América

América

By Richard Blanco

I.

Although Tía Miriam boasted she discovered
at least half a dozen uses for peanut butter—
topping for guava shells in syrup,
butter substitute for Cuban toast,
hair conditioner and relaxer—
Mamá never knew what to make
of the monthly five-pound jars
handed out by the immigration department
until my friend, Jeff, mentioned jelly.

II.

There was always pork though,
for every birthday and wedding,
whole ones on Christmas and New Year’s Eve,
even on Thanksgiving day—pork,
fried, broiled, or crispy skin roasted—
as well as cauldrons of black beans,
fried plantain chips, and yuca con mojito.
These items required a special visit
to Antonio’s Mercado on the corner of Eighth Street
where men in guayaberas stood in senate
blaming Kennedy for everything—“Ese hijo de puta!”
the bile of Cuban coffee and cigar residue
filling the creases of their wrinkled lips;
clinging to one another’s lies of lost wealth,
ashamed and empty as hollow trees.

III.

By seven I had grown suspicious—we were still here.
Overheard conversations about returning
had grown wistful and less frequent.
I spoke English; my parents didn’t.
We didn’t live in a two-story house
with a maid or a wood-panel station wagon
nor vacation camping in Colorado.
None of the girls had hair of gold;
none of my brothers or cousins
were named Greg, Peter, or Marcia;
we were not the Brady Bunch.
None of the black and white characters
on Donna Reed or on the Dick Van Dyke Show
were named Guadalupe, Lázaro, or Mercedes.
Patty Duke’s family wasn’t like us either—
they didn’t have pork on Thanksgiving,
they ate turkey with cranberry sauce;
they didn’t have yuca, they had yams
like the dittos of Pilgrims I colored in class.

IV.

A week before Thanksgiving
I explained to my abuelita
about the Indians and the Mayflower,
how Lincoln set the slaves free;
I explained to my parents about
the purple mountain’s majesty,
“one if by land, two if by sea,”
the cherry tree, the tea party,
the amber waves of grain,
the “masses yearning to be free,”
liberty and justice for all, until
finally they agreed:
this Thanksgiving we would have turkey,
as well as pork.

V.

Abuelita prepared the poor fowl
as if committing an act of treason,
faking her enthusiasm for my sake.
Mamá set a frozen pumpkin pie in the oven
and prepared candied yams following instructions
I translated from the marshmallow bag.
The table was arrayed with gladiolas,
the plattered turkey loomed at the center
on plastic silver from Woolworth’s.
Everyone sat in green velvet chairs
we had upholstered with clear vinyl,
except Tío Carlos and Toti, seated
in the folding chairs from the Salvation Army.
I uttered a bilingual blessing
and the turkey was passed around
like a game of Russian Roulette.
“DRY,” Tío Berto complained, and proceeded
to drown the lean slices with pork fat drippings
and cranberry jelly—“esa mierda roja,” he called it.
Faces fell when Mamá presented her ochre pie—
pumpkin was a home remedy for ulcers, not a dessert.
Tía María made three rounds of Cuban coffee
then Abuelo and Pepe cleared the living room furniture,
put on a Celia Cruz LP and the entire family
began to merengue over the linoleum of our apartment,
sweating rum and coffee until they remembered—
it was 1970 and 46 degrees—
in América.
After repositioning the furniture,
an appropriate darkness filled the room.
Tío Berto was the last to leave.

