I am beginning to believe that there have been more words written about Piri Thomas than Piri Thomas ever wrote, and I’m alright with that because if anyone, in our collective cultural history, ever deserved to have people writing about him, it’s Piri. Unlike many people younger than me, I was not introduced to Latino writers until college. As a college student with a minor in Puerto Rican Studies, I was introduced to the writings of Piri Thomas, Pedro Juan Soto, and Miguel Piñero. Those books remain in my library alongside the books from my history class written by Dr. Olga Wagenheim.
On February 18, El Museo del Barrio, a cultural icon in New York City, was the place to be. The best of New York City’s art community were on the stage, as well as, in the audience. Over and over again, we heard how Piri put a pen in someone’s hand. The entire evening was a love letter to a man who learned his lessons the hard way and survived to teach another generation how to do it the right way.
Piri once wrote, “I have always had a special fondness for, and empathy with books and libraries. As I grew up, I lived, breathed, and ran between the raindrops that were not water, but drops of acid known as bigotry, hatred, and rejection. My one island of refuge in El Barrio was the public library on 110th St., between Lexington and 3rd Aves., where I gorged myself on books, borrowing two books as allowed and slipping three or four under my jacket, and replacing them with three or four more soon to be read. Of course, I returned them all. Reading helped me to realize that there was a world out there far vaster than the narrow confines of El Barrio. I learned that there were people who didn’t care about color being a measure of superiority or inferiority. What mattered was the dignity of one’s heart and the honor of one’s word.”
The rest of the evening en El Barrio is best told with pictures:
An amazing and inspirational time was had by all. Punto! Cheverote!