La Curvita

By Lloyd Beckford

Nights in Rodman’s Neck Park finds many Bronxites of Puerto Rican descent singing and dancing in a spot they call La Curvita (The Curve).

It is a gathering that has been going on for over five decades. It was started by a few Puerto Rican families that came together and decided to have a picnic, sharing laughter and gossip or stories from back home. They meet up at Rodman’s Neck Park, located south of Orchard Beach between Eastchester Bay and City Island in the Bronx. They set up tents, play salsa music while singing, dancing, playing dominoes and barbequing. It is an event that many Bronx residents of Puerto Rican descent have attended from when they were kids.  Now they bring their own children. “This is a safe haven for our kids because we have retired police officers and also a lot of retired military from all branches, so it would not be smart for anyone to start trouble here,” said Jose Ruiz, 51.

The drink of choice at La Curvita is La Piragua, which is shaved ice with fruit syrup, sipped along with Alcapurria, a fritter made of green bananas and cassava root or taro root and stuffed with mostly pork or chicken. La Curvita represents not only family history but Puerto Rican history as well. Some bring their kids to Rodman’s Park, so they can learn about their history from the older folks.

The “mayor” of La Curvita is Carlos Pegan, 79. A Puerto Rican native, he has been attending the event since he was 10 years old. Pegan is originally from the western part of Puerto Rico, a city called Mayaguez. He is the oldest member of La Curvita and knew the history of the group. “You will only hear salsa music when you come here, because that is what our parents grew up on and they passed it down to our generation, so it became a tradition,” said Pegan.

Anita Ramirez, 53, has attended La Curvita at Rodman’s Neck Park with her family since she was 11 years old. “My mom would wake up early and pack some food, water and snacks in a bag, and we would take the train and then walk the rest of the way from the Pelham Bay train stop to Rodman Neck Park,” said Ramirez. “My mom wanted to get to the park early so she could get a good spot and save room for her best friend Martha, who left straight from work to come to the park.” Now that she an adult, Ramirez says she loves to see families bring their kids because she feels it keeps them from getting into trouble.

The young people at the event gathered in a corner, sharing stories and the latest phone apps with each other. Sometimes the older folks of the group would gather around them and give them a little history lesson about La Curvita and their Puerto Rican heritage.

The retired members of the group come to the park during the week to pass the time with other retirees, to share war stories, play dominoes and dance to salsa.

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