When I Was Puerto Rican

Papi Character Analysis

Papi is Negi's father. Though he has a 14-year relationship with Mami, both Negi and Mami are aware that Papi sees other women behind Mami's back. He works in construction and often goes away for days at a time for work, though Mami suspects he also sees other women during these absences. He and Mami fight regularly and violently, but Papi always manages to make Mami forgive him and he always finds the family when Mami moves away without telling him where she's going. He carries a radio with him at all times and listens to jíbaro music and poetry, and he considers himself a poet. He's far more willing than Mami to humor Negi's incessant questions, so he explains things like souls and imperialism to her. Though Papi considers himself Catholic and is often called on to lead prayers, he tells Negi he's not a very good Catholic. Negi idolizes Papi when she's a child, but realizes as a preteen that he's unreliable and sometimes uses her as an excuse to see his other women. Negi sees it as the ultimate betrayal when Papi refuses to either marry Mami or fight to keep the family together, though Papi feels he's done his duty by legally recognizing each of his children with Mami. After Mami moves to Brooklyn, Papi scatters their remaining children among family members and marries another woman. Though Negi tries to sever contact with Papi when she learns about this, Mami insists she send Papi cards on holidays because he's still family.

Papi Quotes in When I Was Puerto Rican

The When I Was Puerto Rican quotes below are all either spoken by Papi or refer to Papi. For each quote, you can also see the other characters and themes related to it (each theme is indicated by its own dot and icon, like this one:
Identity Theme Icon
). Note: all page numbers and citation info for the quotes below refer to the Da Capo Press edition of When I Was Puerto Rican published in 2006.
2. Fighting Naked Quotes

An older sister! I'd wondered what it would be like not to be the oldest, the one who set an example for the little ones.

Related Characters: Negi (speaker), Papi, Margie
Page Number: 26
Explanation and Analysis:
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Chief among the sins of men was the other woman, who was always a puta, a whore. My image of these women was fuzzy, since there were none in Macún, where all the females were wives or young girls who would one day be wives.

Related Characters: Negi (speaker), Mami, Papi, Provi
Page Number: 29
Explanation and Analysis:
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3. Someone is Coming to Take Your Lap Quotes

The doubt in his voice let me know that I knew something he didn't, because my soul traveled all the time, and it appeared that his never did. Now I knew what happened to me when I walked beside myself. It was my soul wandering.

Related Characters: Negi (speaker), Papi
Page Number: 54
Explanation and Analysis:
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5. Why Women Remain Jamona Quotes

"What do they call a man who never marries?" I asked as we settled ourselves in the front of the publico.
"Lucky," the driver said, and the rest of the passengers laughed, which made me mad, because it felt as if he were insulting me in the worst possible way.

Related Characters: Negi (speaker), Papi
Page Number: 89
Explanation and Analysis:
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I wondered if Mami felt the way I was feeling at this moment on those nights when she slept on their bed alone...whether the soft moans I heard coming from their side of the room were stifled sobs, like the ones that now pressed against my throat...

Related Characters: Negi (speaker), Mami, Papi, Abuela
Page Number: 100
Explanation and Analysis:
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It seemed to me then that remaining jamona could not possibly hurt this much. That a woman alone, even if ugly, could not suffer as much as my beautiful mother did.

Related Characters: Negi (speaker), Mami, Papi, Abuela
Page Number: 104
Explanation and Analysis:
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6. Mami Gets a Job Quotes

But until Gloria asked, I'd never put it together that in order for me and my four sisters and two brothers to be born, Papi had to do to Mami what roosters did to hens, bulls did to cows, horses did to mares.

Related Characters: Negi (speaker), Mami, Papi, Gloria
Page Number: 121
Explanation and Analysis:
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10. Dreams of a Better Life Quotes

I called up the images of Armando or Ricardo, and with Mami and Papi's shrill fights as background, I imagined a man and woman touching one another gently, discovering beauty in a stubbled cheek or a curl of hair, whispering adoring words into each other's ear, warming one another's bodies with love.

