Summer of 1977
Summer is a time of glee and adventure. In New York of 1977, summer was a time of chaos and despair.
In July of 1977 the Bronx became a ghost town. The building that once felt tall fell to its misery. The streets were covered in rubble and orange sand-like dust. It was like the Great Migration all over again but this time there was less hope and more despair in the people’s eyes.
Back in June there was esperanza for better tomorrows. The schools and libraries, sanctuaries for the young blood, were boarded up and knocked down ‘cause the man from the street with walls of green and greed thought his desires were above the future. Spirits were high. People were liaising with community and music. The borough was buzzed with merengue and the birth of hip hop. Bodegas, churches, and clubs were untouched and that’s all that mattered.
Come July the people lost their way. A black hole consumed the entire city. From the island called Manhattan, all the way to the Boogie Down Bronx, the evil era tan fuerte it killed. The city was pitch black! Our eyes played tricks on us. Couldn’t tell what was shadow or a brotha tryna get home to his wife and kids. Couldn’t tell what was road, what was street. *Clang Clang* The cars went crashing against one another like cymbals. Animosity filled the air. *Bang Bang* Hands sounded like congas as they went flying left and right but missing and hurting as they are not nocturnal.
The light went back on on the island cause the Man got backups and importance. The light went back on in the Bronx too. It was hot, sizzling, and filled with power. The children went wild and the people were desperate. They lost hope. They lost their rhyme. Landlords lit flames to their property for the luxury of insurance money.
*Cling Boom* The youngins destroyed everything in sight. They banged up cars, broke into stores, busted open fire hydrants, you name it! Those cheeky slimy bastards fell prey to the evil and went along laughing as they did its bidding. *The sound a güira makes* The people were consumed with greed. They had this rage in their eyes that was tan feo. They became monsters of the night.They ransacked the stores that glued the community together. Looted houses too. They were unrecognizable.
*Clang Bang Cling Boom* The chaos and horror that painted the streets with ruckus and blood. The chaos made a symphony of jazz old school ragtime that murdered the joy that came with salsa and tortured our ears. The evil turned us into the savages the Man told us we ought to be. *Ha Ha Ha* He goes as he finds entertainment in our suffering like we’re a zoo for exotic life. We became lost, abandoned, and hopeless.
In June we had esperanza. She guided us out of the blackhole we ran to when we discovered hardships. She was our savior and we needed her the most. That summer your tios Don and Leo just got jobs working at Clara’s old man’s barber shop that’s now a McDonald’s sweeping and counting dollars. The Perez’s oldest daughter Isaura was the first to get married rich since Abby Castillo back in the 50s. Our friend Ricky, who had passed that July, got caught up with The Black Spades who spent most of their time creating hip hop and rapping to the fine young thangs. And your mama Mari and I got stuck babysitting the neighborhood kids that didn’t fall to gang pressure after the Man shut down their schools.
After the invasion of that evil, the Bronx, our home, felt stranger to us. The community fell apart. Many had no homes from the fire. Others lost their businesses after the lootings and riots. The immigrants that brought life to the borough lost everything that gave them purpose and an ounce of the American dream. We lost faith in one another. There was no trust, just streets flooded in disgust, guilt, and vergüenza. In August we packed what survived and fled south to Florida. The Bronx had gone to shit. We were devastated to leave the only home we knew but our hands were tied. Esperanza saw that we were dead and revived us. She guided us to a new beginning, better tomorrows, and gave us new blessings.
We grew old in Florida, but longed for the Bronx. Every summer we go back to replay all the memories we made. Pointing at all the places where we laughed, cried, danced. Places all long gone and replaced with highways and drive-thrus. Yet, the memories still stand. We remember the good, the bad, and the ugly things that made us strong and prepared for the future as it’s always unpredictable. At the time, I hated the Bronx for letting us down and forcing us to leave it behind. Now that I’m near 80, I forgive it for the heartbreaks and take pride in its love. I will never forget The New York Blackout of 1977.
I took a sociology course one summer and there I learned about the Blackout of 1977 that happened in New York City and how much of New York history is hidden from the world. In this course I realized how much minorities gets neglected in society. This Blackout was a major turning point for New York especially for the Latino community as most of them lost everything they worked for when they came to America.
Yaralee De La Cruz is a Dominican American Bronx New York bisexual female writer. Her favorite female authors and artists are Naoko Takeuhi, Elizabeth Acevedo and Meryl Streep. Her favorite genres are romance, fantasy and horror. Her favorite mediums of expression are film, art and fashion. She loves watching movies, anime, cartoons, art, graphic novels, guitar and music. She’s been published in two literary magazines, one for her high school magazine and twice for Pen America’s Summer Program. Her goals are to become a screenwriter, director, producer and actress (like Spike Lee) and have an EGOT in the near future.