Response 3

Woroud Shuaib
Professor Steven Alvarez
English 255
10 March 2012

Latinos in New York: Discrimination and Affinity in José Luis González’s The Night We Became People Again

In his short story, Luis José González emphasizes the courage and compassion that comes along when sharing adversity and he does it cleverly through humor. In “The Night We Became People Again”, the speaker tells the readers the story of a moment he will never forget. The narrator gets the news that his pregnant wife may give birth sooner than expected. He leaves work early to see his child’s birth; however, he encounters a problem on the train. He gets stuck because he learns that a blackout has occurred. Discrimination plays a dominant role in the literature works we have read so far and the narrator experiences inequity .Because of his skin color the narrator gets intelligently downgraded. As he says:

He [co-worker] thinks I don’t know, but any day now I’m going to tell him that I’m not as dumb as he might think. These people think that you come from the sticks and don’t know the difference between sandpaper and toilet paper, especially if you’re a bit darker skinned and your hair is kind of kinky”.(740)

This shows that natives usually assume that immigrants lack intelligence making them inferior. For example, as the narrator points out, natives believe that immigrants can’t distinguish the differences between “sandpaper” and “toilet paper”, although they differ vastly. These papers greatly contrast, and this emphasizes how unintelligent the narrator gets portrayed just because he migrated from another country. The idea of race appears again because his appearance fools everyone. Intriguingly he says “especially if you’re a bit darker” which perpetuates this negative perception. This illustrates how skin color plays a major role in American society. Therefore, his skin color and immigrant status account for getting treated unequally.

In José Luis González‘s short story titled “The Night We Became People Again”, the speaker experiences a blackout in New York City. This Puerto Rican native almost misses his child’s birth because he gets stuck on the train during the blackout. When he finally makes it, he sees his son and attends a rooftop party in his building. While attending this party, the speaker makes a remarkable discovery about a night he will never forget. In this final scene on the rooftop, the speaker looks up and sees a perfect image of the sky and the stars. Seeing this makes him start reminiscing:

I thought of my newborn son, and what his life would be like here; I thought of Puerto Rico and my folks and everything that we left behind, just out of need; I thought of so many things that I’ve already forgotten… according to my poor way of understanding things, that was the night we became people again. (747)

This blackout makes the speaker remember everything including his life in Puerto Rico. Living in the fast rhythm of New York one tends to forget about the significant things in their lives especially as in the case of the Puerto Rican narrator. However, having the blackout and the party makes him remember his home and all that he sacrificed in search for a better future. Thinking of that, the stars that are rarely seen because of the million blubs visibly show now. This moment makes him and his neighbors “people again”. Trapped in the idea of the “American Dream”, assiduously, Latino immigrants work hard which takes their humanity away. Therefore, Latino immigrants make every effort to accomplish this dream in New York “the city that never sleeps” and never sleep as well. Symbolically, when the city sleeps by getting a blackout, the narrator and the others get to take a moment where they look back and realize their spiritual affinity with their homeland. The idea that both these countries reveal similarity in ways they never realized before makes him and his neighbors sane and human. This experience has made him a stronger individual.

Works Cited
González, José Luis. “The Night We Became People Again.” Trans. Kal Wagenheim. The Norton Anthology of Latino Literature. Eds. Ilan Stavans, Edna Acosta-Belen, Harold Augenbraum, Maria Herrera-Sobek, Rolando Hinojosa, and Gustavo Perez Firmat. New York: W.W. Norton & Company, 2011. 740-747. Print.

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