Related Characters: Negi (speaker), Mami, Papi
Related Symbols: Armando and Ricardo
Page Number: 195
Explanation and Analysis:
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Is that what you want? Marriage? What would that do? I've recognized them all. They all have my last name...

Related Characters: Papi (speaker), Negi, Mami
Page Number: 207
Explanation and Analysis:
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It didn't seem possible that he was a good man when he wasn't fighting for her or for us. He was letting us go to New York as if it no longer mattered where we were, as if the many leavings and reconciliations had exhausted him, had burned out whatever spark had made him search for us in swamps and fetid lagoons.

Related Characters: Negi (speaker), Mami, Papi
Page Number: 208
Explanation and Analysis:
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12. You Don't Want to Know Quotes

Mami became, even more than before, both mother and father to us. We could count on her in a way we had never been able to count on Papi, Tata, or Francisco, who had made everyone happy for such a short time before dying and becoming a ghost that haunted us all for the rest of our lives.

Related Characters: Negi (speaker), Mami, Papi, Tata, Francisco
Page Number: 245
Explanation and Analysis:
Quotes explanation short mobile
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Papi Character Timeline in When I Was Puerto Rican

The timeline below shows where the character Papi appears in When I Was Puerto Rican. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
1. Jíbara
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...wall and burns herself, and Mami scolds her before rubbing Vick's VapoRub on the burn. Papi replaces parts of the floor to make it useable, but says he'll need to rip... (full context)
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Later, when Papi pulls up the floor, Negi helps him collect the nails that are still useable. Mami... (full context)
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...kitchen and tells Negi to help her make supper. Negi ignores Mami and stares at Papi working. Papi tells Mami to allow Negi to stay, and Mami goes to the kitchen... (full context)
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Papi gives Negi some old boards and tells her to put them in the pile of... (full context)
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...the ceiling, and a curtain separated the children's side of the house from Mami and Papi's bed. When Papi works, he leaves before dawn, but when he doesn't work, he and... (full context)
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...coffee. Mami inspects Negi's termite bites and instructs her to stay out of the sun. Papi hums to the radio, which plays romantic ballads and the news. Negi says that every... (full context)
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...Mami told Negi that her nickname means that they love her. Negi asks about Mami, Papi, and other family members' nicknames. Mami explains that only people who don't know you well,... (full context)
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When Papi puts in the new floor, Mami asks Negi and Delsa to find stones to plug... (full context)
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...angry. As they pass her, Mami hits both girls on their heads. They go to Papi, but he tells them they know better. Negi wishes that Papi would scold Mami, but... (full context)
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...have a baby. Negi asks Mami for breakfast, but is saved from Mami's anger by Papi arriving with two neighbor women, Doña Lola and Doña Zena. The women usher Negi, Delsa,... (full context)
2. Fighting Naked
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Negi explains to the reader that Mami and Papi surely argued before baby Héctor was born, but after his birth, the fights increased in... (full context)
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Papi doesn't come home for days. When he finally comes home, he sits at the table... (full context)
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Papi gets up and tells Mami she'll wake the children, but Mami continues her tirade. She... (full context)
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Negi shrieks for Papi to not leave them and Delsa and Norma join the cry. Héctor begins wailing as... (full context)
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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... (full context)
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Papi tells Negi that Margie moved to New York, and Negi whines. Papi gets down and... (full context)
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Mami and Papi's fights continue, and Negi and her siblings tiptoe around their parents as to not make... (full context)
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Negi wonders how Papi manages to convince Mami to forgive him. Negi knows for certain that because Papi is... (full context)
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One day, Papi leaves and doesn't return for three days. On the fourth day, Negi arrives at home... (full context)
3. Someone is Coming to Take Your Lap
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Negi explains that whenever Mami gets fed up with Macún or with Papi, she runs away to Santurce. Santurce is a suburb of San Juan, and though it's... (full context)
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...they have Christmas elements added in. At home, Negi's family sings their own Christmas songs. Papi visits, and once he brings string lights and helps the children hang them. Mami spends... (full context)
