother and siblings.

    Another interesting point is that although Piri isn’t religious, like every other person when all else fails think about what Jesus would do. An example is in chapter 17, while Piri is telling the story he is always looking back at the picture of Christ kneeling down. At first he mentions Christ with a bit of disrespect but after having a serious moment with Brew he points at the picture and ask Brew if he thinks that Christ was prejudice towards anything, or if he was white? Later in that chapter Piri is talking about his “girlfriend” Trina and how he plans to wait until marriage to have sexual relations with her. What do you think, do you think Piri had some religious spirit in him, why did he say he was waiting until marriage to be sexual with Trina, it’s not as if he has never had sex before?

    • Lauren Carabetta says:

      It was interesting that Piri would bring up religion out of the blue sometimes. Perhaps this comes from years of his mother instilling religion in him. I think that Piri wanted to wait until marriage to have sex with Trina because it is consistent with the machismo stereotype. The stereotype says that men desire women who are virgins for marriage. It is possible that this is because of Piri’s religious spirt, but I think it is more part of the machismo stereotype. I wonder why men prefer women who are virgins and the topic of men’s virginity is not brought up in talks about marriage. It seems like a double standard.

  27. sorlyz says:

    In Veronica Crichlow’s article, I found that she was answering the question I found most daunting; How is the homosexual complex not applied to Piri and his boys if they are clearly enjoying and receiving oral from men? The role of the passive and aggressor can not be really applied to this instance because the aggressor is usually the man doing the deed. In Down These Mean Streets, Piri is more passive, considering he is just laying there drugged. On page 23, Crichlow makes it clear that the only way Piri came out of this situation with his masculinity fully intact, was because he and his boys were in search of “money, drugs, and liquor” (Crichlow, p 23).

    It seems strange to me that this rule of passive versus aggressive could be bent so much. It’s not to say that categorizing a person’s sexuality is necessary but if they were to categorize, why wouldn’t Piri be gay, bisexual, or just curious? Understandably, Piri was too drunk and too high to move or fight Concha off of him, his body still reacted and enjoyed the act. My true opinion is sexuality shouldn’t matter, but for argument sake, how is it okay for Piri or even Alfredo to be involved with men and still consider themselves heterosexual?

    • Lauren Carabetta says:

      I also think it is interesting that Piri and his boys were still considered to be macho because they searched for money and not love. If they were looking for love they probably would have been seen as homosexual. It is interesting that the aggressive and passive rules change based on the situation. The rules seem to change and bend in order to fit with the image the guys want to portray as their masculine identity. If they think their actions are heterosexual then they count them as heterosexual even if they might not be labeled that by others. It’s kind of similar to the what counts as sex question where some people consider certain acts to be sex and others don’t consider them to be sex.

      • Imaani Cain says:

        This reminds me of a Sociology course I took once where one of the homeless men’s lick partners would frequently perform fellatio on the other and it wasn’t seen as a homosexual act, but as the other exerting his dominance over his partner. Because he is the “giver”, he was still regarded as heterosexual, in the same way that Alfredo was regarded by Piri and his boys. However, I do think that Piri is an entirely different case that doesn’t fit in with Alfredo because it was partially to secure his “cred” that he went at all and he woke up to Concha on top of him. Piri’s consent was never a variable in the equation.

    • Brittany Demers says:

      This was also something that I questioned. It also made me upset that after participating in these sexual acts Piri and his friends still used derogatory terms to describe the gay men. I think that these words were a sort of justification because it demasculinized the men that participated in sexual acts with. I also feel that many people think that a justification for this event is that since Piri and his boys were the ones receiving the pleasure that its ok and their still heterosexual and masculine. I’m not really sure what I think of the whole situation, but I do feel bad for Piri because he did not consent to the sexual acts.

