Monday, October 15, 2012

Wahzinak's Last Letter/ Puerto Rican Day Parade/ El Coqui (Reprise)

"Wahzinak's Last Letter" is only one verse long, but it is very sad. In it, she says that the elders of her tribe forced her to "bury" the letters he sent her "in the blowing desert sand." Of course, this is a loss to her, but also to us, as those letters were likely not only very well-written but also would help us immeasurably in understanding our complicated Mr. Agron.

"Puerto Rican Day Parade" is about that-- a parade that, according to the organizer's website: "takes place along 5th Avenue on the second Sunday in June, in honor of the millions of inhabitants of Puerto Rico and (those) of Puerto Rican heritage in the U.S." The first verse, performed by a "singer," just tells us that the celebration is citywide.

The next verse lists several Spanish words that might be images on a parade float-- canoes and flags-- and also mini-coconuts and beer. What's a celebration without snacks and drinks?

"Because I am a Puerto Rican," the Spanish lyrics continue, explaining why he is celebrating today. "I was born a Puerto Rican (using a slang term for a native.) This line hearkens back to the earlier song "I Was Born in Puerto Rico," while the next line, "I am a brother of the coqui (a local tree frog)," recalls the children's chant the musical began with. (In America, an equivalent expression might be "I'm so American, my brother is a bald eagle."). "I'm as Puerto Rican as you like," the song concludes.

The purpose of this song is unclear. It may be to show that the community has moved on from the damage the Capeman case caused it. Or it may serve as an upbeat break in the heart-rending tale... or simply to contrast with the next song, which is about not the entire community but one man returning to it.

Offstage, the children-- this time in New York-- sing the nursery rhyme about the coqui the musical opened with. This serves to signal that our story is about to come full circle, that another generation of children is being taught the old ways in a new land, and maybe their lives will be better than his was.

Then it shifts to Salvador, on a pay phone (this was long before cell phones!) calling Yolanda to tell her he is on his way home, and that her husband Carlos (we assume they are married by now, if not living the country life they had planned) should know to get his things out of storage.

He hangs up, first telling Yolanda. "Don't tell my mother I'm home yet." Evidently, he wants to surprise her himself.

Salvador also doesn't ask for, or about Bernadette. Perhaps he assumes she has moved on by now. It is unclear, in this short verse, if he is going to stay with his mother or try to reconnect with Wahzinak.

Also there is a confusion of place that is more likely made clear by the action onstage. We have Salvador jumping parole to be with Wahzinak in Arizona ("Trailways Bus"), then being captured and sent back to prison. ("El Malecon," it is clear, is a flashback). Then the song "You Fucked Up My Life" takes place in the barrio, which implies he had been set free. Then "Lazarus/ Last Drop of Blood" seems to take place back in the Arizona desert. "Wahzinak's Last Letter," then, was addressed to him... where? And now he is back in the barrio, walking past the "Puerto Rican Day Parade" on his way home to his mother in this one-verse song, which implies that he had only just now been let out of jail.

In any case, the last four songs are set in New York. They will give us the final impressions of Salvador, Hernandez the Umbrella Man, Carlos and Yolanda, and lastly, Salvador's mother, Esmerelda.

Next Songs: Tony Hernandez/ Carlos & Yolanda


  1. So, I seem to remember that You Fucked Up My Life was a dream sequence he had while in the desert, like el malecon. He was in fact, still in the desert for last drop of blood. Maybe You Fucked Up My Life was a memory. Also, that fact that it had young sal in it means it took place earlier in his life in jail. This is what was confusing about the story for for me.

  2. Nicholas-- Your having viewed the play in of immense help. Thanks for sharing your knowledge.
    It did not occur to me that some of the story could be told out of sequence, through flashbacks.