When I Was Puerto Rican


Esmeralda Santiago

Teachers and parents! Struggling with distance learning? Our Teacher Edition on When I Was Puerto Rican can help.
Bras Symbol Icon

Mami is one of the first women in Macún to get a job outside the home. She begins as a thread cutter in a bra factory and moves up quickly to sewing the bras. Sewing bras gives Mami pride and purpose, and most importantly, it allows her to be self-sufficient. In Brooklyn, Mami continues to sew bras in order to remain independent and care for her family. When Negi gets her first bra after starting her period, it represents the same thing that sewing bras does for Mami. It represents Negi's passage into adulthood, her growing independence, and the possibility for self-sufficiency in the future.

Bras Quotes in When I Was Puerto Rican

The When I Was Puerto Rican quotes below all refer to the symbol of Bras. 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.
6. Mami Gets a Job Quotes

"I can't count on anyone from outside the family. Besides, you're old enough to be more responsible."
And with those words Mami sealed a pact she had designed, written, and signed for me.

Related Characters: Negi (speaker), Mami (speaker)
Related Symbols: Bras
Page Number: 123
Explanation and Analysis:
Get the entire When I Was Puerto Rican LitChart as a printable PDF.
When I Was Puerto Rican PDF

Bras Symbol Timeline in When I Was Puerto Rican

The timeline below shows where the symbol Bras appears in When I Was Puerto Rican. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
11. Angels on the Ceiling
Coming of Age Theme Icon
Women, Sex, and Power Theme Icon
Family Theme Icon
One day, Negi asks Mami for a bra. Mami laughs and says she can have one when she's señorita. A few weeks later,... (full context)
12. You Don't Want to Know
Identity Theme Icon
Coming of Age Theme Icon
Family Theme Icon
Mami leaves the house every morning to work in bra factories in Manhattan. She works her way up quickly from being a thread cutter to... (full context)