  28. Sabryne Vidal says:

    A recurring theme in part two of Down These Mean Streets was that of self-identity, or lack thereof. I feel as if though a lot of dark Latinos will be able to relate to Piri’s ongoing personal dilemma, because those who are darker are often considered to be black when they are in fact Hispanic. I’ve got a friend who is darker skinned but is in fact Dominican. However, people automatically assume that she is of black race because of her dark complexion and when she speaks Spanish, they’re in shock and ask “but aren’t you Black?”. This is just a prime example of how individuals tend to think in a black and white perspective, where you’re dark so you must be black, or you’re white so you must be anything but black. In terms of Piri’s struggle, he was experiencing this racial tension when it was most predominant. People either liked you or disliked you on the basis of your skin color and because he was darker, people would discriminate against him even though he wasn’t a biological “Negro” and as a result would treat him unfairly just like all other black minorities. This unfair treatment and how it negatively influenced his potential to succeed, survive and interact with others played a major role in leading to this personal hatred he develops for his skin color and all the “Paddies and Mr. Charlies” around.
    Piri’s inner conflicts escalate as he’s insistent on identifying with his Puerto Rican roots but is having a tough time being accepted as such, eventually leading to an “identity crisis”. For instance, when his brother Jose tries to convince him that they’re all Puerto Rican equally and Piri’s response is: “That’s what I’ve been wanting to believe all along, Jose…I’ve been hanging on to that idea even when I knew it wasn’t so. But only pure white Puerto Ricans are white…” (p.144). Here is Piri coming to terms with the differences there are between him and his siblings, and how he’s a Negro whereas they are lighter skinned with “finer” features having “eyes that are blue, a nose that is straight, and lips that are not like a baboon’s ass” (Thomas, 144). He can’t avoid the discrepancy within in the home, and thus must accept that he is more like a “moyeto” than he is a “white” Puerto Rican, even though he wishes there was more weight on the Puerto Rican side of the spectrum. This identity crisis further intensifies when he decides to explore how the other side lives in the South and by what Brew says,”our people is his people, sure he’s Porty Rican but his skin makes him a member of the black man’s race…his skin is dark an’ that makes him jus’ annuder rock right along wif the res’ of us…” (Thomas, 159). In this quote, I noticed how Brew is under the same influence as white people, letting skin color determine who you are and what you’re made of regardless of culture.
    I think Piri’s constant struggle is a result of how he’s letting color dictate who he is and even though it is a time in society where racism is highly influential- color does not have to personify your existence in this world. However, there are so many influential factors such as Brew’s narrow-minded perspective that only produces more confusion within Piri. He is constantly bombarded with what others have to say about him and his appearance, that he gets lost in the process of finding out who he is on his own. There’s a point where I feel like Piri is so reliant on what others think, that he’d rather comply to what others believe rather than establishing a true identity and this is further intensified by how “paddies” treat him in relation to their own. His mindset has been programmed by others to think, “hey, I’m not white-so I must be black and treated as such”, and I feel like instead of challenging this idea, he just falls back on it trying to prove to himself that he is in fact, a Negro.
    ~Sabryne Vidal
    2/25/2012

  29. Lauren Carabetta says:

    Piri really struggled with his identity in this section. He was trying to find where he fit in because of his color. He felt like he would find answers in the south, but his run in with Gerald left him even more confused (174-177). Piri’s experience in Texas fit in with his thoughts about skin color. He said he “wanted to prove something” (188) by having sex with a white woman when he was presented as Puerto Rican and he identified himself as black when he left. He was proving his masculinity while making a statement about skin color.

    I thought it was interesting how Piri reacted when he was called “boy” by the chief mate on the ship (184-185). I didn’t realize that Piri was so offended until he explained why he was offended. When he described how he was connecting the word boy to his masculine identity I understood that he felt undermined when he was called a boy because he was a man (185). Piri values being called a man. He also was upset when he felt his masculinity was challenged when his friend called him yellow because he didn’t want to kill the man he was fighting (191). Piri thought he proved his toughness and his masculinity by fighting the man and having the ability to kill him, but now someone was telling him he needed to be man enough to kill someone. I think Piri really struggled with his identity and with his masculinity because he was constantly trying to prove himself one way or another. Piri kept following the norms of what a man should do and he showed weakness, in his eyes, when he was addicted to drugs. After he kicked his drug habit, I think Piri felt like he was more of a man. He also realized the cost of proving his manhood when he became addicted to drugs. I am interested to see how Piri’s identity develops.

  30. Imaani Cain says:

    –Piri’s significantly darker skin tone is showing itself to play more of a significant role in his life. Because he is dark-skinned enough to be mistaken for being black, he is viewed by his lighter peers (most commonly the white ones) for being a “negro” and therefore is seen as threatening and/or impertinent when he approaches white/white-passing/light-skinned women. It also becomes a source of contention for him; he is unable to date his white girlfriend, Betty, because Piri despises white people and their treatment of him.
    –This is a problem that many afro-latinos have, wherein they feel the urge to defend their culture/heritage to people because they are being consistently told that they are not “latino enough”. Because of this, Piri starts to identify as being black, and, doing so, takes on the “black struggle”. He also confronts his family about the colorism he has suspected of them harboring He also serves to talk about the anti-black sentiment in the Puetro Rican culture and that there should not be a divide between “black” and “latino”, but a sense of togetherness to eliminate intra-POC racism.

