When I Was Puerto Rican

When I Was Puerto Rican 2. Fighting Naked Summary & Analysis

Summary
Analysis
Negi explains to the reader that Mami and Papi surely argued before baby Héctor was born, but after his birth, the fights increased in frequency. One morning, Papi asks Mami for a particular shirt as she sits feeding Héctor. When Mami asks Papi where he's going and for how long, Papi tells her to not start with him. Mami gets up, angry, and walks out of the house with Héctor. Papi gathers his things and leaves without kissing anyone goodbye.
As Negi grows up, she becomes more attuned to her parents' relationship and begins to notice that it's not always good. We also see that Papi takes his frustrations with Mami out on his children by not telling them goodbye when he leaves. Everyone suffers when Mami and Papi fight, and Negi is punished by getting less love from both parents.
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Negi goes to look for Mami and finds her behind the house crying. Negi tries to approach her, but Mami yells angrily for Negi to leave her alone. Negi stands by a nearby tree and pretends to ignore Mami whenever Mami looks her direction. Finally, Mami gets up, hands Héctor to Negi, and goes to make lunch for the children. She runs her fingers through Negi's hair as she walks by.
Once again, Mami's heightened emotional state and Negi's "disobedience" create the opportunity for Negi to experience a tender moment with Mami. Though Negi seems mostly stuck in her own misery, her narration still allows us to see that Mami feels Papi's anger and absences very deeply.
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Papi doesn't come home for days. When he finally comes home, he sits at the table and Mami angrily serves him supper. Mami puts Negi and her sisters to bed, nurses Héctor, and then puts Héctor to bed. Negi falls asleep, has a bad dream, and wakes to the sound of her parents talking. Mami asks Papi for grocery money, and he explains that he gave a coworker an advance for job materials. Mami is incredulous, and Negi knows from the tones of their voices that a fight is starting. Papi tries to go to sleep, but Mami accuses him of leaving for days and coming home smelling like "that puta."
It's unclear exactly how much Negi actually understands, as she's still very young, but this fight sets up the idea that Papi is probably seeing other women (putas, or “whores”—at least in Mami’s eyes) and makes the choice to give his money to coworkers rather than his family. Mami's request shows that she's very dependent on Papi's income to make ends meet, and the fact that Papi didn't bring this money home to her is a major betrayal.
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Papi gets up and tells Mami she'll wake the children, but Mami continues her tirade. She asks if Papi's friends and “putas” know he has children, and says she's not stupid. Héctor begins to cry and Mami roughly changes his diaper. Negi notices that Delsa and Norma are awake, and she listens to Mami say that she's sick of Papi being gone all the time. Papi replies that he's sick of hearing Mami complain, and he stomps out of the house.
It's important to note that Mami's dependence on Papi's income shows that Mami is relatively powerless in their relationship. It allows the reader to understand Mami's anger and violence another way—it's the one way that she can experience any power over Papi or her children and feel even a little bit in control.
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Negi shrieks for Papi to not leave them and Delsa and Norma join the cry. Héctor begins wailing as Mami starts yelling and throwing Papi's clothes outside. She bolts the door, sits in the rocking chair, and cries, telling the children angrily to "shut up and go back to sleep." The next afternoon, Mami washes Papi's clothes and he comes home not long after that.
Negi hasn't yet realized that Papi will inevitably come back when he leaves, so his departure here is a terrifying experience that has the potential to completely change her world and the makeup of her family. Mami and Papi make up, though it's unclear if they do so out of love or co-dependency.
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Negi often hears Mami accuse Papi of seeing another woman when he says he's going to see his mother, Abuela. Negi hears them talk about Provi and Margie. One day, Negi asks Papi who Margie is, and he explains that she's his daughter. Negi thinks that it's bad enough she already has to share Papi with Mami's other children, but she sits down and asks Papi about Margie. She's thrilled when she hears that Margie is a year older than she is, and asks Papi to bring her to visit. Papi laughs and Negi continues to pepper him with questions.
Negi operates under the assumption that there's only so much parental love to go around, and is truly afraid that Margie's existence means that Papi will love her less. Margie's age, however, means that Negi would have someone else to love like a parent and absolve her of some of her oldest-sister duties. Negi's youth is apparent, however; the reader understands that Mami would never allow Margie to visit.
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Negi thinks about Margie at night and imagines the fun they could have together, since Margie could keep up with Negi's games unlike little Norma or Delsa. The next day, Negi asks Mami why she doesn't like Provi, and Mami tells her to never talk about "that woman." Another day, Negi asks Papi again to bring Margie. Mami hears Negi's question and yells at her to leave Papi alone. Papi asks Negi to bring him a cinderblock from the pile by the gate. Mami tells Papi that Negi isn't strong enough, but Papi insists. Negi manages to carry one and asks for permission to bring a second.
