Fighting with siblings, receiving beatings by your mother, not knowing when you will see your father again, while moving from home to home as a poor family in Puerto Rico is what Negi would go through on a weekly basis. In the beautifully crafted memoir, "When I Was Puerto Rican", Esmeralda Santiago, referred to as Negi, takes us on a journey of her childhood. The bulk of the novel begins in Puerto Rico, specifically a small barrio known as Macun. The novel starts off with Negi being around six years old, and having two sisters: Delsa and Norma; to which would eventually grow to 11 siblings by the end of the novel. A large part of the memoir includes struggles that she endures; for instance, her father flees from her mother whenever they begin to argue. Suspecting that he is a sinverguenza-a shameless person; associated in the novel as a man who leaves his family to go be with a younger women for a time, Negi starts to turn away from her father. Therefore, most of the time her mother is raising her and her siblings alone, adding on to her juggling a job, which is criticized by most of the other women in the barrio for doing so. Therefore, her mother definitely portrays a strong, independent woman who does what she has to to take care of her family. Furthermore, whenever Negi's father disappears for a while, her mother takes them (her children), and moves to the city where she seeks for a better life.
However, towards the last quarter of the memoir, Negi's mother takes her, and two of her siblings along to Brooklyn, New York: Raymond-who is injured due to a bicycle accident-and Alicia; later having all of her siblings join them while their father begins a new life with a new woman in Puerto Rico. There, they live with their grandma to help support them. Esmeralda Santiago beautifully illustrates recollections that she portrays from her childhood by making it effortless to paint an image of the memories she describes; in which she often describes too well, leaving you with an image of something you did not want to envision. On that note, the novel is a must-read; it teaches you a lot about a different culture, which gives you perspective, insight, and reason for why people would come to America to search for a better life.