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A few days later, Negi asks Papi what a sin is. He tells her it's something that makes God angry. Negi asks... (full context)
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...filling her shoes with candy and presents, yet the Three Magi come despite Mami's moans. Papi sits outside with Negi and her siblings that afternoon, and Mami has another baby girl.... (full context)
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...it is to see Don Berto's hands holding a rosary and not his machete. When Papi arrives, he leads the gathered friends and family in a prayer. Negi falls asleep to... (full context)
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After dinner, Papi dresses in preparation to lead the novenas (nine days of prayer) for Don Berto. He... (full context)
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...take your lap." Negi is at Doña Lola's house to trade foodstuffs, and says that Papi told her they'd have electricity by the time the new baby arrives. Doña Lola tells... (full context)
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...her siblings return home the next morning, Mami is nursing the new baby, Edna, and Papi is installing a kerosene cookstove. (full context)
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...the thunder starts. Negi explains that it rained the entire rest of the month, and Papi couldn't work. He stays inside and reads magazines. If he goes to work and then... (full context)
4. The American Invasion of Macún
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Later, Negi asks Papi what an imperialist is. Papi looks spooked, and tells Negi to not repeat either "gringo"... (full context)
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...that she's not going to learn English so she doesn't become American, and she and Papi discuss that culture isn't simply the language you speak. Papi introduces her to the derogatory... (full context)
5. Why Women Remain Jamona
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...and tells her she's going to stay with Abuela for a week. She promises that Papi will retrieve her the following Sunday. Papi dresses in his best clothes and they take... (full context)
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Papi and Negi pass a woman arranging models of Jesus. Negi thinks the woman looks cold... (full context)
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The counterman remarks that the woman is “jamona,” and he and Papi laugh. Negi asks what a jamona is later when they leave the market, and he... (full context)
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At Abuela's house, Abuela greets Negi warmly and inspects her. She then leads Negi and Papi inside her house where she lives with Negi's grandfather, Abuelo. Everything is covered in crochet.... (full context)
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...neighbors cooking dinner and listens to the radios coming from their houses. She wonders where Papi went and remembers Margie and Provi. She remembers Mami claiming that it's in a man's... (full context)
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...Abuela eat lunch. Abuela tells Negi to not change out of her dress in case Papi is in a hurry, but Papi doesn't come. They eat dinner and it gets dark.... (full context)
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...she's come to get Negi, since she missed her. Abuela mentions that she was expecting Papi on Sunday. Mami's face flashes in anger, but then she tells Negi that they have... (full context)
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Mami rubs her belly and mentions that it's hard with Papi gone all the time. Abuela sternly tells Negi to shower and change. Negi doesn't want... (full context)
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...Negi thinks that remaining jamona must hurt less than this. She thinks that she hates Papi and wishes he'd die, but slaps herself for thinking it. When Negi comes into the... (full context)
6. Mami Gets a Job
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...Hurricane Santa Clara, which is supposed to be the worst hurricane since 1918. Negi asks Papi why they name hurricanes after saints, but he doesn't know. Mami tells Negi to take... (full context)
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...the kids circulate among the groups. When the eye of the hurricane passes over them, Papi and one of Doña Ana's sons step outside to inspect the damage. The barn, filled... (full context)
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...and their latrine. Nobody in Macún died, but most families lost belongings, buildings, or animals. Papi and one of Negi's uncles repair the house and build a latrine that will one... (full context)
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Mami begins rising before Papi, cooking dinner, dressing, and giving Negi instructions before leaving for work. Negi leaves for school... (full context)
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...tells Negi to ignore it, but Negi's friends abandon her and she can't ignore this. Papi seems to feel the same way as the rest of the neighbors, but Mami insists... (full context)
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...pulls out Raymond's foot, and others take Raymond to the hospital and fetch Mami and Papi. Negi feeds her siblings dinner and fears what will happen when Mami returns. Mami does... (full context)
7. El Mangle
