As one of the few pieces of literature in existence that presents us with an illustration of how life in the Little Spain colony of New York City was like, “Windmills in Brooklyn” is without a doubt a novel that cannot be overlooked for its raw anecdotes and themes that the daily Spanish American family had to encounter in their new country of residence.
Although the book is not situated primarily in the West Village and Chelsea areas, it details the life of Spanish immigrants in Brooklyn during the 1920s. Written by Prudencio de Pereda, a Brooklyn native of Spanish heritage, the book that was published in 1960 is divided in two parts in which they are narrated through the perspective of a young narrator. The first part is dedicated to the anecdote of Agapito Lopez, a man who was a teveriano that profited off buying cigars and later selling them at much higher price to the higher classes of New York. The narrator recounts his experiences in accompanying Agapito in his cunning business ventures that was disapproved by the Borough Hill Spanish community, and he also describes the moments where Agapito served as a father figure for him and his friends in the neighborhood, showing the dualism of Agapito’s character.
“Agapito hated the hard work and the bare living of the Spanish farmer, but the life he had seen in the cities was just as harsh. What depressed Agapito most about Spain was the lack of reward in any place for intelligence or sharpness. Even in the Army or the Church, the young men of the lower classes never got anywhere. In Agapito’s time –the 1890s– many men that he’d heard of, and some that he’d actually seen, had gone to Cuba, Mexico or Argentina to make their fortunes. After ten or fifteen years some of them would return to Spain as rich ‘Americanos.’ Agapito was determined, though, to go to the United States, to New York in particular, where there was more money and where it could be made faster. Agapito had always heard New York referred to as a wicked city, full of snares for the innocent and the honest, but he was certain he could cope with these.”
The second part, The Good Pair, revolves around the narrator and his relationship with his grandfather. The title of the second part is the name that his grandfather used to describe their relationship. In the text, narrator recounts the romantic affair that he had with an older, local widow at just 16 years old, and another moment where his grandfather had a conflict where he sought a famous dancer named Manolin for an annual fiesta in the neighborhood. Also, the narrator realizes the caring qualities that his grandmother possesses in her trustworthiness and persuasion through her marriage with the narrator’s grandfather, and she is credited for having said the phrase that gives the book its name: “There are no windmills in Brooklyn.”
Through these different anecdotes and in various places and time between Brooklyn and Spain, Prudencio de Pereda’s third book, “Windmills in Brooklyn” is the one of many that served to bring life to the canvas in constructing the story for life of the Spanish immigrant in New York through moments of humor, hardship, controversy, and a discourse of strong Spanish identity in the Brooklyn colony through the eyes of a young Spanish-American boy who has to live simultaneously between both worlds.