LaGuardia Community College 2002-03 Common Reading
Esmeralda Santiago, When I Was Puerto Rican

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Study Questions for the "El Mangle" Chapter

  1. When the Santiago family moved to El Mangel, they lived in Dona Andrea's boat house, which had a very primitive bathroom. Why was she afraid to use this bathroom?

  2. Mami and Dona Andrea, for different reasons, made fun of Esmeralda's fear of the bathroom. Why did they do that?

  3. Do you agree with Mami and Dona Andrea's way of treating Esmeralda in the bathroom incident? What alternatives could have been used?

  4. When Esmeralda was called on in Sra. Leona's class to sove a math problem, she was thinking about bananas, guavas and oranges. What happened in this incident? (p. 138)

  5. Esmeralda experienced discrimination in the classroom. Summarize what happened. (p. 139)

  6. If you ecnounter discrimination in a class, what would you do? What should you do?

  7. Esmeralda used very colorful vocabulary to describe how much she enjoyed Dona Andrea's cooking. What are the words that she used to describe the different ways of eating? (p. 141)

  8. In this chapter, Esmeralda encountered death and funerals a second time. When was the first time earlier in her memoir?

  9. "A funeral procession in Hato Rey, Puerto Rico" in January 1942.
    Jack Delano, photographer.

  10. Why was Esmeralda chosen to close the dead baby's eyes? (p. 142 - 149)

  11. Many cultures and societies have unique and peculiar funeral rituals. Give an example of burial ceremonies that you know from your own background. Discuss the reasons why these ceremonies are important to your community.

  12. Here are the sentences that Esmeralda used to describe how she felt after she finished the funeral ceremony (p. 149).

    The original description
    Paraphrase. Explain how she was affected by the experience.
    "My head was heavy with muttering voices. My tongue was large and thirsty."  
    "Sweat soaked my scalp and dripped down my forehead, to my ears. It tickled, but the voices went away."  
    "My head felt light, my tongue its normal size."  
    "I ripped the white ribbons out of my hair and threw them out of the window. I clawed at the dress, trying to get it off as fast as I could."  
    "I stepped out of my panties, socks, and patent-leather shoes and ran into the shower. The cold water gave me shivery goose bumps. I rubbed castile soap into my hair, under my arms, between my toes. But most of all, I scrubbed the two fingers that had touched the baby. No matter how much soap I put on them, they felt cold and oily, and I didn't know if I'd ever get the feeling of death off them."  


  13. Earlier in the book, Esmeralda also used the shower as a means to wash away and suppress an emotionally unpleasant experience. Try to recall what it was and compare that shower with the shower in this chapter.

  14. Esmeralda said she didn't like Sra. Lenoa. What kind of evil tricks did she want to play on the teacher? (p. 150)

  15. When the class was working on a composition assignment, Sra. Lenoa said to Esmeralda, "Thi is not time for daydreaming. You're supposed to be writing, not thinking" (p. 150). How did Esmeralda feel about this statement? How do YOU feel about this statement?

  16. What is the connection between a person's thinking ability and writing ability?

  17. How did Esmeralda prove that she was not the stupid student that Sra. Lenoa thought she was? Find 2 examples to show this. (p. 149 - 150)

  18. Discuss Sra. Leona's influence on Esmeralda's education and growth. Refer to the Influence of Teachers exercise.

  19. Papi was often absent in Esmeralda's life, but he came at the right time to rescue her from Sra. Leona's classroom. Describe Esmeralda's feelings about her father at the end of this chapter. (p. 151)

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