'Borinquen Vive en El Barrio:' Spanglish dreams
BY MARÍA VEGA
Thursday, August 7th 2008, 4:00 AM
"Borinquen Vive en El Barrio" chronicles the Puerto Rican New York community experience.
This is how you know you’re dealing with a Puerto Rican New York story: One of the performers in a new play has had trouble remembering which of her lines are in English and which are in Spanish.
Such has been the predicament of actress Sandra Berríos, whose character in “Borinquen Vive en El Barrio” (“Borinquen Lives in El Barrio”) switches constantly between the two languages.
Berríos, a Nuyorican herself, says she never thought much of it until she started studying the lines for her character, Minerva, the daughter of family matriarch Borinquen, in this bilingual, multigenerational saga written by Tere Martínez.
One of Minerva’s lines, for instance, is “Yo nunca me olvido, mami.” (“I never forget, Mom.”)
“If I say it in English, it doesn’t feel right,” Berríos explains.
The process has given her a new understanding of Spanglish. “I grew up with it and I never thought about it,” she says. “It’s something that’s looked down on, but it shouldn’t [be].”
Minerva’s language back and forth is one of the details that has brought praise for Martinez’s play, one of the most popular productions during this summer’s TeatroStageFest.
Next week, the festival’s organizers will be staging the play outdoors for free in collaboration with the City Parks Foundation.
The play will be performed Sunday at 8 p.m. at the bandshell in the lower East Side’s East River Park and next Tuesday, Thursday and Sunday in the Bronx at Mary’s Park, St. Ann’s Ave. and E. 146th St., also at 8 p.m.
“Borinquen Vive en El Barrio” shows “the life of Puerto Ricans in New York and the changes this community has suffered” over the past half-century, says director Ángel Morales. “It’s a reflection of the psyche of U.S. Latinos.”
The history is told through the eyes of the matriarch, Borinquen, and the new generations — from firebrand independentista Carlos to the more conservative, Americanized Minerva.
The play, says Martínez, is “very political” but also “very emotional.”
“I want people, Puerto Rican or not, to see it and get to know the history of the Puerto Rican migration.”