Manhattan Tropics / Trópico en Manhattan


This engaging historical novel reveals the experiences of Puerto Ricans in New York City in the mid-twentieth century.

by Guillermo Cotto-Thorner
English Translation by J. Bret Maney
Introduction by Cristina Pérez Jiménez

ISBN: 978-1-55885-881-7
Publication Date: April 30, 2019
Format: Trade Paperback
Pages: 426

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“Walking underground” for the first time in his life, Juan Marcos Villalobos, a freshly arrived migrant to New York City, offers his seat to a woman standing on the subway. Though his English isn’t up to her rude reply, he quickly realizes that good manners in Nueva York are quite different than in Puerto Rico!

Juan Marcos is eager to continue his studies in the United States and rents a room from family friends living in El Barrio, or Spanish Harlem. Soon, he has a job wrapping packages at a department store that pays as much as he made teaching high school at home. As he interacts with the Puerto Rican community in New York, he witnesses the problems his compatriots encounter, including discrimination, inadequate housing, jobs and wages. Despite these problems, friendships and romances bloom and rivalries surface, leading to betrayal and even attempted murder!

Originally published in 1951 as Trópico en Manhattan, it was the first novel to focus on the postwar influx of Puerto Ricans to New York. Cotto-Thorner’s use of code-switching, or “Spanglish,” reflects the characters’ bicultural reality and makes the novel a forerunner of Nuyorican writing and contemporary Latino literature. This new bilingual edition contains a first-ever English translation by J. Bret Maney that artfully captures the style and spirit of the original Spanish. The novel’s exploration of class, race and gender—while demonstrating the community’s resilience and cultural pride—ensures its relevance today.

Click here to listen to an interview with J. Bret Maney about his book, Manhattan Tropics / Trópico en Manhattan.

Click here to listen to Cristina Pérez Jiménez and J. Bret Maney discuss their bilingual edition on the Indoor Voices Podcast.