Thursday, June 02, 2011


Yesterday I came home and saw a long white limo outside of our apartment.

Given that I live in Washington Heights amidst bodegas, clothing stores and fruit stores, that was an odd sight.

My neighbor Marguerita and my other neighbor who always hangs out outside our building were sitting on the stoop and standing on the sidewalk respectively.

"What's that about?" I gestured.

"It's Diego's son," they informed me.

"Oh!" I exclaimed. "It must be the prom!"

Sure enough, Diego and his wife came outside looking extremely happy. They snapped a bunch of pictures of their son and then sent him off in the white limo, likely going off to pick up his date, enjoy a delicious dinner at a restaurant and then party the night away.

Their son was all spiffed up in a white suit with a snazzy tie and was carrying a shopping bag from a designer company (containing a corsage, perhaps?)

I was just thinking that to me, this emblemized the American Dream at its best. You can come from the Dominican Republic and work as a super, but your son can succeed in high school, college and beyond and one day have an easy life and a white collar profession (if that's his aspiration). And you can see all those things when you look at him, standing there, glowing with life, about to get into his limo in the middle of stifling hot, dirty, teeming Washington Heights- you can see your dream.

I found it moving.


Anonymous said...

oooooooooorr...this isthe peak moment of the young man's life before he graduates HS, doesn't go to college, can't get a decent job, start hanging out with his gangbanger friends until eventually, for gang initiation, he shoots a Pakistani cab driver in the back of the head, becomes addicted to crystal meth, and then ends up either in prison or dead.

Just sayinn..

Jackie said...

I also sometimes get really warm and fuzzy inside seeing the Dominican neighbors take part in American life in a way that makes themselves proud and happy. There's something inspiring about seeing those kinds of moments.

That said, don't think that going to prom is the same as going to college. The idea of dressing up and acting adult at a late-teen rite-of-passage party is already a part of Dominican culture. Similarly, the exuberant neighborhood celebrations for Memorial Day and July 4th also may have as much to do with the native Dominican penchant for grilled food and communal outdoor festive meals as it has to do with genuine acculturation.

Are the Dominican neighbors patriotic and proud to be American? I think that undoubtedly they are, and it puts a smile on my face, too. But I'm less sure about the social mobility and economic opportunity that you describe in your post as accompanying their American tastes in celebration.

Anonymous said...

Love the quasi-racist comments, keep 'em comin'