Introduction to Latina and Latino Literature/Judith Ortiz

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Judith Ortiz

Brief Biography[edit]

Born in Hormingueros, Puerto Rico, Judith Ortiz Cofer’s date of birth is February 24th 1952. She is well noted as a poet, novelist, and essayist. With a father in the U.S Navy, Judith spent her early years traveling back and forth between Puerto Rico and Patterson New Jersey. Ortiz Cofer’s constant traveling exposed to her cultural family life back in Puerto Rico. Through her grandmother’s tales of her family, Judith grew a passion for storytelling.[1]

In Ortiz Cofer’s teenage years she began traveling some more and during high school her family settled in Georgia. Here Judith was enrolled in Catholic school and received many awards and acknowledgments for her fine arts and creativity. In 1989 Judith wrote her first novel: In the Line of the Sun which was nominated for a Pulitzer Prize. Shortly following, the novel was named one of the “Twenty-five Most Memorable Books” of that year. [2]

Place in Latina/o Literature[edit]

Judith Ortiz Cofer has a great commitment to her community which can be seen in her writing. She focuses on the emotion of her readers. Her aim is to create like responses between each reader by writing in such a way that triggers emotion from audience to audience. Ortiz Cofer’s main focus/theme of her works is the experiences of the Puerto Rican people. She tells stories of the woman emigrants through her experiences as a migrant. Ortiz is a Georgian writer in which she cherishes, for her works have been noted as top 25 books Georgians should read. Through Ortiz’s stories, essays, and poems on the Puerto Rican Culture, she is able to create a guide for students on “how to be a Georgian.”[3] This guide serves as a blue print to how one should cope with society allowing her viewers and readers to know, that different cultures and backgrounds can come together for one purpose and that is to live life.

Comparison to Other Latina/o Authors[edit]

Like Sandra Cisneros, Judith Ortiz Cofer is a feminist writer. Both authors deal with what it is like to be a woman of Hispanic culture growing up in the world. This is seen in their short stories, poems and essays. One poem in particular written by Judith Ortiz Cofer entitled: “Esperanza” can be compared to Cisneros short story: Never Marry a Mexican.

“Esperanza” Is a poem that can be interpreted to be about the curse of a daughter due to her mother’s sin. Ortiz Cofer writes: “All my life I have scoured a house soiled with the thick soot of his resentment” (lines 6-8). This quote suggests the heavy burden the narrator has on her shoulders due to the hatred she is met with from her father because of her mother. With a theme of the passing down of sin and a broken household, Judith Ortiz Cofer’s “Esperanza” compares to Sandra Cisnero’s Never Marry a Mexican because main character Cleofilla lives a life of promiscuity due to her mother’s broken marriage. The author opens up the story by saying: “Never marry a Mexican my ma said once and always. She said this because of my father.”(Cisneros 68) This quote allows the reader to get a first glimpse of Cleofilla’s family life at home. Her mother and father are not happily married, and through this relationship she grows to never know what it is like to truly love and accept marriage. The resentment and sadness coming from the words in “Esperanza” can be compared to the coldness and sadness Cleofilla in Never Marry a Mexican feels for the men in both characters lives release bad energy towards the women.

The Hispanic Feminine culture that Judith Ortiz Cofer displays can be compared to not only Sandra Cisneros but many Latina and Latino authors as well. Through Ortiz Cofer's versatile narration, readers are able to relate to her writing because she deals with common issues of society, feminism being one.

Analysis of Specific Texts[edit]

"El Olvido" by Judith Ortiz has a main theme of culture. Ortiz relays a message:: do not forget where you came from. The opening line of the poem says: "It is a dangerous thing to forget the climate of your birthplace." A line suggesting that a person should not forget where he/she came from. The author used the word climate suggesting weather conditions which is a form of feeling and emotion. You can leave where you have comefrom, but that feeling of where you have been should never leave. To use such language allows the reader to acknowledge Ortiz Cofer's style of writing: so precise, yet vague for a diverse audience.

Another poem entitled Esperanza concentrates on a more personal level. The last sentence: "In my hands I hold a broom, in my heart- ashes, ashes" touches upon an even deeper level. Although Ortiz Cofer narrates from a personal standpoint, her readers are allowed to feel as she feels. The metaphor used above can symbolize a person with the tools to sweep away their problems however the battles are locked deep within.

Literary Criticism[edit]

Rafael Ocasio constructed and interviewed Judith Ortiz Cofer in 1992. The interview touched upon Ortiz's writing style and her use of ethnicity, feminism, and semantic shifts. Ocasio states that while it is common for an author in the Latina/o culture to concentrate on where he or she came from and conform to expected themes Ortiz Cofer concentrated on something different. Ocasio allowed for the audience to realize that through Ortiz Cofer's traveling, she became exposed to the migrant experience. Through this cultural experience Judith was able to incorporate her own emotions into her work while obtaining a grasp on the people around her. Ocasio makes mention of Ortiz Cofer's narration through women points of view, and instead of concentrating on the stereotypical role of women; Ortiz Cofer goes beyond the norm and writes about various alternatives to growing up as a woman in society.

Links to Online Copies of Texts[edit]

Judith Ortiz's El Olvido Judith Ortiz's Esperanza Judith Ortiz's Silent Dancing

Miscellaneous Links[edit]

The Myth of the Latin Woman http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Judith_Ortiz_Cofer http://www.nyu.edu/cas/ewp/html/selwynchu03.html

Syllabi[edit]

Advanced Placement English Language and Composition English II Harvard University: The Politics of Language and Identity in Latin America

Bibliography of Secondary Sources[edit]

. University of Minnesota, Online Posting to Voices from the Gaps. http://voices.cla.umn.edu/about/history.html Ethnicity, Feminism, and Semantic Shifts in the Work of Judith Ortiz Cofer http://quod.lib.umich.edu/p/postid/pid9999.0003.104/--ethnicity-feminism-and-semantic-shifts-in-the-work-of-judith?rgn=main;view=fulltext New Georgia Encyclopedia http://www.georgiaencyclopedia.org/articles/arts-culture/judith-ortiz-cofer-b-1952

References[edit]

  1. Voices from the Gaps
  2. Georgia Writers Hall of Fame
  3. Georgia Writer's Hall of Fame