Papi uses Negi to push Mami's buttons, though Negi isn't yet aware of this—getting to carry the cinderblock makes her feel seen, competent, and appreciated. It allows Negi to get positive attention from the parent she idolizes (Papi) and protects her momentarily from Mami's rage. Negi's daydreams show that Negi wants desperately to be able to just be a child, without responsibilities and anxieties. She wants an older sister to look up to, regardless of how that sister comes to her.
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Papi tells Negi that Margie moved to New York, and Negi whines. Papi gets down and hugs her, and Negi thinks that she'd love for more people to leave Papi so that he comes to her for comfort.
When Margie leaves, Negi gets more love and affection from Papi. She desperately craves this familial and parental love, and will take any opportunity she can to get it.
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Mami and Papi's fights continue, and Negi and her siblings tiptoe around their parents as to not make things worse. Negi is especially confused because she sometimes sees Mami and Papi embrace each other like they truly love each other. When Héctor begins to eat solid foods, Mami starts to look pregnant again.
The love between Mami and Papi is confusing and unreliable, especially to a child spectator like Negi. The fact that Negi and her siblings try not to make things worse suggests that they feel some responsibility for their parents' poor relationship.
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Negi wonders how Papi manages to convince Mami to forgive him. Negi knows for certain that because Papi is a man, he's the cause of her family's unhappiness. She explains that she'd overheard Mami's conversations with friends and family members, saying that all men are “sinverguënzas,” which means they have no shame and cause women to suffer. The worst thing men do is see other women, all of whom are putas (whores). Negi explains that she only has a fuzzy picture of these women, since none live in Macún. She decides that they all live in luxury and wear high heels, perfume, and hairspray, paid for with money from men like Papi. Negi longs to see a puta so she can understand how they're so powerful and cause women like Mami so much pain.
Negi describes a system in which men are nearly always expected to be unfaithful and women should expect their male partners to hurt and betray them. Negi betrays some of her youthful innocence here when she says that no putas live in Macún; this is almost certainly incorrect. She likely knows women who others refer to as putas, at least in a derogatory sense, and Mami may very well be one of them (especially because she and Papi aren’t married, as we later learn). Negi, however, believes that her family is normal and correct, which means in her eyes, Mami occupies a similar moral high ground. At the same time, Negi is fascinated by the idea of a puta’s power over men, something she hasn’t seen in Mami.
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Negi says that when she started school, her world grew bigger. However, she couldn't delve deeply into the ways her classmates differed from her because of "dignidad," which encompasses manners like not swearing, gossiping, or speaking until spoken to, as well as using formal speech and titles with adults. She says that she knew of these rules, but had never had to really use them before—her family fights, yells, and interrupts. Negi loves school and cherishes her uniform, as it's the only thing that she doesn't have to share with her sisters.
Negi has to begin “code switching” when she starts school, since school requires a different type of adherence to “dignidad” (dignity, or manners) than she's required to observe at home. Essentially, Negi must act as two different people: the Negi from home and the Negi in public, which adds to Negi's sense that her identity is split in two or more parts.
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School also allows Negi the opportunity to compare her family to others in her neighborhood. Some classmates have "bad" mothers or brothers in prison, while others have electricity and running water at home. The fighting at school is particularly difficult for Negi to figure out, as someone can get beat up for anything. Negi tries to explain to Mami one day why her uniform is ripped, and Mami forbids Negi from fighting in school. Negi is confused because Mami has never told her to not fight before. After that, when Negi can't avoid fighting in school, she strips down to her underwear before defending herself.
Again, Negi has to code switch when Mami forbids her from fighting in school but allows her to fight at home. Negi is caught between defending herself from her classmates and avoiding Mami's wrath. Removing her uniform, then, is a (rather amusing) way for her to shape Mami's code to fit her own needs. Because Negi technically obeys, Mami gets to keep her sense of power over Negi while Negi also keeps a sense of agency.
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One day, Papi leaves and doesn't return for three days. On the fourth day, Negi arrives at home to find her belongings bundled into pillowcases and a suitcase. Mami leads her children up the road, where they finally board a public car. Mami tells the children that they're moving to the city.
When Papi acts entirely unreliable, Mami retaliates by uprooting her family without notice and making herself similarly unreliable to Papi. When he does return, there won't be dinner on the table for him.
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