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Coco Frio by Martin Espada

Martín Espada

Coca-Cola and Coco Frío

On his first visit to Puerto Rico,island of family folklore, the fat boy wandered from table to table with his mouth open. At every table, some great-aunt would steer him with cool spotted hands to a glass of Coca-Cola.

One even sang to him, in all the English she could remember, a Coca-Cola jingle from the forties. He drank obediently, though he was bored with this potion, familiar from soda fountains in Brooklyn.

Then, at a roadside stand off the beach, the fat boy opened his mouth to coco frío, a coconut chilled, then scalped by a machete so that a straw could inhale the clear milk.

The boy tilted the green shell overhead and drooled coconut milk down his chin; suddenly, Puerto Rico was not Coca-Cola or Brooklyn, and neither was he. For years afterward, the boy marveled at an island where the people drank Coca-Cola and sang jingles from World War II in a language they did not speak, while so many coconuts in the trees sagged heavy with milk, swollen and unsuckled.

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