    • Kaydo says:

      This phenomenon still occurs today in various communities. I have met a young Colombian male who was as dark as night, and growing up he told most of his peers that he was indeed black and that his accent was due to where he grew up. He denied being Latino because the Latino population in his school was small and he wanted to fit in.

      It is a shame that even though Latinos and Blacks go through very similar issues in this American society, our peers are so quick to judge and stereotype each other which segregates us and ultimately perpetuates the same struggle we thought we were only fighting with the majority.

    • I like the way you are able to create/use language to talk about Piri’s mixed identity, and I think afro-latino is a really good way of doing this. You also use it in a manner that doesn’t cause us to read it as a label, but as a way in which we can bring Piri’s identity as a youth into reality.
      I am proud of Piri when he confronts his family about their ignorance and colorist ideals that they harbor. It makes me wonder if Piri would have had to struggle with the “meaning” of his skin if his family had put less emphasis on it as he was growing up.

      • John Wilkinson says:

        I think you got it exactly right when you mentioned the effect of Piri’s childhood on his understandings of skin color. His family of course made a large deal out of It, bringing it into his consciousness at an early age. Also, his time on the streets and fights, such as with the Italian boys, are indicative of a sectioning of people based upon nationality or ethnicity. Being so dark skinned, there was likely and early conflict in Piri on how to divide himself along that sectioning or which side he belonged to. It’s important to note that the darker skin is just as much a part of Piri’s identity as is his Puerto Rican heritage. His internal conflict comes from external pressures to separate two inseparable aspects of his identity.

  31. Desiree W. says:

    In the second part of Down These Mean Streets, we already see how Piri struggles with his racial identity even more than he did with is sexual/ masculinity identity. It doesn’t amaze me that he would have such a hard time adapting to his social role since he simpily denied that it basically exsisted towards the end of the first half of the book. Brew is an important character and friend to Piri because I feel like he is always there to correct him and keep him grounded as we see on page 127, “It’s jus’ that bomb on your shoulder. We go down south and you start all that Porty Rican jazz and we’s liable to get it from both sides.” This statement right here sets up the next scene where they take a trip down south, Piri gets a taste of what he had been warned of. Piri’s complex about his skin color is really evident in this chapter, he must have really thought that people would be able to treat him differently because he was Hispanic and not “negro.” He made a sad mistake and was in for a rude awakening. I found it hard to believe that during this time people would think that they were exempt from discrimination due to them not identifying with that nationality. (even using the Holocaust as an example, I’m sure there were people who weren’t jewish lumped in as one.)
    From the first scene of the second section of the book, I feel like Piri has no idea what he is getting himself into and is in for a rude awakening. Brew’s pain is all over the first passage. “it don’t make no fucking difference what happened yuh supposed to be proyd of being a Negro… be so fuckin’ ashamed of being black you lose all your damn worth and git to feel lesser’n…” (pg. 160) that point hit hard to me. I am constantly told to always remember where you came from in order to move forward and better yourself. On page 159, Brew continues to preach to Piri that he should expect the unexpected but he clearly doesn’t get it. “Sure he’s Porty Rican, bur his skin makes him a member of the black man’s race an’ hit don’t make no difference he can talk that Porty Rican talk.” This is a true statement, people have a tendency to label and place you into a category you don’t identify with based on physical attributes. Piri knows that this is true and he thinks he immune to this but I honestly know that he’s aware of this and is trying to prove something to himself by going to the south. He is really having a conflicting identity crisis and he is going about searching for the answers the wrong way.

  32. While reading Down These Mean Streets I was able to see the importance of a persons skin color is to determine where he truly fits in. The character in the story is Spanish but is darker skin. He doesn’t seem like he truly knows where he belongs because his skin color is such an importance to him. He doesn’t seem like he truly wants to be considered black he views himself as Spanish but it seems like no one else views that. For example, when he was sitting on the porch he seemed to make such an importance as to who is walking by and what color is their skin the only importance for him was to see who is black and white and anything in between didn’t truly matter.

    I can relate to the character in the book because I know in my cultural background people seem to put such an emphasis on whether or not you’re white, black or even tan. People will discriminate against someone who is a little darker skin and think that the prettier the person is based on their skin. In my cultural you’re more likely to be successful if you are white skinned and more likely to get married faster then a person who has a little darker skin. Our society puts such an emphasis on an individuals skin color, which truly makes it harder for people to wonder where they fit in.