Summary of América

  • Popularity of “América”: Written by Richard Blanco, a great American poet, “América” is a narrative poem famous on account of its theme of childhood. The poem reflects the speaker’s childhood memories. It also illustrates how people belonging from various cultures get together on special occasions. Its popularity, however, lies in that it deals with the phenomenon of cultural differences and their removal.
  • “América” As a Representative of various Cultures: This poem is about a Cuban child who spent his early years in the American culture. The poem begins when the speaker explains how Tia Mariam boasts about how she used peanut butter in many ways, but at the same time, she fails to utilize the jars of peanut butter she is getting until the speaker’s friend suggests something useful. The speaker also talks about the dishes served on some special days. He says that pork and cauldron of black beans are specially cooked on Christmas Eve, Thanksgiving Day, and New Year’s Eve.
    People love to enjoy these dishes and gossiping about the country politics on the corner of an English Street, Antonio’s Mercado.” As the poem continues, the speaker talks about changes he feels in his family. Although they are still living at the same place, the traditions have changed: they do not talk about returning to the native lands, neither do they cook pork on special occasions. Finally, Thanksgiving Day arrives and people belonging to different cultures get together and enjoy a lot. What, however, stays in the minds of the readers is the way he presents the amalgamation of various cultures.
  • Major Themes in “América”: Cultural differences, memories, and merriment are the major themes of this poem. The poem presents how different nationalities live together in America. Despite having diverse cultural backgrounds, habits, and eating preferences, they arrange parties and spend time together. The poem reflects the speaker’s childhood memories, as he describes what, as a child, he felt and observed in America. At first, his family was determined to go back to their native land, but with time, the adapted culture of American society and talks about returning became fade away. It is through this simple piece, the speaker has presented the dilemma of identity crisis people face while living in another society. Thus, the people when come across various identities, often lose their identity and values and take on new values. 

Analysis of Literary Devices Used in “América”

Literary devices are modes that represent writers’ ideas, feelings, and emotions. These devices make the text appealing to the readers and also reveal the inner meanings. Richard Blanco has also used some literary devices in this poem to make it appealing. The analysis of some of the literary devices used in this poem is listed below. 

  1. Assonance: Assonance is the repetition of vowel sounds in the same line. For example, such as the sounds of and /i/ in “fried, broiled, or crispy skin roasted.”
  2. Alliteration: Alliteration is the repetition of consonant sounds in the same line in quick succession. For example, the sound of /b/ in “I uttered a bilingual blessing” and the sound of /h/ and /y/ in “they didn’t have yuca, they had yams.”
  3. Consonance: Consonance is the repetition of consonant sounds in the same line. For example, the sounds of /l/ and /t/ in “liberty and justice for all, until” and the sounds of /t/ and /r/ in “the cherry tree, the tea party.”
  4. Enjambment: It is defined as a thought in verse that does not come to an end at a line break; instead, it rolls over to the next line. For example,

Mamá set a frozen pumpkin pie in the oven
and prepared candied yams following instructions
I translated from the marshmallow bag.”

  1. Imagery: Imagery is used to make readers perceive things involving their five senses. For example, “like the dittos of Pilgrims I colored in class.”, “Tío Berto was the last to leave.” and “Everyone sat in green velvet chairs.”
  2. Simile: It is a figure of speech used to compare an object or a person with something else to make the meanings clear to the readers. For example, “ashamed and empty as hollow trees” and “like the dittos of Pilgrims I colored in class.”
  3. Symbolism: Symbolism is using symbols to signify ideas and qualities, giving them symbolic meanings different from literal meanings. Here, pork symbolizes the Cuban culture blending with the American Thanksgiving feast.

Analysis of Poetic Devices Used in “América”

Poetic and literary devices are the same, but a few are used only in poetry. Here is the analysis of some of the poetic devices used in this poem.

  1. Free Verse: Free verse is a type of poetry that does not contain patterns of rhyme or meter. This is a free-verse poem with no strict rhyme or metrical pattern.
  2. Stanza: A stanza is a poetic form of some lines. There are five stanzas in this poem, with each having a different number of verses.

Quotes to be Used

The lines stated below are useful while talking about various traditions and customs being followed across the globe.

There was always pork though,
for every birthday and wedding,
whole ones on Christmas and New Year’s Eve,
even on Thanksgiving day—pork,
fried, broiled, or crispy skin roasted—
as well as cauldrons of black beans,
fried plantain chips, and yuca con mojito.”