“The Myth of the Latin woman: I just met a girl named Maria.” identifies the hardships experienced by a Latin woman from Puerto Rico due to stereotypes fuelled by the media. Cofer unravels the discriminations she suffered as a Latin woman in the United Sates. She identifies the myriad stereotypes she was subjected to, and in as much way, she offers to identify her insights on what would trigger the rise of stereotypes. It would be imperative to admit that stereotyping is an established practice within the society and happens almost naturally. However, some practices can be natural due to tradition but destructive in various ways. Despite the notion that stereotyping is a practice occasioned by the various cultural backgrounds, it would be thoughtful to consider stereotyping as a discriminative practice. Usually, the stereotypes offer ideas that define particular aspects of the society from a general perspective. Despite the majority of the people confirming the line of thought, that does not overrule the existence of an exception. Most Americans in New Jersey believed all the housemaids were Latin. The statement holds to a particular extent since most of the housemaids are Latin. However, Cofer is not a housemaid. This implies that the various ideologies championed within a stereotype might not always be true. In fact, some stereotypes are too far from the reality.
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Cofer identifies stereotypes as beneficial and claims she knows where stereotypes come from. One could possibly relate to her own personal experience. She becomes a victim of ethnic stereotyping. She traces back into the summer; in the summer incident, a young man is overcome by her beauty and falls on his knees after he saw her. She had boarded the bus in London and was going to Oxford University (Cofer 6). The young man was so delighted about her to the extent that he composed his own version of “Maria” from the West Side Story, and sang it to her. Even though she was not amused, her fellow passengers within the bus found it amusing. She was only reminded that she was always vulnerable to ethnic stereotyping for as long as she was a Latina. This way, the essay identifies stereotyping as an inevitable aspect within the society. Cofer identifies herself as being vulnerable to ethnic stereotyping. In a society where one is considered a foreigner, one is bound to be discriminated by the society. However, this does not depict stereotyping as a certain practice within the society. Rather, most people find it hard to contradict to the societal norms or customs that have been long established. One is bound to embrace numerous stereotypes as he seeks to abide by the societal norms or customs.
Then again, she believes her Hispanic appearances often contrive stereotypes. She explains how she suffered “cultural schizophrenia” as she grew up in New Jersey in the early 1960s.According to her, her life in Puerto Rico perfectly matched her life in the United States. She remembers of how her parents were so strict to her and when she was instructed to behave like a “proper senorita.” She is puzzled as to why most Puerto Rican mothers encourage their daughters to behave and dress like mature women. However, she comes to realize that it was the culture. She remembers a high school incident when she was forced to dress like a person going for an interview while she was only attending a Career Day. According to her, Puerto Rican women go all out when dressing. They often wear lots of jewelry and accessories (Cofer 204). This implies that stereotypes are often inflicted by the cultural practice. It should be noted that the Latin confine within a particular dress code in a bid to conform to their culture. In as much way, the society might develop stereotypes based on the practice exhibited by particular groups of people.
Cofer notes a comment from a friend and concludes that Puerto Rican girls are often “vulgar” and “hopeless.” She admits that every girl at some point is forced to get out of her own element (Cofer 204). However, she believes that the young Puerto Rican girls have more pronounced bad traits and are more likely to go out of their normal habits. She attributes the origin of the diverse misconceptions and stereotypes to “mixed cultural signals.” For instance, “hot tamales” are Hispanic women who are identified as sexual icons. Among the many stereotypes established about Latin women is that of being a “sexual firebrand.” Cofer points out that most Puerto Rican mothers influence the way their daughters dress and behave. According to her, such practices cannot be inherited from one generation to the other but is conserved as a custom of the society. It is believed that in Puerto Rico women are compelled to dress promiscuously to remain “cool” in the warm environment and to appear “sexy.” In the confines of this region, people seldom cast aspersions on them since they are protected by the traditions and customs of the society. She describes a commonly practice ritual in Puerto Rico; young girls are often required to dress up in their best outfits and take to the market to greet the young males. Then again, the young males would recite poems to the girls in an attempt to win their interest. However, a “clash” is bound to arise when a boy in the mainstream culture confronts a Puerto Rican girl who is attractively dressed. She amazes as to why some people, including those who know better, should look down upon other people. According to her, even those who have adequate knowledge that would be fundamental in debunking stereotypes indulge in stereotyping. This depicts stereotyping as a difficult to avert practice that is within the society.
She also describes yet another scene where she was a victim of stereotyping. A man approached Cofer and started singing songs like “La Bamba” and “Don’t cry for me, Argentina,” but he twisted the lyrics and sung about a young girl called “Maria” and gonorrhea. Despite being hurt, Cofer managed to handle the situation without evoking conflict. Then again, she poses a stereotype yet again; that all the housemaids are often Latin. She notes that most domestic chores are granted to people with few skills and those who speak fewer English. However, it would be mindful to note that not all the Latin women speak less English or have fewer skills. Cofer argues that the media should be blamed for publicizing such stereotypes. In her life, she traces an incident when she was stereotyped. During her first public poem reading in a restaurant, she is mistaken by a woman for a waitress. She perceived that as a minor misconception and convinced herself that the woman did not mean that much harm. Then, she has always been a victim of ethnic stereotyping. This depicts the various situations one has had to find himself out of a misconception. Sometimes people often draw conclusions without paying due consideration to the matter.
In conclusion, Cofer identifies that she is lucky to be educated. She believes that having substantial education will grant her an advantage over other Puerto Rican women. She identifies the struggles the Latin women embrace each day due to misconceptions and ethnic stereotypes. She hopes that she will devote her knowledge to transform the stereotypes into realities. By the end of the essay, one is bound to realize the feeling one has as a Latin woman. It would be mindful to admit that even in the current society; most stereotypes are contrived based on skin color. The personal experiences shared by Cofer relates to the tribulations faced by myriad women within the public domain.
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