    • Iris Foley says:

      It’s easy to understand why Piri’s identity was so confusing to him. He didn’t know where he fit in and he was consumed by it to the point of taking it out on his own family. I think he traveled to the South thinking that he might find somewhere he did fit in or to affirm that he didn’t. I think Piri was frustrated by the fact that nobody considered race and culture as different things. People assumed that his race defined his cultural life, which for him, was something he was proud of. Losing his cultural identity was probably what upset him the most.

  33. Becky Taylor says:

    This section of Down These Mean Streets furthers discussion we had in class regarding Piri’s complicated racial and ethnic identity. Where we left off, Piri was just considering going South with Brew to see if he could identify with an African American experience as a Black Puerto Rican. Discussions with both his parents about these racial concerns yield interesting insights. His father admits to struggling to pass as Puerto Rican and not be read as black: “I can remember the time when I made my accent heavier, to make me more of a Puerto Rican than the most Puerto Rican there ever was. I wanted a value on me, son” (Thomas 153). Earlier, Piri and his mom discuss racial complexities and she denies that her son is black: “You are not black … you’re brown, a nice color, a pretty color” (135). These interactions complicate the picture of Piri’s relationship with his parents, and I’d like to discuss these instances in class.

  34. Amy Hahm says:

    In the second half of the book, I believe the racial identity becomes a lot more apparent. Right now, Piri is going through a lot, struggling with his identity. Piri continues to fight with the issue of his skin color, “You understand, Momma – I gotta find me. Maybe if I had come outta you with the same kinda color as them’—my eyes swept across my paddy-fair brothers – maybe I wouldn’t feel like I do. Who knows? Maybe I’m jealous. Maybe I hate ‘em for what I’m not—”. (150). Because of his dark skin color, Piri is even mistaken for being Black although he is Puerto Rican. Piri recognizes that he is different. It seems as though Piri is constantly trying to prove himself. There are several acts even such as joining TNT where I feel that he is acting a certain way to prove to himself who he is. His darker skin color plays a large role in his life and defining who he is and his actions help himself define or identify the person he is.

    On top of his constant battle between his racial identity, Piri is going through sexual identity as well. There are moments in the second half of the book where he encounters sexual activity from Concha, who is of the same gender as him. It was strange to me because it seemed that Piri was not sober or not in the right state of mind, but at the same time Piri enjoyed it. He had to constantly remind himself and tell himself that he liked girls. It’s true that maybe Piri did not give his consent, but it seemed that Piri enjoyed it. Piri’s sexual identity is becoming more apparent as he is having such a difficult time adapting to his social role because he is continuously rejected. I believe Piri is really searching for his identity through complicating issues with racial complexities and sexual confusion.

    • Kaydo says:

      I agree in full about the confusion due to rejection. Piri is a young teen who ran away from a family of Caucasian looking relatives and a father who looked like him, with darker skin, that was always hard on him. He has grew up in constant need of having to prove his worth, and there were many times where Piri did things he did not want to do just to be accepted or even appreciated.

      Whether physically, emotionally, or psychologically Piri’s behavior was a reaction to someone else’s actions. I.e. the rejection from the door to door job due to his appearance, sleeping with Lorry because she actually appreciated him, and doing drugs or sexually questionable activities with friends or known acquaintances

  35. The struggle of racial acceptance and identification is definitely a reoccurring theme throughout this book. This theme stands out to me more than any other issue. It really bothered me when Piri and Brew are on the bus heading south and Brew doesn’t hesitate to go to the back of the bus because of the Mason-Dixon line. Piri didn’t think about this because he never thought that this would apply to him. Before they headed down south Brew was saying goodbye to his girlfriend as she tried to talk him out of going because the south is a bad idea for ‘negroes’.

    The whole issue of racial segregation is really demasculizing. A man is supposed to be strong, dominant, and powerful by social standards. However based on your race this can totally be stripped from a man. A true question to me would be how does a Latino man uphold a masculine image during this era? I suppose one answer would be that he doesn’t necessarily uphold it in society, especially in the south, but with his family and social circle. It is upsetting how one culture can dictate how another one is perceived.

