The author would like to thank Kwame Brandt-Pierce for his modern take on Georges Bizet’s music; Daniel Burwasser, PhD, of New York City’s Talent Unlimited High School for the Performing Arts, for his advice on the scores; and Julio and Rob Guzman and Nico Medina for their help on the Spanish text. 
Carmen, 18, Factory Worker
José, 21, Police Officer
Escamillo, 28, Rapper Turned Filmmaker
Micaela, 20, Teacher’s Aide
Zuniga, 36, Police Sergeant
Frasquita, 18, Carmen’s Best Friend
Mercedes, 17, Carmen’s Friend
Dancairo, 34, Racketeer
Raimondo, 37, Racketeer
Geraldo, 43, Restaurant Owner
Tía Sofia, 67
Officer Shea, 23, Police Officer
Officer Lane, 24, Policer Officer
Gordito, 19, Escamillo’s Assistant
Teresa, 40, Fortune-teller
Rami, 17, Computer Wizard
Yoshiro, 17, Computer Wizard
It is summer of the present time in Spanish Harlem. We hear the opening music as people go about their daily lives. To stage right, flags from the Dominican Republic, Puerto Rico, Cuba, and Mexico fly from a lamppost near a bench in a small square.
At center stage, stairs lead to a well-worn factory building bearing a sign reading DELGADO’S WIGS. Next to the factory, stage left, is a walk-up apartment house. Next to that is a restaurant, Gallina’s.
A brown-skinned woman is sitting in one of the apartment-house windows. Two men are playing dominoes on an overturned box, a street vendor is selling multicolored ices, and several young men are simply standing around, almost as if they are part of the scenery, when they aren’t eyeing some pretty women in short skirts and tight pants.
GERALDO, the owner of Gallina’s, steps outside. Two neighborhood women, ELENA and MARIA, have been chatting out front.
Hey, chicas, I’m looking for a young man to help out around my shop. He’s got to be honest. No thieves!
He wants somebody to mind the store while he goes looking for young girls!
I don’t look for young girls. I just put myself where they can find me!
Geraldo, you don’t need a young man; you need an old dog. That way you can be the boss and the dog can eat the terrible food you make.
Be serious, woman. A businessman on the way up needs an assistant. Somebody with energy, not like these boys around here.
If you paid them a decent wage, they would have energy. You rob people without a gun, diablo viejo!
So what’s better, a little money or no money? You tell me that. If I pay one dollar an hour, it’s better than no dollars an hour. I’m a poor man trying to feed the good people in this neighborhood.
In the restaurant, you’re a poor man, Geraldo. But you do all right with the poker games in the back room.
SEVERAL OF THE RESIDENTS
What’s the boy got to do?
He has to make enchiladas, corn dogs, hot dogs, chicken wings, and whatever else I say. And it all has to be gourmet.
Geraldo, you are loco. Totally crazy.
ANGEL, a young man who’s been hanging out nearby, sidles up to them.
(opening his jacket to reveal a row of watches)
Hey, anybody want to buy a good watch? Cheap, man. Twenty-four-karat gold, real diamonds. Fifteen dollars.
I already have two watches. Both are five minutes fast.
These are five minutes slow, papi. That’s a sign. You can’t pass up one of these.
JUAN, an older man, has been sitting on a bench nearby.
What do you need two watches for? Around here nobody is in a hurry. If you got nothing to do, you only need one watch.
JIMENEZ and CARLOS, the domino players, both stand up at once.
You can’t take a move back! Once your finger comes off the piece, you can’t take it back!
I didn’t take my finger off the piece. I had my finger on it, and you moved it to see what I was doing!
We’re playing for fifty cents! You can’t cover up your moves. You think I just fell off the cart and I’m going to let you cover up your moves?
He can’t hear you. You have to holler into his good ear.
I said you can’t be covering up your moves!
Suddenly, sirens and flashing lights signal the arrival of the police. No one seems alarmed, though they know enough to stay in place. CARLOS takes something from his pocket and tosses it into a nearby trash can.
A team of street-duty POLICE OFFICERS, including OFFICERS SHEA and LANE, assembles quickly from either side of the stage. ZUNIGA, the police sergeant, directs his men around the stage, all facing the rear. Then, satisfied that the men are in place, he approaches the door of the apartment building next to Delgado’s and knocks boldly as the other officers aim their guns menacingly. TÍA SOFIA, a remarkably attractive older woman dressed in a housecoat and curlers, answers the door.
