The Myth of the Latino Woman.
The Myth of the Latino Woman
The entire narration by Judith Ortiz Cofer uses various styles to take a subtle, thinly veiled swipe at the stereotypic identities in the American society imposed upon the Latino woman. In their constructions, Judith examines the cultural differences between the Latinos and Americans, especially women, from dressing, education and gender roles, with a critical examination of their own lives as a Puerto Rican immigrant living in the United States as well as the experiences of a few other characters involved in the plot (Miller, 34). The author uses solid examples of their own pains with stereotypes and the contradictions they faced in a bid to avoid cultural biases. This paper discusses the “myth of the Latin woman” highlighted by Judith Ortiz and proposes an explanation over why the author discusses them.
The most prominent myth about Latin women highlighted by Judith Cofer is on the dressing code. The author outlines their struggles with finding a suitable dress to put on for the school’s career day due to the many stereotypes that surrounded the manner in which Latin and Hispanic women dressed. As one who was conscious of the cultural biases and stereotypic notions, they were keen to avoid propagating such by conforming to the stereotypic identity. Cofer (13) states that being a Latino was like being an “island” due to the manner in which the biases set one aside from the crowd despite even trying to master the American English and getting an education. As the author struggled to choose what to wear, they reflect on what an Italian-American friend had told them in college that Latino girls were always exceptional “for wearing everything at once” (43). Ideally, the society deemed all female Latinos as people who loved to overdress in flashy and vibrant colors compared to Americans who were modest in their dressing.
Cofer (57) also discusses the stereotyping of the Latin woman as a menial housemaid rather than a working woman capable of an education and a respectable career. The author reflects on a past event where they were actually one of the speakers but got confused by one of the attendees as one among the service staff. To the American society, any Latin woman was either a housemaid or committed to those kind of jobs that require little or no skill (Miller, 21). There was little belief that any of they was educated or capable of it leave alone getting a position like speaking to an American audience. The confinement to household chores is further propelled by the myth that Latino women were sexually expressive, and though the author acknowledges that their cultural practices fueled this myth, Cofer (231) reckons that it had led to unprecedented abuses on Latinos, mostly sexual harassment. Due to the sexualization of their identity, the view of their presence in mainstream careers and education became obfuscated, with many Americans viewing them as household confines.
The highlight of these themes by the author is made for several reasons. First, the author urges the Latinos to stand up against them and prove their abilities beyond the retrogressive identities consistent with anachronism that had been imposed on them. The sexualized tags such as the “hot tamale” that were given to Latino women have been rebuked by Cofer (32)with an aim of making the Latinos themselves outlive them ad seek tangible success in the competitive education spheres and careers. The author also aims to unravel the genesis of the stereotypes, in a bid to help the Latino women decipher on how to avoid them. It is the author’s intention to make clear their own cultural origins of the stereotypes such as the housemaid myth in order to prevent irredeemable conformity.
There is little doubt that ultimately, Cofer (34) desires a multifaceted change characterized by an overall departure from the preconceived notions. The author takes a swipe at the stereotypes in order to belittle them and demonstrate that Latinos are just more than what they dictate. Furthermore, they urge Latinos to regress against them and get their act together in terms of education and careers in order to help to waiver away many of the prejudices. It is apparent that the author feels that the efforts from the Latinos is disproportionate to the set standards, as they state that they are among the few who are “lucky” to get an education and a conscious understanding of the prejudices. Therefore, they seek change right from the affected in order to have the stereotypes propagated about them also change from the perpetrating side.
Judith’s “Myth of the Latino woman” consists of two main ideas constituted in three stereotypes about Latino women. The main ideas are that the dressing of Latinos is flashy, excessive and vibrant, while their roles in society are limited to the house. The latter is supported by another sub-myth that involves the sexualization of their identity. Apparently, the intention of the author is to highlight the sources of the stereotypes in both sides of the cultural divide, inspire a revolution against them from the Latinos and ultimately witness change from both sides and in all dimensions.
Cofer, Judith Ortiz. “The Myth of the Latin Woman: I Just Met a Girl Named Maria. 1993.” Readings for OSU Writers. Boston: Bedford/St. Martin’s (2007): 31-36.
Cofer, Judith Ortiz. The myth of the Latin woman: I just met a girl named Maria. na, 2001.
Miller, Francesca. Latin American women and the search for social justice. UPNE, 1991.
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