    • Sabryne Vidal says:

      Victoria, I totally agree with you. It’s sad how everything is so black and white, and how it not only affects those within the targeted group but everyone else who they share something in common with. People pass judgment and discriminate on the basis of looks- skin color, physical appearance and etc. specifically in regards to black individuals, and if one is to resemble certain aspects of those “negative” or undesired features as perceived by white people, then the social perception of this one individual becomes negatively influenced even if they have no racial/ethnic connection with what they’re being classified as. It’s like an on-going cycle that continues to impact how others are perceived on the basis of appearance, stereotypes and racism.
      ~Sabryne Vidal
      2/26/2013

    • Ernie Abreu says:

      The issue of racial segregation is indeed really demasculizing. I man should be dominant by every social standard in any race/ethnic group. However this lines are really invisible when racism is taken into account. Masculinity is looked up upon and is a force above all other characteristics of human beings. Racism puts a race down, thus making that force extinguish. A man cannot be masculine if the majority of the population perceives him as inferior.

  36. Iris Foley says:

    Race played a huge part in this section of DTMS. Piri spent much of the section in the company of Brew and was often perceived, as he had been multiple times previously, as black. He continued to question his identity and the identities of his family members. His anger over his mismatched identity (black vs. latino) caused him to lash out at his family physically and emotionally. He felt the pressure building for much of the book but his “paddy” brother set him over the edge. He upset his siblings, his mother, and his father and was never able to truly reconnect with them before leaving for the south, becoming dangerously addicted to heroin, and getting re-involved in crime.
    I think Piri’s obsession with his racial and cultural identity was what caused him to fall into his life of crime and drug abuse. He felt so horrible about himself as a person that he tried to reaffirm his identity by showing how tough and manly he was and ended up in some dangerous situations. I think in the next section as Piri goes into prison he will think back over his thoughts and actions and hopefully rediscover who he is and who he wants to become, regardless of the color of his skin.

    • Sabryne Vidal says:

      Iris, I completely agree with what you say about Piri’s constant obsession and how it seems to be the source of his “hyper-masculinity”. Piri’s identity crisis I think causes him to act impulsively in such ways that are so inconvenient to his survival. However, I am aware that in those times- people did have to build statuses be it through crime, violence…etc. In Piri’s case though, I don’t think that his acts of machismo were out of the need to have a reputation…I just think that he desperately needed someone to identify with and since stereotypical macho figures always lurked in his “barrio”, it made it easier for Piri to associate himself with them out of his vulnerability and lack of security.
      ~Sabryne Vidal
      3/2/2013

  37. Kaydo says:

    The quote I automatically picked up on was “What’s does culture gotta do with the color of your skin?” (Thomas, 159).

    This is something that I have struggled with throughout my high school years. Being a part of both the Latino community and the African American community due to my mixed ethnicity. I prided myself learning and being involved in both communities. I have learned that even though Latinos and African Americans struggled or rather still struggle with the presence of discrimination, Latinos and Blacks tend to have issues with each other for reasons foreshadowed by a similar background.
    My own experiences being involved with both groups frequently caused me grief as I would be insulted by both parties due to my activities and friendships. Piri seems to portray a similar characteristic due to an ignorance of how the Black and Latino culture tie into each other in the perspective of the majority. In the book Piri is trapped between being a proud Puerto Rican and defending his culture and traditions and realizing that in the eyes of the racist, it doesn’t matter how you cook rice or the music you listen to; if you look different than the majority, then you are subject to discrimination.

    • sorlyz says:

      Kaydo, I believe you captured the true struggles that Piri is facing in his times. Unfortunately, things are better but racism is still pertinent to our society. I am a very fair-skinned Latino and not many people think I am Puerto Rican. When I was younger though, my neighbor was a drunk and racist man. Whenever he saw my mother and I he would yell obscenities about us being Puerto Rican, but when my sister, who is only a bit darker, walked out the yelling would be more aggressive in terms of the words he would use. Hopefully one day people can get over the nonsense of racism and just allow everyone to be happy… Wishful thinking, I know..

  38. Skylar Smith says:

    Part 2 of “Down these Mean Streets” was very interesting because comparing and contrasting the lifestyle of Piri growing up showed how much he matured and grew as an individual. In the beginning of the book, Piri was constantly trying to prove his masculinity in every means. He would conform to the societies views and constantly try to prove himself to others. I believe a huge turning point in Piri’s life was when he was in jail. Finally we see how Piri does not conform to the ideas that surround him. Before jail, Piri was always looking for respect from people but if he wanted respect from the inmates who surrounded him he would have conformed or played in to the sexual activities between the dominant and weaker inmates that took place but he did not.

    In jail we see Piri in a sense, finally growing up. He eventually hesitates in joining a fight, which shows that just by hesitating he is maturing and gaining a sense of who he is and his purpose. On his mission in maturing he always had that need to belong but we first see his decision in not to belong, in prison when he chose not to conform to the sexual activities that occurred. He also works on finding himself through religion which helped him get through prison and also self-identifying. When he gets out of prison he denies drugs from Carlito which shows that he does not want to go down that path again. Later, he decides to smoke a little but then he finally looks in the mirror when he is hungover and decides that he has to figure out which way in life he is going. He decides that he wants to “be somebody.”

