How Flaco Navaja, Poet, Singer and Actor, Spends His Sunday


This profile article by Mosi Secret appeared in The New York Times.

When Flaco Navaja, a Bronx-born poet, singer and actor, is not performing on one of the city’s stages, singing with salsa bands or working on his one-man show, he is most likely running between them — to auditions or practice sessions, or sometimes just for exercise. A former M.C. at Nuyorican Poets Cafe and performer on HBO’s Def Poetry Jam, Mr. Navaja is always on the move, but East Harlem is home. He lives there with his wife, Dilcia Arroyo, 35, an aesthetician. (He did not want to reveal his own age, insisting that he can still get roles playing teenagers.) Mr. Navaja, a member of the Pregones Theater company, recently made a guest appearance on the FX television series “Sex & Drugs & Rock & Roll,” and can also be seen in the film “Babygirl,” which is set in the Bronx.

GIVE THANKS The first thing I do is wake up and kiss my wife and thank Jesus for another day. My weekends are my wife’s weekdays. She works at spas. Some of the time she wakes up before me. Some days I wake up early and run. Some days I have to wake up early and run to an audition.

MORNING ELIXIR I’ll make some coffee. If I got almond milk, it will be coffee with almond milk and some brown sugar. My wife got me on this health kick. It’s going really well. Sometimes I’ll make a smoothie.

CHURCH After breakfast, we head down to church for the 10 a.m. service. I attend Times Square Church. Now we are doing the 10 a.m. service because of work duties. But usually we like going to the 3 p.m. church service because there is a Bible study. Some Sundays at 12:30 we have a marriage oneness class. It’s like a workshop for couples.

THOSE WORK DUTIES The councilwoman and speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito is a big-time supporter of East Harlem and the South Bronx, and she partnered with a couple of organizations to do La Marqueta Retoña. They have all these different street vendors and cool food and music underneath the elevated train at 116th Street and Park Avenue. I’m the host.

LA MARQUETA The scene is an eclectic group of people. What is cool about it is they have these layers — these tiers almost. On the top level there is a beer garden that they set up. I joke and mess with people that that’s where the hipsters are. Then there is a guy with a Spanish lechonera called La Piraña. My man got a machete and he’s just chopping up tons of pork, and it’s really good. There’s a lady right next to him making quesadillas. There’s an organic bakery dude making some good cookies. You keep going down and there are some older vendors. And then next to the stage you got the hard-core salsa people, also older. And then on the stage there is a salsa band performing and me cracking jokes and having people buy stuff.

EXIT STAGE RIGHT After La Marqueta, if my wife is there with me, we will go have a nice dinner and just decompress. We go to Nocciola in Harlem, my favorite Italian spot. He refuses to charge me. It all sounds like fun and games, and it is a lot of fun. But a lot of times we fail to acknowledge that we can be going through things in our lives that we have to work through. I can make people feel good about themselves but be stressed out. But at the end of the day, it’s very important to have someone like my wife to just decompress. She’s like, “All right, brother, everyone loves you, but bring it back down to earth.” The more time we spend together, the more we get to understand the effect of our careers. We have only been married seven months. But we have been together for four years. Five.

HOOKED ON A SERIES After the meal, we come home and chill unless I have to work somewhere else. If not, we’ll watch television. Sometimes we get hooked on a series. The last show was “The Killing.” Sometimes she’ll have her iPad, and she’ll watch one show and I’ll watch another on my laptop. I’m watching “Fringe” and she’s watching “Grey’s Anatomy.” Sometimes if the mood is heavy we put on some comedy.

YO, DOUBLE DIGITS We realized that we are getting to the age where double digits on the clock mean it’s bedtime. I’ll look at her and say, “Yo, double digits, turn off that light.” That’s a testament to our new life where we aren’t partying like we used to.

For the original report go to®ion=Footer&module=MoreInSection&version=WhatsNext&contentID=WhatsNext&pgtype=article&_r=0

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s