Originally posted, 3/12/16. I have often wondered if the 1961 movie version of “West Side Story” sealed a less than favorable Puerto Rican stereotype that remains today.
So…to start my Puerto Rico adventure series, I share Stephen Sondheim’s lyrics to AMERICA from West Side Story. I remember watching West Side Story (the movie) in a New Brunswick theater with my parents. I thought it was brilliant and think so still. Sing along, I know you know it.
You lovely island . . .
Island of tropical breezes.
Always the pineapples growing,
Always the coffee blossoms blowing . . .
Puerto Rico . . .
You ugly island . . .
Island of tropic diseases.
Always the hurricanes blowing,
Always the population growing . . .
And the money owing,
And the babies crying,
And the bullets flying.
I like the island Manhattan.
Smoke on your pipe and put that in!
I like to be in America!
O.K. by me in America!
Ev’rything free in America
For a small fee in America!
I like the city of San Juan.
I know a boat you can get on.
Hundreds of flowers in full bloom.
Hundreds of people in each room!
Automobile in America,
Chromium steel in America,
Wire-spoke wheel in America,
Very big deal in America!
I’ll drive a Buick through San Juan.
If there’s a road you can drive on.
I’ll give my cousins a free ride.
How you get all of them inside?
Immigrant goes to America,
Many hellos in America;
Nobody knows in America
Puerto Rico’s in America!
I’ll bring a T.V. to San Juan.
If there a current to turn on!
I’ll give them new washing machine.
What have they got there to keep clean?
I like the shores of America!
Comfort is yours in America!
Knobs on the doors in America,
Wall-to-wall floors in America!
When I will go back to San Juan.
When you will shut up and get gone?
Everyone there will give big cheer!
Everyone there will have moved here!
Music by Leonard Bernstein, lyrics by Stephen Sondheim.
© 1956, 1957 Amberson Holdings LLC and Stephen Sondheim. Copyright renewed.
Leonard Bernstein Music Publishing Company LLC, Publisher.
photo credit: The Cathedral of San Juan Batista, San Juan, Puerto Rico