    • Becky Taylor says:

      I’d like to add that one specific turning point which occurs during Piri’s time in jail is during the prison riot, during which Piri chooses to return to his cell rather than participate in the riot. (page 283) This moment is significant because Piri chooses to think about his future – his parole hearing six months away – rather than just about showing heart in his present conflicts.

      • John Wilkinson says:

        There’s definitely a turning point that begins with the riots, or is at least more solidified. But to complicate the reading, the choice is made for him. Pushed into a decision, he attempts to start walking toward the west wall before a number of guards stop him and his friends: “Our decision was being made for us, and we could save face” (269f. in my version). I don’t know if the hesitation Skylar mentions is the one with Cot right before his second parole board, but I’d say that’s the most important step during his maturity in jail. At that point, he finally questions “What’s a rep? If you’re in jail, who wants a jailhouse rep?” (289 in my version).

  39. Nelson Veras says:

    In this section of “Down These Mean Streets” Piri encounters internal conflicts that he has to learn to deal with. Everyone confuses him for being black and it’s obvious that is bothers him when they do so. For example, on page 123 Piri says, “I ain’t no damn Negro and I ain’t no paddy. Im Puerto Rican”. He has a lot of Puerto Rican pride which is why he hates being confused as black. He questions his identity numerous times because he has a hard time accepting he is different from his other latino comrades and relatives. Piri’s sexual orientation is also questionable, making his identity even harder to find for himself. He claims he has sex with many women, which makes the reader feel like he’s heterosexual, however he participates is actions that are considered homosexual.

    Piri was raised to have pride and we are seeing that as he grows. Instead of struggling to find food and shelter, Piri provides sex to a 33 year old woman in exchange for food and shelter. His respected his mother like no other, yet we see him disrespect this woman to many degrees. He even stole $10 from her knowing she desperately needed it to provide for the family. When a man struggles he doesnt have much pride, so by taking the money Piri eliminated struggling for the night and still had pride. Now that Piri is on his own his pride has taken over him and he lost sense of the way he was raised.

    • Brittany Demers says:

      I also think that Piri has a hard time accepting that fact that he is darker than many Latinos. I think that it is evident that he feels that he does not fit in with his family because his mother and siblings have a different skin tone than him and also facial features. I do not agree that Piri’s sexual orientation is questionable, mainly because he didn’t actually consent to the act preformed on him. I think that it is possible that some of his boys may have a questionable sexuality. This is also relatable to Sorlyz’s post and makes me question if he can be consider a different sexuality because of this one act.

  40. Joseph C. Sokola says:

    In the ending of “Down These Mean Streets,” Piri certainly shows a great deal of maturity during and as a result of his time in prison. Unlike when he was a teenager, when he constantly tried to prove that he was tough and masculine, he seems to have realized how trivial that all is when he learns how life in prison can be. This is especially true because proving that he was tough through the use of violence is the whole reason that he ended up in prison in the first place. When his family visits him in prison, he shows that he still wants to have some sort of acceptance from his father, when he tells him about the studying he has been doing while in prison, so that he can do well once he is released.

    The amount of time that Piri spends in prison offers him a lot of time to consider everything about his life, from his relationship with Trina to his lifestyle choices that he made previously. “Jail gives you plenty of time to think, and I thought and thought…” (256). I think that Piri’s time in jail offered him a large amount of time to simply grow up and become an adult, and start a new chapter in his life upon his release

    • Iris Foley says:

      I definitely think having the time to think was an important step in Piri maturing and becoming the man he was when he got out of jail. I think the reason he got into all the trouble he did was that he rarely thought things through – a trait that seems to often be associated with machismo. He was hot tempered and quick to act but not quick to think through the health consequences or legal consequences his actions might have on him or what kind of person he was turning into. (shooting the cop and the other man he robbed, becoming addicted to drugs, stealing the young mother’s money)

      • Amber Jones says:

        I honestly think if Piri did not go to jail his life would have not turned around. He needed the time to think over his life. When he arrived back to his Barrio he saw an old friend who was addicted to drugs, by seeing him there it reminded him of the time when he was hooked, and he did not wan to return to his old ways. By being in prison it helped him prioritize himself and his life endeavors.

