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A dozen loving comic fables about the Puerto Rican experience in New York City, from the author of the novel The Comeback (1984). The immodest, ironical narrator is writer Ernesto Mendoza, who lives in the Hispanic East Harlem ghetto, and whose vocation it is to present the ""diasporic woes"" of his people as reflected in the series of ""dreams"" collected here--fantasies (of a better life, mainly) born out of the helplessness and frustration that Mendoza is releasing from the collective unconscious. But the overall feel is humorous. ""The Barbosa Express"" is the story of Chu Chu Barbosa, a middle-aged subway motorman who has bought into the American dream with gusto--but when racist superiors deny him one of the brand-new D trains appearing in the yards, he steals one and takes 100 relatives and friends on a hilarious Fourth of July ride (and, with a grand subterfuge, actually gets away with it). ""The Angel Juan Moncho"" is an unabashedly sentimental tale (with odd echoes of ""It's a Wonderful Life"") in which a poor butcher gets heavenly assistance at Christmas time. Vega moves back to 17th-century Puerto Rico, then, for the immensely ribald ""The True Story Behind the Writing of the Conquest of Fructifera Soto,"" which is a parody of sexual myths: a circus clown with a monstrous sex organ (it has scales and whistles like a teapot) meets and marries happily ever after a virginal (but very curious) nun. And in ""The Pursuit of Happiness,"" which epitomizes the collection, a down-and-out bodega owner loses a goat, but wins the heart of a wealthy Park Avenue spinster. In all, well-written, affecting and--despite Vega's clowning--gritty tales of El Barrio life: reality beginning in dreams.

Pub Date: April 1st, 1987
Publisher: Arte Publico (Univ. of Houston, Houston, TX 77004)