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Night Spies

We are at Rumba.

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On Wednesday they have domino night here. Dominoes is a pastime that most Puerto Ricans play. In fact, when you're a kid the first thing you learn by seeing your great-grandfather, your grandfather, and your father is to play dominoes. It's part of our culture. When families didn't have money to go out, dominoes was a way to keep the family together--while mom was cooking that special meal, grandma and grandpa were showing you how to match those numbers together. I was about six when I learned. Some of the families used to bet; there are team competitions between families. I've played dominoes here, but it's not typical for women to be allowed to play in public in Puerto Rico. According to my dad, in the old days it was considered a man's game. Women were cooking or doing each other's hair or gossiping while the men were playing. There are domino clubs all over Puerto Rico. I don't know of any here, but if you go to Humboldt Park you'll see the dominoes tables. It's like playing chess in the American culture; it's a way for us to celebrate life.

--Vilma Colom, former 35th Ward alderman, now executive coordinator of Women's Justice Services for the Cook County sheriff's office

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