An award-winning Puerto-Rican poet, essayist, and novelist Judith Ortiz Cofer starts her piece of writing with the story of how she met a man in a bus. The man started singing Maria from West Side Story once he had spotted Cofer. That way, the author raises the issue of the stereotypes associated with people’s appearances in her example. Further, Cofer describes her childhood and early teenage years, as she was raised in terms of the cultural equation in the family and instructed to behave appropriately as a genuine senorita. The author remembers that her mother encouraged her to dress and act like a “real” woman, and Cofer felt humiliated appearing at a friend’s party in semi-formal clothes. Older Puerto-Rican women used to tell Cofer about wearing the best party clothes for Saturday nights and visiting the town’s plaza to join other girls and draw boys’ attention.
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The author and some professional friends of hers find it surprising that some people, especially those who should know more, still believe that other people can be put “in their place.” Cofer provides many exemplary situations (similar to the one in the bus) of offensive behavior of other people towards her because of her appearance and nationality. Although Cofer acquired several techniques for managing her inner anger, she still experiences it each time she confronts an offender like the one on the bus. Writing the article under discussion is another Cofer’s step to replacing the old stereotypes and myths concerning her nation and her people with “a much more interesting set of realities.” As Cofer says, she hopes that her readings and writings can one day contribute to the changes in people’s attitudes and help them see past her skin, color, and clothes.