Published on Academy of American Poets (

From Barrio Obrero to La Quince

translated by Urayoán Noel

Walking is a process in ruins,
a dead history.

You inhabit the ruin and you find
a coin here and there rolling on the ground.

Men without eyes are threshing away time
in Santurce’s surviving businesses. 

It makes you want to cry
or sneak into the yards and pluck the fruits
of so many inhabitable houses 
with boarded-up windows and doors.

The city is full of homeless people.
The city is full of poor immigrants dreaming of the United States.

Perhaps leaving and coming back makes you a foreigner. 

There’s so much you don’t know about Puerto Rico now.
You begin discovering it by walking.


De Barrio Obrero a La Quince


Caminar es un proceso en ruinas,
historia muerta.

Habitas la ruina y encuentras
una que otra moneda rodando por el piso.

Hombres sin ojos desgranan tiempo
en los negocios que sobreviven en Santurce.

Da ganas de llorar
o de meterse al patio y arrancarle frutas
a tanta casa habitable
con las puertas y ventanas clausuradas.

La ciudad llena de personas sin hogar.
La ciudad llena de inmigrantes pobres que sueñan con Estados Unidos.

Irse y volver acaso te vuelve un extranjero.

Desconoces ahora tanto a Puerto Rico.
Caminando se empieza a descubrirlo.


Copyright © 2020 by Nicole Cecilia Delgado and Urayoán Noel. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on September 17, 2020, by the Academy of American Poets.

About this Poem

“The poem ‘De Barrio Obrero a la Quince’ is from my book Periodo especial, published in 2019, which explores the socioeconomic mirror images between the Greater Antilles in light of Puerto Rico’s ongoing financial crisis. I wrote this poem shortly after returning to live in Puerto Rico, after 8 years abroad. I sought to overlap and reconcile the imaginaries of the urban experience of other cities with my expectations about the daily life of San Juan, a city to which I was just beginning to reintegrate. This is the first time this poem is published in English.”
Nicole Cecilia Delgado


Nicole Cecilia Delgado

Nicole Cecilia Delgado is a poet, translator, and book artist from San Juan, Puerto Rico. Her most recent book is Periodo especial (Aguadulce/La Impresora, 2019). She currently directs and develops La Impresora, a poetry press and Risograph print shop dedicated to small-scale editorial work and allocating resources to support local independent publishing in Puerto Rico.

Date Published: 2020-09-17

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