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Stereotypes in Ortiz Cofer’s Essay


When you encounter the term “stereotype” you will remember an individual, or group of individuals being labeled in a prejudiced way either on the basis of race, ethnicity, or gender. When human beings are exposed to too many stereotypes, they make them eventually internalize and believe and conceive them as a reality. There are many stereotypes people experience in life. This is much exemplified in Judith Ortiz essay, “The Myth of the Latin Woman: I Just Met a Girl Named Maria.” This short essay brings out the kind of stereotypes perpetuated by the media against the Hispanic women. This paper explains the stereotypes attached to the Hispanic ethnic community, how the stereotypes are perpetuated, and how they may be damaging to this ethnic community.

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In this short narrative, Judith Ortiz Cofer reveals her experiences as a woman from Latin ethnic community. She calmly and vividly relays the struggles she has had to encounter with the ethnic stereotyping in her life. The first scene in this narrative indicates Cofer’s past experiences with ethnic stereotyping. As she was riding on a bus from London to Oxford, one summer, a “young man fell to his feet on seeing her.” The young man then started singing his own version of “Maria” from the west side story. This reminded Cofer of the fact that she will always be exposed to ethnic stereotypes no matter where she is. As long as she is a Latina, she will always experience ethnic stereotypes everywhere (Cofer, 6).

Secondly, she experienced cultural stereotypes as she describes her earlier upbringing in 1960s in New Jersey to have caused her “cultural schizophrenia.” She was brought up by strict parents when she was a young girl, and as a teenager, her parents required her to act like a “proper senorita.” She was also amazed that Puerto Rican mothers expected their daughters to act like mature women (Cofer, 204).

Thirdly, there is the element of sexual stereotypes and misconceptions portrayed against Hispanic women. For instance, they are referred to as “hot tamales” and “sexual firebrand.” Last but not least, she reveals the stereotype that all Latin women being viewed as housemaids (Cofer, 205).

How these Stereotypes are Perpetuated

According to Cofer, these stereotypes seem to be perpetuated or encouraged in a number of ways. First, when the young man began to sing his own version of “Maria,” from the west side story, Cofer’s fellow passengers seemed to be amused with the Youngman instead of giving him a reprimand (Cofer, 6).

Second, cultural prejudice was perpetuated by Puerto Rican mothers who were strict with their daughters and encouraged them to act and behave like mature women. Puerto Rican women are also influenced by their mothers on ways to dress and behave (Cofer, 204).

Third, the sexual stereotype is perpetuated and encouraged by Puerto Rican mothers who influence their daughters on their mode of dressing and behavior. Puerto Rican women often dress promiscuously, described as to “keep cool” and “look sexy.” This stereotype was also encouraged by Puerto Rican ritual practices where women dress up in their best outfits, and visit the town plaza to greet young males. According to Coffer, when a Puerto Rican girl dresses in a certain manner, and then meets a boy of “mainstream culture,” the boy may interpret her looks as a sexual impulse; an emergence of a “clash” is most likely (Cofer, 204).

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How these Stereotypes may be damaging to the Hispanic Community

These stereotypes, dehumanize Latin women where the principle notion about life displayed in Cofer’s narrative reveals that western societies look down upon Latin women in terms of ethnic stereotyping, sexual tools, or selfless housewives. Stereotypes make societies believe and perpetuate bias about particular ethnic groups. In reality, those stereotypes may not relate to members of that ethnic background.

Work Cited

Cofer, J. The Myth of Latin Woman: I Just Met a Girl Named Maria. Georgia: University of Georgia Press, 1993.

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"Stereotypes in Ortiz Cofer’s Essay." StudyCorgi, 3 Nov. 2021,

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StudyCorgi. (2021) 'Stereotypes in Ortiz Cofer’s Essay'. 3 November.

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