    • Sabryne Vidal says:

      I definitely agree. In prison, Piri had a lot of time to reflect on his past and what had gotten him in jail in the first place. Without this happening, I don’t think he would’ve realized how bad he had it in his “barrio” and how bad it could’ve gotten had he continued to engage in violent and criminal acts. Like Iris said, this was a very important step in Piri’s life that probably enhanced his level of maturity. He needed this to happen, I mean not even his mother’s death caused him want to become a better person. Going to prison allowed him to think of his personal desires, and if and how he was going to make those aspirations come true. Seeing Carlitos all drugged up definitely gave him that assurance he needed of not wanting to become what he had been once before.
      ~Sabryne Vidal 3/2/2013

  41. John Wilkinson says:

    The ending of Piri Thomas’ narrative Down These Mean Streets, offered one of the most important scenes of the memoir. In these last few pages, he runs into Carlito as he passes his old apartment building at number 109. The importance of this scene is in Carlito’s position as a foil to Piri’s character within the memoir. Carlito is so strung out on drugs, that his “eyes [were] hollowed out like death” (311 in my version). Furthermore, he tells Piri that he needs an immense amount of heroin per day: “Twelve bolsas. It’s a bitch man, like at five cents a bag an’ a bean for works, that’s some bread (311)” Doing the math mentally, Piri tells the reader that this amounts to $72 and continues to say that Carlito needs that amount of heroin to feel normal each day, “something [he] was doing for nothing” (311). Carlito’s initial importance as a foil serves in presenting the reader with an alternative to Piri, a possibility of the man he’d become if he didn’t change in prison and the man he almost relapsed into before looking in the mirror.
    The secondary, and perhaps more important, function of Carlito’s appearance in the memoirs conclusion is his offering of some heroin to Piri. Right before, Piri briefly entertains the memory of using and after Carlito offers, Piri recalls thinking “[w]onder what it would be like again?” (312) over and over again. In refusing it, Piri demonstrates that he is committing to living a better life and leaving his past behind him, affirmed by his thoughts that “[e]verything happened yesterday…I ain’t got nothing but today and a whole lot of tomorrows” (314). These thoughts explicitly tell the reader that Piri is moving on with his life. Even the physical act of leaving the apartment becomes representational, as, when Piri leaves, Carlito talks about quitting the next day. Carlito talking about quitting demonstrates that words without action mean nothing. Piri chooses to act in leaving.

    • Ernie Abreu says:

      I agree with your statement John. I feel like Carlito was a reflection of what Piri used to be when he was a “junky”. Carlito looked very helpless with his heroin addiction, which was a path that Piri might have found himself if I didn’t serve time in jail and reflected on his life. I believe that Piri going to jail help him realize the how spiral and unstable his life is. I am proud of Piri and watching him progress throughout the book. He evolved from this ghetto kid that followed every stereotype and is now moving away from being stereotyped. I would like to read a prolouge of his life after prison. It would have made a good story.

  42. crestrepo1991 says:

    While Piri Thomas’ book “Down These Mean Streets” is a very impacting and very well written book in regards to portraying the lives of Latino minorities within the urban communities in the United States, it is near the very end of this book in which we can truly see some of the worst horrors that inflict the Latino community as a whole within the United States, which is the negative effects and influences of the drug game has upon them

    The scene that I am referring to is the scene in which Piri bumps into his old friend Carlito (ironically the name my family calls me) while passing by his old apartment complex, and Piri is able to witness Carlito’s dilemma in regards to his addiction and dependence of Heroin, one of the strongest and most deadly of drugs sold within the urban communities. Piri witnesses Carlito’s physical state of health, where he beyond strung out on drugs with his eyes bloodshot and hollowed out, and Carlito even explains to Piri about his addiction, such as how he “needs 12 bolsas (bags)” every single day of the week in order to go about on his day regularly (for his standards). Piri Thomas, as the narrator, even explains to us the economic implications behind Carlito’s drug addiction, which would add up to a total of 72$ of spending daily in order to obtain that amount of heroin.

    Carlito is a perfect example of how drugs can have a negative effect upon Latino minorities within the urban community, as this is a very abundant issue that Latinos must deal with on a daily basis. Like Carlito, most of these Latinos that do engage in drug use typically do so when they are in a hopeless and bleak situation both socially and economically, thus causing the drug to become a gateway for relaxation and mental stress relief, but this is achieved after paying the ultimate price for health, which would be drug addiction and even possible death via overdose. In conclusion, “Down these Mean Streets” is an excellent novel to refer to in regards to the negative influences surrounding Latino minorities within the urban communities, which Carlito being the prime example of the negative effects drugs can have in such communities.

