POST: 'I Like It Like That' - It felt like home

What's it about?

I Like It Like That is a musical about the Rodriguez family living in New York City's East Harlem in the early 1970's. Don Roberto Rodriguez (TITO NIEVES!) owns a record shop and is trying to make a living while instilling good values in his four children.  He works hard to keep the family ties strong, to keep Salsa music alive and to embrace Spanish culture.

What'd I experience?

OMGGGGGG!!!! This was not a play...this was a concert!!!! I had so much fun.  

The seats were tight so I couldn't sit back and relax, but who could when Tito Nieves was one of the leading roles. The theater was filled with Puerto Rican soul.  Everyone was either laughing or singing.  The songs, of course, were waaayyy before my time but I loved the essence of the room. I had a smile on my face from start to finish.  

I was singing "I Like It Like That" at the top of my lungs, like the rest of the crowd, and I just kept thinking to myself that my mom should have been here with me!  She was born in the 70's and loves Salsa music.  I found it so funny how some of the older ladies in the room were so involved in the play (telling the characters what to do)!  I felt as if I was back at home watching a telenovela with my grandma or flipping through the Spanish awards show singing in the sala (living room) with my mom. 

In the story, the eldest brother gets locked up but when he returns he needs to get used to what life was like before jail.  I've never really fit in with the "bad girls" crowd.  I mean, I get along with everyone but I was more of a "good girl". Watching Juan, the eldest brother, go through this, I was taken back to life growing up and what I saw on a daily basis. Boys that would come home from jail, they would lock themselves in their apartments. And girls, who got into trouble, would try to find a different crowd to hang with but were never really accepted.  

The second brother in the play reminded me of myself and my mom.  My mom grew up in the projects and once I was born she tried to make it out with her little girl.  I moved to the Bronx about age 5.  My life still revolved around Manhattan, but I knew I wanted something more.  The brother in the play wanted to make something of himself and leave El Barrio. He wanted to make his family proud. I am proud of where I come from but I am hungry for more.  The life I envision for myself does not revolve around struggle, and that is why I am going for my nursing degree.  I am the first generation to attend college. So, just because I am from the projects of the Lower East Side does not define who I am as a person, however it has taught me many life lessons that I will never forget.  

I think that is why I had such a connection the the eldest daughter, China (pronounced Chee-na).  She wanted to keep the traditions and aspects of the community alive, even though it was crumbling.  She advocated for and protected her community.  So when I hear negative things about the Lower East Side, I tend to get a little defensive. I may not live there anymore, but that will be my home forever.

The little sister, Paula, was trying to find herself in the midst of her siblings and I think every individual who is in their twenties feels the same.  I question myself at times, and if I am making the right decisions, but every decision made has a lesson behind it and that is something I always try and remind myself. 

During the show, people were being told to quiet down because they were shouting, "WEPAAAA". I felt like I was watching my life and my mom's life unfold.  She would always tell me how her dad would play salsa records in the apartment so loud that people outside could hear and how her mom would pin the clothes on a string to dry but instead of between two buildings it was hung in the living room from one side to another.  I remember, even to this day, being woken up to salsa music during the weekends which meant it was time to clean.  

I am proud to be Puerto Rican and I absolutely loved that this play highlights so much of my culture.  I felt right at home.

Want to see it?

50% tickets (~$35-$40, a special for certain zip codes)

@ The Puerto Rican Traveling Theatre
thru Jan. 30

What did you experience?

Let us know in the comments below...