Ode to My Bodega

Photo by Matthew LeJune

By Tiana Ramirez

My Local Bodega, Pelham Parkway, The Bronx

Stepping into any local bodega you will hear salsa music blasting from the speakers bright and early like a Dominican mother cleaning on a Saturday morning. You will see a family of cats, the father cat on the loaf of white bread, the mother cat on the broken-down ATM that rarely works. Chips used to be four for a dollar, but it changed, now it’s two for $1.50, that sucks. Arizona bottles are still the perfect pairing to your everyday bacon, egg, and cheese on a roll. You’re in need of tampons? It’s on the top shelf ladies, but every woman in The Bronx is the height of five two so we get the bodega man to get it, we call him Papi. You need ketchup? The good Heinz kind, it’s in one of the aisles next to the Tide laundry detergent. What about pancakes with fresh banana slices on top with a side order of mozzarella sticks because you have weird cravings? You can get both orders at any time of the day.

A bodega isn’t just a regular convenient store. Bodegas are miniature heart beats scattered around the streets of New York City, feeding the neighborhood with pure love. Growing up, my cousin and I would go to the Bodega with the $5 our grandpa used to give us. We would step in and automatically the cashier or as we call him our local Papi would bright up a smile asking us how we are doing. “Como estas mi lindas?” in translation, “How are you, my beauties?” We were like his kids, that’s why we called him our local bodega Papi, in translation, “father.” We would go into the store and buy candy and I am pretty sure we bought candy that didn’t cost $5. We would buy candy worth about $10 however, the Papi would just give it to us for free, we felt special.

At our local bodega, you build a bond with the people in there, they are now your forever family. My cousin and I would go to the bodega and see our Tio Luis. He would yell, “Dominicana! Y Puertorriqueña!” I am Dominican and my cousin is Puerto Rican. He would call us by those names and we are known forever on the block as Dominicana and Puerto Ricuena because of our Tio Luis. He would share stories with us of how we would take trips to see his family in Puerto Rico. He always used to wear this Puerto Rican flagged hat with a button-down collared shirt and dusty blue jeans. I will always remember him. When our Tio Luis passed away due to cancer, my cousin and I couldn’t help but cry. He wasn’t blood-related to us, but that didn’t matter. He was our bodega uncle. Hearing the news shattered our hearts, but every day we thank him for bringing so much character to the block. We scream, “We love you Tio Luis” as we pass by the hat that’s in the bodega remembering his name.

Your local bodega will always be beyond special. Everyone has a different story to tell when speaking about their bodega. However, one thing that is similar, is family. Our bodegas stem from culture, hard-working minorities with ambition and pride. These convenience stores carry a heart of gold. Growing up in New York City is just tough, there is no cutting corners in these streets at all. You can bet on your bodega to feed you faith and energy, as you walk into that store, ordering your everyday bacon, egg, and cheese and your medium coffees light and sweet, Puerto Rican style, as Tio Luis would say.


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