Police! Stand aside.
Do you have a search warrant? Let me see it!
The other officers look around to see who has brought the warrant, but, to their embarrassment, it is not found.
What the hell is wrong with you people? Keep your guns ready. I’ll call headquarters!
ZUNIGA goes to one side and radios headquarters.
The other officers relax.
(to the crowd)
They come to search our place, but they don’t have a warrant! No warrant, no searching! Who do they think they are? This is America!
There are cries of approval and general laughter from the street residents.
They watch too much television. That’s why they’re taking time out for a commercial.
Put your teeth in when you talk to me, lover boy.
Why don’t you come home with me? You would look good on my sofa.
(touching SHEA’s ears)
Ah, still wet. I thought so. Come back when you’ve grown up, papi.
The other OFFICERS laugh.
MICAELA enters from stage right. She is wearing a blue plaid jumper, which is significantly less flamboyant than the outfits worn by the other women of the block. She looks at the women wearing tight pants and short skirts. Then she begins looking at the POLICE OFFICERS, obviously searching for someone.
Do you know José? He’s on the force. Is he with you? Sometimes they call him DJ.
(who has overheard MICAELA)
I know him. Sure. He’s not here yet. But he’ll be here soon. He’s bringing the warrant. You want to sit in the car with me? Get out of the hot sun?
He tries to put his arm around MICAELA, who slips easily away.
No, it’s all right.
Hey, don’t fly away so soon, little bird.
I’ll come back after a while. You sure he’s coming here?
Any minute. This is a rough neighborhood. Come with me, and I’ll protect you. What’s your name?
Micaela. I’m a friend of José’s. Tell him his friend-the teacher’s aide-was looking for him. He’ll know who I am.
She leaves, looking cautiously around the neighborhood as she does.
ZUNIGA watches MICAELA go and then turns back toward the old lady in the doorway.
(to the OFFICERS, pointing to TÍA SOFIA)
Keep an eye on that one!
(tossing the front of her dress up)
And don’t forget to read me my rights!
Look-here’s José now.
Men! Fall in! Get ready!
The men get ready to enter the building as JOSÉ approaches. JOSÉ goes directly to ZUNIGA and whispers something in his ear that clearly disturbs the sergeant.
What do you mean, we have to go to the judge again? What happened to the warrant we had before? By the time we go through the whole process, they’ll have moved their operation to another building!
What can I tell you?
I’ll call the captain. By the way, there was a girl looking for you. Okay-looking, not from around here, I think.
Dark hair? Pretty?
Aren’t they all?
(calling from the doorway)
Who’s the captain? Tell him Sofia says hello.
ZUNIGA, on the side, gesticulates as he talks into the radio. We can’t hear his conversation but see that he is upset.
The operation is off! Get the men out of here! How are we going to shut down anything with this stupid paperwork?
A loud buzzing noise comes from the factory. Instantly the younger men in the area jump to their feet. One, MANNY, begins to brush off his jacket. Another, GATO, first pulls up his pants, then lowers them to just the right height to be cool.
What’s that? Their all-clear signal?
Lunchtime at the factory!
The door of Delgado’s opens, and the factory girls come out, strutting and chatting. Many are on cell phones, and most are speaking a combination of English and Spanish. Among the girls is FRASQUITA, who has a fair complexion and light brown eyes. She is wearing a tight blouse and even tighter jeans.
As the girls strut, the boys hover around. Music begins and slowly the posturing changes into a formal dance. We see the boys, who were nondescript at first, slowly change into gentlemen, proud of their heritage and respectful of the women. Then we hear the music of “El Ritmo del Barrio.”
The cops watch, putting away their guns as the lights transform the dingy buildings into glowing neighborhood edifices. ZUNIGA leans against a pole, eyeing the girls.
As the dance ends…
Why don’t you young ladies come to the precinct with us? The afternoon is young, and we can dance. I have a few moves I can show you.
Hey, beautiful, you married, or you waiting for me?
Married? You need two things to get married. Do you know what they are?
A wedding ring and a license!
No, white boy. A passport and a job. No passport and you can’t stay here. No job, and there’s no love. Not from this girl!
These girls are nice, but I heard they’ve got somebody special here. They call her Carmen. I don’t know what she looks like, but they say she’s hot.
Ya seen one, ya seen them all.
