Marisol—Late 20s/early 30s, she acts as both the main
protagonist and narrator. She is an aspiring photographer
whose enthusiasm for the island is unwavering.
Arcadio—30s, a poet who works a menial office job in Viejo San
Note: Iris Chacón and Hector Lavoe records play throughout the
scenes. The title is a reference to the great Puerto Rican
novel La Guaracha del Macho Camacho by Luis Rafael Sanchez,
and the rhythm of the story is meant to capture the
alternately melancholic and wistful tone of that book.
The stage is empty save for a bench on stage left and a
platform on stage right, where a microphone stand and mic are
placed. Marisol enters stage right and takes the mic off the
stand, addressing the audience.
Damas y caballeros y los más sinceros, from the cobblestone
avenidas of Viejo San Juan, which now lie in rubble, where
hungry people line the streets to receive rations, and where
thirsty people drink from puddles and polluted streams. Where
adults starve to feed their children and where the occasional
wi-fi hotspot offers salvation via cell phone, to a relative
in the beloved United States, who has treated us so well—we
have never been in the news so much! The president, the
president of the United States himself, even interrupts his
mid-morning shits to tweet about us and it goes viral, and
viral is not something that we Puerto Ricans are accompanied
to unless it comes from a cheating husband or when one of our
famous musical exports has a crossover single on the Billboard
music charts—how joyous it is to be appreciated or at least
seen—though the attention came too late. How long we have been
in crisis, yet for even longer we have been fighting and so
tonight, damas y caballeros y los más sinceros, and may I add,
más angustiados—how many of you haven’t contacted a loved one,
or have not been able to get them to these safe shores, where
they might still get stabbed or beat by the cops, but at least
they won’t die on an empty stomach, how many of you have heard
the cries of your beloveds, and seen the images of destruction
and chaos, and felt hopeless in a way even we didn’t think possible? Tonight, I do not come to increase the weight of
these troubled times, but rather, to share with you a
reminder, of our beauty, of our strength, of why we are now
mourning the island we loved, the places we knew. The memories
of who we were, and who we can be again. The abuelos who would
buy us helados after we visited El Morro, the ones that began
to melt the minute they were scooped into those flimsy plastic
cups. Or the piragua carts you heard before you saw them,
because the piragüero would be chopping at the ice with a
machete, turning a massive block into pieces so fine, it
looked like snow. Or the Friday nights, when you’d dress up
with your primas and spend the night floating from club to
club. Saturday mornings in Piñones eating frituras and sitting
by the shore, letting the water wash over your feet while you
drink a Medalla. The music that comes from every corner, and
you have no idea where it originates from, until you see a
group of street musicians, playing the most beautiful boleros
and penas you’ve ever heard. San Juan is a city of
enchantment, and it is at its most enchanting when you are in
Lights come up center stage. Arcadio sits at the bench with a
notepad that he is intently writing in. Marisol enters stage
right, a camera in hand, which she aims offstage, turning away
from Arcadio, who stops writing and begins to watch her. She
turns around and sees him checking her out.
If you are going to spy on someone, better to do it with a
She takes a picture of Arcadio.
I didn’t mean to—
Were you not staring at me?
Yes, but, with admiration.
As if that were an excuse.
You made me this way, you know.
Sángano, don’t blame me for your bad decisions.
Was it a bad decision to ask for your number? Or kiss you on
our first date?
(Takes two pictures of Arcadio)
You look tired. Was it a bad morning?
Every day I go into that office is a bad morning. The
gratitude of having a job is starting to fade. A lot of my co-
workers are leaving the island. The same job pays three times
as much on the mainland.
But that isn’t home.
What good is home if you have to choose between eating and
You don’t think the same struggles exist in America?
Of course they do, and an office is an office no matter where
it is. I’d just find another park to write poetry during
You will never find a park like this in America. I’ve been
coming to Parque de las Palomas since I was a child, and I
never tire of the view, or of the pigeons, or seeing a child
experiencing this place for the first time. You would miss it
if you left.
You don’t need to remind me. No Puerto Rican leaves this place
with a smile, it’s always a difficult choice. Would you come
Why does nobody ask Americans if they would leave their
country because of economic or political problems? Aside from
jokes about moving to Canada which nobody does. There is the
expectation that, as Latin Americans we have no real ties to
our countries. We are born where we are born, and tolerate
whatever hardships we have to, until the day when we can run
off to the States and finally have a real nation. It’s
patronizing, and belittles the patriotism we have for our own
Then you would be ok without me?
I have lost so many people, to death and migration, to
arguments and misunderstandings.
I’d be just another person.
You leaving would be like losing all the people I’ve ever
loved all over again.
Arcadio stands up and holds up his notebook.
I want to share this with you. It’s not quite a poem, I’m not
sure what I’d call it, but it is for you. “I know every
avenue, street, bar, and club in this city and I have never
seen a face like yours. What is your name? Is a name nothing
more than an ancient concept that has nothing to do with the
force of nature that possesses humanity? Do you know me? You
look at me as though we have spoken many times before, maybe
for years, but I do not know your name. It’s a formality. As a
species we function more through symbols than through names.
