Good Cultural Issues In Latina/O Writing Essay Example
In her short story Not for Sale, Judith Ortiz Cofer explores the cultural issues a sixteen-year old American-Puerto Rican girl undergoes living with her parents who are native Puerto Ricans, who crossed from the Latin world into the United States, in a new environment that she seems to understand better than they do. These cultural issues are further compounded by the presence of an Arab man ‘El Arabe’ who has his own challenges with both American and Latino culture to overcome. Similarly, in her poem Geraldo No Last Name, Sandra Cisneros illustrates the struggle for Latino immigrants to fit in the new culture after ‘going north’. In this essay, I attempt to critically analyze the concepts of the mestizo consciousness, borderlands, and cross-culture challenges influence the writings of Latino writers.
In both works, there is a stark realization of the Latino/a people not belonging in their new society. They are faced with a myriad of cultural challenges and attitudes towards them are not welcoming from wither side of the border. In Cofer’s short story, the teenage girl who is the story’s main character feels trapped between her parents’ Puerto Rican culture and the American culture around her. While she wants to linger around the drugstore with her high school classmates, like a normal American teenager, her father wants her to remain in the house and do no such things because she is a “decent Puerto Rican señorita, not a wild American teenager”. In the end, however, she is caught between the two cultures, without belonging to either; a key element of mestizo consciousness. In the same manner, Geraldo from Cisneros’s poem is described as “just another brazer who didn’t speak English. Just another wetback.” Nobody seems to care for Geraldo in America and at the end of the poem, it appears they no longer care for him in his home country as they simply “wonder, shrug, remember” and move on. Geraldo is also caught between two worlds that could not care less for him.
While it is difficult to identify the presence of borderlands in either of the works, it would appear that the authors perhaps examine mental divisions of culture rather than actual borders. In Not for Sale, the teenage girl’s parents are not separated by a border from American culture, rather it is their mental constraints that keep them from exploring and accepting the culture around them. It would then appear that the relevance of borderlands as in culture is not only physically restricted to these actual locations, but in the minds of men, regardless of where they reside within the new culture.
Finally, cross-cultural challenges are very explicitly brought out in both writings. In Not for Sale, the narrator’s father appears resentful of American culture, despite living in the country and her daughter seemingly embracing it. Similarly, El Arabe appears to have retained his Arab culture despite living in a new country, with a people of different culture, as he attempts to negotiate a price for the narrator with her father. What results is a cacophony of cultural conflict where each man simply believes he is practicing his culture. Ironically, the narrator’s father, who seems to hold onto his culture so dearly, appears enraged by El Arabe’s offer, yet the Arab is simply holding onto his culture in a similar manner. Similarly, in Cisneros’s poem, there appears to be cross-cultural challenges as Geraldo lives in a new culture where he does not speak the language or even appear to understand cultures other than his. Although he lives in America, the line “and his home is in another country” appears to espouse the notion that Geraldo is not part of the American life in any way. This points to a greater cross-cultural conflict between him and his new country.
The writings of Judith Ortiz Cofer in Not for Sale and Sandra Cisneros in Geraldo No Last Name appear to be highly accurate and perhaps inspired by events in their own lives as Hispanics in a new culture. They are an apt demonstration of how the concepts of the mestizo consciousness, borderlands, and cross-culture challenges influence the writings of Latino writers.
Cisneros, S. (1991). Geraldo No Last Name. The House on Mango Street.
Cofer, J. O. (1992). Not for Sale. Kenyon Review, 51-55.