What’s the Point

malaquias Montoya - MigrationYesterday the local bully knocked me down into the snow. He yelled at me, “Stupid spic! – go back to where you came from!” So I have to stand tough. I will not let out that this cut was actually deeper than any knife wound could be.

At least the knife leaves a mark of war – a mark of courage. This leaves a mark on the inside that no one sees. No courage in feelings!

I started wondering what we were doing here in the first place. We left Ecuador running away from something, looking for a place to hide from our fears. We came to the U.S. to have a better life. An opportunity for a better education, a place that offers the ladder of possibility. The Bronx is a place of a million such immigrant stories, this is just one of them. All the stories are the same, all with hope and possibilities, all but a dream to be fulfilled.

The problem that I see is that we are treated as misfits, and in the South Bronx we are awashed in a sea of misfits. What a perfect place to hide.

I hear my parents argue, that the point of coming to the U.S. was to find a better place. What is the point if it means having to live here.

In Spanish ‘qual es el punto’ can refer to the intent, the place or the time. What is the point? Is Hunts Point the highpoint of all this? Is it the point of breakthrough or breakdown. Or is it a point in time when I get initiated into the Savage Skulls, and time can never be turned back.

So when I got into a fight yesterday, simply because I was instigated by a gang member, I can start to see my parents concerns.

There has to be a better place. I heard my mother and father speak with such urgency of such a place, so I know that we will see it soon.

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The Wild Things…

Today, I decided to go to the library after school. It’s been over two weeks that I’ve been there and I’m dying to get a book called “Where the Wild Things Are.”

It is a story of a kid who is not understood at home and runs off to a land where he is king of his kind – the “Wild Things.”

There’s nobody home anyway so what’s the use of hurrying home to be alone.

I walk down 156th Street on my usual path and normally I don’t run into any trouble, but today is different. A few blocks from the school, past Prospect Ave, there’s a store where I usually stop to get some candy. The owner is really nice. He talks with me not to me. Always concerned for me being alone.

“Do your parents know that you are out here alone?” he questions me.
“Sure they know. They let me go to the library.” I reply, with my tough guy voice, so that he won’t know that I am telling him a lie.

No matter what I tell him, he always treats me nice. One time when I did not have any money, he gave me candy for free.

As I approach the store, a bunch of Savage Skulls come charging out the door and bump into me.

“What the hell kid! Why did you bump into me?
His friend adds “Yeah! what the hell kid!”

He grabs me by the chest and lifts me off the ground. At that moment the owner of the store runs out and yells

“Get out of here you bunch of animals! You wild things!!”

They all ignore him and continue as if they were the kings of this domain – nobody can touch them. They ignored the screaming lady and ignore me as I yell at them

“let me down!”

As I’m dangling, another guy grabs my feet and pulls them up.

“Nice Keds kid!”

He pulls out a knife and reaches down to cut the laces in order to take them off my feet, when Max – the leader of the ‘wild things’ walks out the door.

“Put him down! Lets get out of here before the pigs come! Lets go!”

Boy that is the closest I’ve come to loosing my… Well, I can’t draw myself to say it.

The owner takes me inside and gives me a glass of water and some free ice cream. Wow!

“I know that life is hard here, but I never thought this would happen.”

Needless to say I did not make it to the library for my book.

I just went home to where my warm supper must be waiting for me.

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Too Close for Comfort

Gunfight_ :: Boy with Gun
It was a typical New York summer morning, you know, hot, muggy and the air had the thick charge of war. Last night was not a typical Friday night, though. The sounds of battle were louder than usual. The gunfight, the police sirens glaring and the urgency of the ambulance’s lights seemed closer. The popping of gunfire kept me sitting at the edge of the bed, curled up in a corner. It goes on for what seems like hours. The noise constantly going and the sounds of timber popping in the fire! I don’t know if I could go out there and do that.

Next morning, I head outside for some air. Sitting on the front stoop waiting for what – I don’t know – just staring off into space. My mother comes out a few minutes later sees me sitting there. What’s the matter? The sounds last night kept me up. Don’t worry, that was far away – it won’t affect you, she comforts me. With these words, I forget about the Skull’s battle last night.

The day goes by so quickly, my mind drifting. I don’t even remember what I did that day.

Sunday morning my mom quickly loads us kids into the Kermit-the-Frog green 1972 Chevy Station Wagon.

Every third Sunday of the month, always at six am, we would head down to Hunts Point market. The point, as it’s reputation precedes it, was an unusual sigh of relief from this war zone. It was full of activity and life, unlike this neighborhood.

As we pull away from the house & round the corner, the sights of the South Bronx come into view. Along Southern Blvd I see building after building burned to the ground. The unlucky ones that did not burn or collapse, stood like hollowed out skeletons with an empty stare. This created a field of ruble, among empty shells of the past, that my older brother and I would use as our playground. ThePoint_ :: Hollowed skeletons in the South Bronx

We were one of the lucky ones. Our block, on Dawson Street, was one of the few that were not destroyed from the usual fires.

Each of the houses on our block were owned by normal folks and as such did not suffer the demise of the ones owned by the slumlords. One of my friends, that lived on 163 St, lost his home this way.

Finally going under the Bruckner Expressway overpass, we entered the Hunt’s Point section of the Bronx. Proceeding along Hunt’s Point Ave, we arrive at the Point.

Fulton Fish Market Cooperative moves to Hunt's Point.I love this place! Here I see my mother’s true ability of negotiation. Her strongest virtue is her ability to haggle with the vendors to buy cases of carrots, oranges and tomatoes. She would work them down to the point where the guys would say, lady! I give up – I can’t go that low. At that instant, she would say, OK kids lets move on! She would take a small step forward and start walking away. Sure enough, the vendors would stop her and a strange thing would happen. Her eyes would light up and she would get this look on her face, she knew she’s got them. As she turns around, she would add, I will only take it, if you throw in two pint of strawberries. Sure enough she would get it and we would be satisfied for the rest of the day of shopping.

Eating berries and playing safe, innocent kids games on the loading dock of the Point.

Safety among the chaos of the city.

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