West Side Story Wiki

“Everyone of you hates everyone of us, and we hate you right back.” - Bernarto to Riff

Bernardo is an important side character West Side Story. His character is based partly on Tybalt (Juliet's cousin) from Shakespeare's Romeo & Juliet.


Bernardo is a Puerto Rican migrant and founder/leader of the Sharks, a Hispanic street gang who are in the midst of a turf war with their archenemies, the Jets. He is the older brother of Maria and is Anita's boyfriend.


In an attempt to make a better life for himself and his family, Bernardo's immigrated to the mainland before Maria. After Maria's arrival, Bernardo becomes her protector and, to her annoyance, often lords his status as older brother over her. Over time, he begins to regret coming to America, identifying man issues and becoming nostalgic of the way things were Puerto Rico ("America").

The Jets[]

Bernardo developed a dislike for Americans after he was attacked by members of the Jets the day he arrived in New York. He decided he would form his own street gang which he named the Sharks. Under Bernardo's leadership, the Sharks became a formidable gang in the Manhattan neighborhood of Lincoln Square and eventually became the number one rival gang to the Jets.

West Side Story (1961)[]

George Chakiris as Bernardo (1961)

His hatred flares up for the Jets after he catches Maria and Tony kissing for the first time when they meet at the dance that was set up so the jets could challenge the sharks to a fight. After he sends Maria home he is about to go after Tony, but he is blocked by Riff, who cajoles Bernardo into a war council (a meeting to determine logistics for a planned rumble); the two leaders agree to meet at Doc's Drug Store.

During the war council, Bernardo and Riff are discussing weapons when Tony comes in and reminds them that a rumble can be clinched by a fair fight- to wit, the best fighter from each gang to slug it out one-on-one, winner take all; over objections from other members of both gangs, Bernardo accepts, thinking that he will be fighting Tony, but Riff, knowing that Tony is not a current member of the Jets, hoodwinks Bernardo and puts forth Ice as the Jets' champion.

At the rumble, Bernardo and Ice are just starting when Tony arrives to attempt to stop the fight after maria tells him he must stop the fight while they were in the dress shop , but when Bernardo and the Sharks mock Tony and call him "chicken", Riff, unwilling to see Tony humiliated, steps in and slugs Bernardo, and both gang leaders whip out switchblades and begin fighting one another. Tony again attempts to stop the fighting by pulling Riff back, but Riff breaks away from Tony the characters lunge and trip each other, and at on point riff drops his knife, but he retreaves it and charges again, only to be stabbed in the ribs by Bernardo. In an angry fit of vengeance, Tony takes Riff's switchblade and stabs Bernardo, killing him. Riff and Bernado are left on the floor while the other gang members scatter.


"Now I will not say these things to spoil your evening or to hear myself talk. I am here longer than you, Maria. Someday, when you're an old married woman with five children, then you can tell me what to do. Right now, it's the other way around. Now go to bed." - Bernardo to Maria

"Ah, my sister is a precious jewel!" - Bernardo to Maria