  43. Jesse Drinks says:

    Throughout the story Piri shows pride in who he is and doesn’t back down from anyone. Doing this constantly gets him into trouble and you see him start maturing as you get later in the story. There are countless situations where he realizes what the right thing to do is but doesn’t do the right thing to keep his pride. One example of this is when he is in jail and is about to see the board. Piri says that he has to relax after a close incident with another inmate but a few lines later he talks about how he cannot keep his mouth closed (302). He is lucky that the other guy did not hit him.

    In a later incident Piri gets into argument at the barber shop where he asks the man to step outside to fight but realizes that he shouldn’t because he was waiting for his parole hearing. He then says that it’s not worth it and walks away. This shows a huge step in Piri’s maturity because he doesn’t let his pride get the best of him and because of that he gets released from jail. Piri sees first hand how being good and doing the right thing gets you places. This causes him to get his act together upon his release and make a difference with his second chance.

  44. Audrey Allyn says:

    In the second part of Down These Mean Streets Piri shows how his version of having heart changes and how he has matured and grown as a person. He had found himself being hated by different types of races, which filled him with hatred, and had to fight society to gain respect in a place that he calls home. Even with his family, whom he tries to reconcile with. He says “It was like hating Momma for the color she was and Poppa for the color he wasn’t.” Piri struggles to win acceptance from his family at the same time that he rejects them and distances himself from people he is supposed to feel comfortable with.

    I think that the fact that he needed to be in prison to “find himself” could be one of the only ways that he could escape the lifestyle he grew up in. He begins to choose his friends thoughtfully, studies religion and attends classes. We can see how evolves as a person. He realizes the person he is and the person that he can become and I feel as though prison was one of the only ways that he could accomplish that.

  45. Ernie Abreu says:

    Piri has evolved a lot from the beginning of the story until the last chapter of the back that we just finish reading. For one, Piri was a hypermasculine, hot-tempered, and independent young adult. Piri had many altercations with other characters, altercations that he could have avoided, but to prove his masculinity, he engaged in them. For example, his altercation with the boy that was dancing with Trina was one that he could have avoided. He decided to prove that he was the “top dog” of his location, and made a clear statement when all his “boys” surrounded the boy that was dancing with Trina while he said “I run this block”. Another altercation that could have been avoided was his peer pressure to heroin in the candy store. Piri was called a punk because he was not “down to cop a hit”. To prove his masculinity again, he falls into the pressure.

    At the end of the story, Piri shows an evolution in his character. He does not fall into the pressure of being masculine and for once, he thinks about the repercussions of his actions before acting upon anger. The altercation that he avoided at the barbershop is a clear example of his new maturity. He thought about his parol officer and how getting in trouble can potentially send him back in jail. He decided to brush it off, “act cool”, and avoided fight, which his old self would have been eager to be involved in.

    • Your last paragraph is what I found interesting as well. Piri`s transition from boy to man and how his idea of masculinity changes shows the evolution of his character. Do you think him being incarcerated had anything to do with his changed behavior? I believed that Piri needed a catastrophic event in order to change his life around. Piri avoiding conflicts shows his growth as an individual but do you think this could have been avoided. For example, if Piri parents were more involved in this time period of Piri`s life, do you think he would have turned out differently? I thought about mentors for Piri and what better mentor then his father. I think that if Piri had a positive role model in his home that was active and aware of his doing he may have had different views of how life works.

  46. The last half of the book was very interesting. Piri religious beliefs, although I believe he didn`t really understand it, began to shape him in the right direction. I also found it interesting that people find God when they are at their lowest points in life. Piri viewed religion as comfort. He referred to God as his mother and father which again shows the comfort aspect religion plays in Piri`s life. While incarcerated Piri began to understand his wrong and tried to do right. You can see him transitioning from a boy to man as he starts to realize that he is responsible for his actions which is the adult way to think.

    In addition to Piri religious belief, what I also found interesting toward the end of the book is Piri`s definition of a man changes. Instead of always reacting, you can see that Piri thinks before he acts and weighs out the consequences. Masculinity isn`t about who is the manliest, but about who can be manly enough to know when to step back and not think any less of himself for doing so. Overall the lessons that are taught in this book are valuable. Although it shouldn`t take jail to get someone to clean up their act in some cases it is needed. The book is a positive message to individuals who may be going down the same mean streets Piri went down and are being sucked into this street life for whatever reason. Taking this book and looking at all that Piri went through and now seeing what he has become is an important message and it is what I enjoyed most about the book.

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