The Myth Of The Latin Woman: Accepting One’s Identity

June 22, 2022 by Essay Writer

Growing up in a society where stereotyping and using your prejudices to judge people is the norm is actually wrong, however, this is the world we live in. Ignorance is not bliss. If you do not know about something, then you should worry about it and learn. This can very well lead to cultural appropriation and in a way discrimination. In “The Myth of the Latin Woman: I Just Met a Girl Named Maria” by Judith Ortiz Cofer and Jenny Boully’s “A Short Essay on Being” the ideas of being looked at as a stereotype through blindspots/ the ignorance of others towards their identities is very well showcased, yet the ways in which both authors reacted to such reactions were polar opposites. Is there a right way to react in such cases, if so how?

Nowadays Latin American and Asian people in America, in particular, females are going through a social and cultural shift that is reexamining the ways they see the world, one another, and themselves. They are not changing to comply or accommodate to old customs and roles towards their gender as harshly and direct as before, they are now using their backgrounds to build up their own lives. Knowing and being able to interpret/use a language other than English and having a background with cultural diversity is now seen as a plus in our society, especially in the workplace.

In the essay “The Myth of the Latin Woman: I Just Met a Girl Named Maria”, Judith Ortiz Cofer discusses her childhood and transformation into adulthood. She emphasizes the way people would acknowledge and act towards her just for being Hispanic and her Puerto Rican heritage. Ortiz Cofer communicates her point of view when it comes to stereotypes/prejudices that she and other women of Hispanic and Latin backgrounds are placed in. One example that she brings up is when a drunk man started singing “Maria” from “Westside Story” to her just because she was Latina. This made her feel extremely uncomfortable and this man immediately assumed that it would be fine to sing this song to her just because she was Latina. She reacted in a “reserved and cool” manner which was a normal way to react given the circumstances that she and the man were in (Ortiz Cofer 370). If she would have reacted in a loud or aggressive way, given the man was drunk, things could have ended rough.

Ortiz Cofer thinks back on her childhood and remembers different ways some people would connect with her, being a Latina, and others, being non-Latinas. She finds these cultural biases and interactions to be similar as if “the Island travels with you” (Ortiz Cofer 371). Ortiz Cofer explains how she “agonized” over the choice of what she was going to wear for career day (Ortiz Cofer 371). She “had no models on which to base [her] decision” about what clothing items to put together for career day and ended up putting on “a composite of” various role models and experienced choices (Ortiz Cofer 371). Her Italian American friend later confessed to her that Latino girls in her school typically stood out on career day for wearing ‘everything at once’ (Ortiz Cofer 372). Ortiz Cofer carries on to uncover this myth of a Latin woman as being a “good domestic” or stereotypical cleaner/maid or a stay-at-home housewife by revealing, how when one of the first times she was presenting and reading in front of an amateur audience she was confused by one of the guests as a waitress (Ortiz Cofer 374). She was the main featured speaker and this random lady that asked for some coffee ended up finding herself embarrassed by her culturally insensitive prejudice and ignorance. Ortiz Cofer realizes that this woman did not deliberately ‘profile’ her, but she did confess that this and all other prejudices that come with being Latina is something that she will need to overcome and not let get to her (Ortiz Cofer 374). She would still need to speak up and prove these stereotypes and prejudices of others towards her Latin culture wrong, especially when it comes to cultural appropriation.

A generic definition of cultural appropriation is when a person takes some parts of any type of culture that does not form part of their own. In Jenny Boully’s “A Short Essay on Being” cultural appropriation was a big thing seen all throughout. In the essay, Boully discusses various types of situations that she was in where people would act rude and say ignorant non culturally appropriate things to her. She doesn’t correct the mistakes of her friends and people who stereotype her and are culturally insensitive because she realizes that they are more interested in talking and pretending that they know more in respect to her culture than she does. She says by not reacting towards these comments that she is living the “Thai way” (Boully 8). The Thai way is one in which “you don’t show others their errors—you let them eventually come to learn the errors of their ways and have them come to you for forgiveness later” (Boully 9). At the end of her essay, Boully confesses how she acted in the Thai way knowing that her friends and their roommates would never eventually learn such errors, however, by not reacting to them she is being appropriate to herself and her culture.

Boully and Ortiz Cofer acted in such ways that neither disrespected nor belittled their culture. Being a Hispanic American born into what is looked at as a “white neighborhood”, I found myself relating to both essays and putting myself in both situations trying to figure out how I would have reacted. Yes, I may not fall into what a stereotypical Latina looks and or acts like, however, others seem to put me into that position right off of the bat based on their prejudices. I am Ecuadorian, brought up in a white suburb, with parents working white-collar jobs, I have good grades, always made sure my words and ideas make sense, yet growing up I was always treated harshly and as a minority towards my fellow peers. I didn’t fit into my own family as some cousins would say I was too white to fit in. Either, I was too white for the Ecuadorians or too Ecuadorian for the Americans. I was also almost immediately placed or confused as Mexican, which I did not mind, however, was a bit annoying when Cinco De Mayo came along. I do not like spicy food, nor do I have a ranch which was found odd by my fellow latin Mexican friends all throughout elementary school and beyond. As the years have gone by, I have learned to accept and embrace my Ecuadorian heritage and inform others of being Ecuadorian even if it is something as simple as showing them where Ecuador is on a map. I do not take offense to stereotypes as I have learned that their stereotypes come from ignorant people who I then teach the Ecuadorian culture.

We as Americans are afraid to be wrong and to ask questions about things that we are ignorant about such as culture because we love to be right. Yet, if only we all knew that being knowledgeable about someone or something and accepting the fact that we should ask the right questions will make us less vulnerable. Ultimately, we choose to remain in our comfort zone, which brings us to square one only to realize that bliss doesn’t always come from ignorance and vice versa. People should appreciate their identity and help others learn by bringing awareness to their cultures just like Ortiz Cofer and Boully have.

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