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...work. Mami wants to rent the house next door. One day, Negi asks Mami when Papi is going to visit, and Mami's sharp reply makes Negi think that Papi doesn't know... (full context)
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...the boat and watches the water and the faraway mountains. She thinks of sitting with Papi and starts to cry, but knows that Mami would be angry if she knew why... (full context)
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Papi appears at the door and Negi runs into his arms. They sit outside and Negi... (full context)
8. Letters From New York
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...he's singing about even if he says his heart is closed, just like Mami and Papi do. (full context)
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After Papi found Mami and the children, he convinced Mami to forgive him and the family moved... (full context)
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Negi hears her parents murmuring in bed one night. Papi sounds angry and gets out of bed. He doesn't return for days. Mami can't work... (full context)
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...Negi asks to iron, and Mami incredulously agrees to teach her. She finds one of Papi's shirts and teaches her how to set the temperature and create steam. Mami guides Negi... (full context)
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...landlord fences the backyard and leads a pig into the enclosure. Right before Christmas, Mami, Papi, the landlord, and the neighbors all help slaughter the pig. The entire neighborhood gathers to... (full context)
9. Casi Señorita
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Negi mentions her dreams of playing piano to Papi. He and Mami fight over whether she should—Mami objects to the cost and Negi's prospective... (full context)
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...Negi on particular pieces of clothing. When Negi tells Mami about it, Mami mutters to Papi about Don Luis being a "dirty old man." Negi finds the whole thing exciting and... (full context)
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...at him. Feeling ashamed, angry, and dirty, Negi runs home. When she tells Mami and Papi, they stop the lessons immediately. Mami goes to speak with Don Luis herself, and he... (full context)
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..."Titi Avena" (Auntie Oatmeal) behind her back because that's all she ever feeds the children. Papi is suspicious of this, and one day tells the children that they have to behave... (full context)
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Papi allows this to go on for a while, but one morning he takes Negi to... (full context)
10. Dreams of a Better Life
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...returned from New York, she found the house locked and learned from the neighbor that Papi "packed off the kids" and went back to Macún. Negi thinks that there's something different... (full context)
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...her siblings watch Tom and Jerry, Mickey Mouse, Superman, and Tarzan. Rather than watch television, Papi spends his time in a shed reading. He becomes withdrawn and morose. Negi sneaks into... (full context)
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...time. She gets up when she hears the rooster crow and tiptoes to Mami and Papi's room. She walks in to find her parents sitting in bed naked, and they blush,... (full context)
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As Negi dreams these fantasies, Mami and Papi's relationship gets even worse. Though they've been together 14 years, they're not married. After returning... (full context)
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...and takes special interest in a nearby gardenia bush that has never flowered. She asks Papi and Mami how to help the gardenia flower, and she begins pruning and watering the... (full context)
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The fighting between Mami and Papi escalates even further. Negi hears them breaking things as they yell, but she finds no... (full context)
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Papi tells Negi that she'll be a teenager next week and explains how Americans came up... (full context)
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Papi insists that he doesn't know what Mami wants. Mami says she wants him to marry... (full context)
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...Héctor, and Alicia will stay until Mami can afford to send for them. Mami and Papi both refuse to talk to Negi about what's happening, but Papi does tell her that... (full context)
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Papi drives Negi, Mami, Raymond, and Edna to the airport. He unloads their bags and kisses... (full context)
11. Angels on the Ceiling
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...going to live with them. The children arrive in October. Negi notices that Delsa, whom Papi had put in charge, looks like a tired adult woman. (full context)
12. You Don't Want to Know
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Negi tells the reader that she wrote to Papi for several weeks after arriving in Brooklyn. When Negi's siblings arrived, however, they told Negi... (full context)
13. A Shot At It
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...pantomime of decorating a Christmas tree. Negi becomes fully engrossed in the pantomime and remembers Papi helping her string lights on an eggplant bush in Puerto Rico. One of the interviewers... (full context)