The Cisco Kid in the Bronx
In the Bronx, on a street called Rogers Place, Mario Ortega grows up remembering his childhood in Puerto Rico. We follow him into early manhood as he weaves the cultural strands of the past with those of an urban present in New York City. More
The Cisco Kid in the Bronx is a Caribbean emigrant bildungsroman that at moments may remind the reader of the classic collection Drown by Junot Diaz. Ortiz’s collection certainly fulfills many of the conventions of what could be considered a Caribbean Diaspora literature.
All the stories contribute to the understanding of how two entirely different cultures blend to create a unique third mode of identity.
The book is structured in three parts, bookended by two stand alone stories that familiarize the reader with the early childhood days in Puerto Rico of the protagonist, Mario Ortega. These two stories are compelling in the ways the character reflects on how his life has changed by being forced to leave his home at a young age.
The first of the three main parts is entitled “Rogers Place,” and the stories are set in a small, close-knit neighborhood in the Bronx. As children, Mario and his brother cope with the crushing anxiety caused by the feeling of not belonging by exploring their world in imaginative ways—marveling, for instance, at snow and the deep cold of a Northeast winter. Mario is the Cisco Kid referenced in the title, a kid who fancies himself not only a protector of the neighborhood, but also worthy of attention and affection and never afraid to seek out adventure. The story encapsulates how other family members immigrated to New York and failed to assimilate, and how the Ortega family barely manages to scrape by no thanks to predatory lenders and vendors.
A classic of the immigrant experience.