But I want to know yours so I can find you, you whose essence
is the only real thing in this artificial country, and whose
face contains the history of the world. This insincere,
trivial world, but there is nothing trivial about you. It
would be an insult to call you Madonna or Gloria, old concepts
from a nonexistent culture created by men looking for gold and
silver who manipulated the word of God to make real their
worldly desires. You are the truth, the voice of the night,
the wind, and the waves crashing along the coast. You are the
first breath of day that wakens me from the world of dreams. The dreams where before today, I preferred to stay, because in
that world I believed that life provided all that I could have
needed. But when I would wake up I was confronted with the
depth of my lies. My life was a void, and in this moment I
believe that this solitude I have carried since I was a child
has finally come to an end. Please, do not tell me that this
woman is a mirage. Tell me she is meat and bone and not an
illusion. Touch me. Speak to me. Tell me, what is your name? I
have existed for a long time but never as a fully living human
being. I was a figment of the imagination until this moment.
Now I see my true reflection for the first time, one that does
not exist outside of your eyes.”
Marisol rises and caresses Arcadio’s face, kisses him.
No matter how many times I relive this, it never stops
You like it?
You said those words with tears in your eyes, and I couldn’t
have loved you more than I did then. You took my hand.
Arcadio takes her hand and leads her stage left.
I come here every day to look out on the Bahía de San Juan,
and I think of you. I think of us. The sort of life we could
live, and I feel so lucky to have you. I know how much you
love it here, and I wouldn’t want to take that from you. I
just want to be a man you could be proud of.
As if wealth is why I loved you. As if any job you ever had
encapsulated your heart, your kindness, or how you looked at
They look at each other.
With every inch of your heart resting in your eyes, I could
feel you within every part of me, that there was nothing I
could ask of you that you wouldn’t do. And you did. Three days
later when María hit and our house was flooded, and you went
out and searched for food, and told me to stay inside, so I could be safe. And it went on like that for two, three days,
when the waters began to recede and I stayed back to begin
figuring out what we needed to repair—you said you just wanted
to see if anyone had water bottles since we were running low,
and you never came back. I wouldn’t find your body until a
week later. I know you would have wanted me to leave, and be
safe. But I couldn’t. I couldn’t go to America after what they
did to us. How they mocked us, spat on us like they’ve done
all these years, and then forgot about us the minute we were
no longer a breaking news story. I was alone, but I still had
my country, and I watched it rise up from the ashes, and be
Puerto Rico again. Just as beautiful, just as special to me,
except for the hole in my heart where you reside. And so I
visit you, every now and again, no matter who I am with. I
hear a song, eat a meal, pass by one of our favorite bars or
restaurants, and this moment comes back to me, when you looked
at me with all the love in the world—you were right, I do miss
I always thought this island was the most beautiful thing I
saw, until I saw your face for the first time.
This island is all I have of you. And I want you to know that
no amount of injustice, crime, corruption, has ever killed us,
and no hurricane ever will either. You would love the world we
have made. How I wish you could know what we’ve become. We may
never be the people we were, but those people, those people
grew into new ones, better ones.
Marisol leads Arcadio back to the bench. She takes out a bag
of seeds to feed the pigeons.
I didn’t think I could love this island the same way after you
were gone. I almost left. I almost gave up on Puerto Rico. But
then one day I forced myself to come here, and the pigeons, as
crazy as it sounds, feeding them again made me happier than I
had been in months. That was when it occurred to me that as
long as the Parque de las Palomas is filled with pigeons, and
people to feed them, and our people continue to inhabit these
shores, and raise our flag, and share the glories of this
island with those we love, then there will always be a Puerto
Rico, and ten years from now, twenty, no matter how many,
there will be a place for people like us, feeding the pigeons on a sunny afternoon, while looking out on the Bahía de San Juan.
Lights up on Marisol, mic in hand, addressing the audience.
And so, damas y caballeros, y los más sinceros, the lovers and
daughters and sons of Borinken, the land we knew will remain,
and all those we loved, all those we lost, may they give us
strength to pass on the glories of our island to a new
generation, rising from the ashes, forever carrying the island
in our hearts.
Jonathan Marcantoni is a Puerto Rican novelist and publisher
of the recently created La Casita Grande Press, an imprint of
Black Rose Writing, which specializes in Latino and Caribbean
literature. His books “Traveler’s Rest,” “The Feast of San
Sebastian,” and “Kings of 7th Avenue” and “Tristiana” deal
with issues of racial politics and corruption in both the
Puerto Rican diaspora and on the island. Marcantoni’s work has
been featured in the magazines Warscapes, Across the Margin,
Minor Literatures, PANK, NBC Latino, Publisher’s Weekly, 50
Playwrights Project, and the news outlet Latino Rebels. He
teaches at the University of Colorado at Colorado Springs.