Suddenly the door to Delgado’s opens again, and a stunning young woman commands the space of the doorway. It is CARMEN. She is dressed in a white blouse, a short bolero jacket, and a black skirt. Her mirrored sunglasses reflect the afternoon heat. A flower sticks out from under the jaunty cap she wears, but the most amazing thing about her is the smile she flashes ever so briefly.
Wait-there she is! Oh, my God! Is she fine or what?
CARMEN descends the factory’s three front steps like the diva she is. The boys form an open circle in front of her, and she takes her rightful place in its center. Among the boys are MANNY, GATO, and ANGEL.
Carmen, I’m yours forever!
Carmen, it’s me who is in love with you. I’ve always been in love with you.
(sinking to his knees)
You finally found me. Now tell these fools who you really love so they can die in peace.
Get off your knees, handsome. People will think you’re serious.
Serious enough to marry you this very moment, Carmen.
All they know is push-push, Carmen. They don’t know about real love.
They know about love, Frasquita. But they still think it’s for us, that love is going to come flying down this street. Love isn’t coming to this neighborhood.
Unless it finds its way to flicker across the television screens or in the movies.
What are all of these cops here for?
They were going to raid Tía Sofia’s place, but they forgot the warrant. She ain’t letting nobody in without a warrant.
(looking at JOSÉ)
Frasquita, I know that guy over there. The one with his hat off. We used to live on the same block when I was a kid.
One of the factory girls, MERCEDES, thin and chesty and working her high heels, comes over.
What’s going down?
There was supposed to be a raid, but the cops blew it. Now they’re standing around, trying to figure out what to do. Carmen used to date the guy leaning against the car.
You dated a cop?
I didn’t say I dated him. I said we used to live on the same block. He’s about four years older than me. I had a crush on him.
I was in love with an older guy once. I would have married him but his wife was my cousin, so…
Anyway, you can’t be in love with a cop. Cops don’t have hearts. They got little tin badges inside where their hearts should be.
I was in love with him once. A little.
And what did he say when you told him?
I never told him. Maybe I should now.
Hey, wait a minute. Do you know who that guy is? I saw his picture in the paper. He’s the one who shot that kid in the park. He could be weird. You don’t want to fall for a guy like that.
Girlfriend, I don’t “fall” for nobody. I’m not into love games anymore. I know what love is all about, and this girl is staying on the sidelines with her heart under lock and key.
Lock and key!
(sings “La Habanera”)
Love is a bird that sweetly dreams,
Soaring high in a clear blue sky.
He wants to rest, to settle down,
But summer comes and he has to fly.
You call to me; I turn away,
But I listen as sweet love sings.
I want to go, I want to stay,
While within me, my heart has wings.
L’amour, L’amour, L’amour, L’amour…
Latino boys have love so true,
But in my heart I must always be free.
You ignore me, then I’ll love you,
And when I do, beware of me.
You ignore me-at least you’ll try,
But I’ll love you,
And if I love you, if I love you,
Beware of me!
Carmen is right! Love is not for us!
(looking at JOSÉ)
I bet he doesn’t even remember me. I think I was ten when he moved.
Ten? Carmen, you were never ten! Anyway, boys don’t remember anything.
You’re right. I’ll say hello, anyway.
CARMEN goes over to JOSÉ, who is looking at some papers. She puts her hand over the papers, and he looks up.
José Ibarra. You know I remember you from the old neighborhood, when I lived on Manhattan Avenue. You lived in the only building on the block with an elevator.
That was a long time ago.
You used to buy potato chips from Ferrara’s and eat them on the corner. Once I was standing in the doorway of my building and when I saw you passing, I lifted my skirt a little so you could see my legs. You didn’t even look in my direction.
We were both young. You’re very pretty now.
You went to church with your mother every Sunday. The early Mass.
You were really watching me.
De pe a pa. We were poor, and you looked rich. We were nothing much, and you looked pretty special to me.
You know, I remember you now. Someone said you were a gypsy.
You don’t remember me.
Didn’t you go to Saint Dominic’s? But you were just a kid.
(smiling as she twirls)
Am I a kid now?
CARMEN dances playfully around JOSÉ. The other cops motion for him to go after her, but he tries to ignore her. Finally, he takes a step toward her, but she moves quickly away. She stops, takes the flower from her hair, and tosses it to him. He catches the flower and looks down at it as she crosses toward him.