Particularly once Negi reaches age 12, she becomes increasingly curious about what loving and healthy relationships look like, since Mami and Papi's relationship becomes increasingly fraught during this time. At this same time Negi spends her afternoons listening to soap operas on the radio. These soap operas offer convoluted storylines of women with beautiful names and men named “Armando” or “Ricardo,” and they introduce Negi to the idea that it is possible for men and women to interact kindly, romantically, and lovingly with each other. Armando and Ricardo in particular become symbols for what Negi wishes Papi could be to Mami, as well as for what Negi hopes to someday experience herself.
Armando and Ricardo Quotes in When I Was Puerto Rican
The women suffered. Frequently they were orphaned, brought up by nuns or stepmothers who made them do all the housework. In spite of this, they were cheerful and optimistic, never doubting that if they were pure of heart, life would eventually get better.
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.