Judith Ortiz Cofer’s family moved to New Jersey in1950 when she was three years old (69).
Cofer describes what it was like growing up in between two different cultures, histories, traditions and languages. She sees her family’s, her community’s and own transformation as she grows up. Her family started buying expensive clothes and going out for lunch, as the Puerto Rican community was getting bigger and bigger.
All Cofer could remember from her childhood was shades of grey. As newly arrived immigrants in the U.S, they met racial prejudice and discrimination. She learned how to play in silence and be quiet in general because her father didn’t want his children to make friends with other Puerto Ricans. She started becoming Americanized when she became a fan of American series. For her, having their own TV in El Building was a luxury (71).
The television helped her see the differences between Americans and Puerto Ricans. Growing older Cofer could see how different her brother’s girlfriend, who had just come to the U.S, was from her cousin that grew up in U.S. In “Silent Dancing”, Cofer kept a balance between the traditional Puerto Rican culture and the modern American culture.
As Cofer describes her father, he was a hardworking man. His “obsession” to leave the “barrio” did not allow the family to form any bonds with the place or the people who lived there. But for her mother, who had never completely gotten over leaving her homeland, the overwhelmingly Puerto Rican atmosphere of the “barrio” was comforting (70).
The depression era family culture demonstrated a close knit community which spent large amounts of time together (Craig 2006). Many families used to gather around the same radio and listen to entertainment or news and the fire side chats then President Roosevelt gave provided reassurance for a worried public (Craig 2006). The lifestyle of a nuclear family with close contacts has developed to a ...
This concept is clear when Cofer writes, “the only thing his money could not buy us was a place to live away from the barrio- his greatest wish, Mothers greatest fear” (71).
Her mother was shopping at “La Bodega”, a small store across the street, where she could find her favorite products. They were the only ones in El Building that were celebrating Christmas and Dia de Reyes (71).
Few years later Cofer’s family started shopping at big stores such as Penny’s and Sears. They would dress up like child models and go out for lunch at good restaurants (72).
When the family first moved to New Jersey, it was hard to find a house. The landlords were afraid of the arrival of Latinos to their neighborhood. Cofer’s family could live only at the El Building because they had olive skin and black hair. The store owners accepted the family as good customers, since Cofer’s parents were spending their money on their businesses, but not yet as neighbors. Only years later, as Cofer declares, the whole zone becomes Puerto Ricans (69).
Cofer’s cousin is completely Americanized, her behavior represents the fading cultural identity. Although her obvious disrespect and rejection of her Puerto Rican background, she was ironically sent away to a small village in Puerto Rico, after getting pregnant by a married American man (74).
For those who came to this country as adults, the adjustment process may be harder but, their values and beliefs are well-established, and they are able to view American culture in the perspective of their own. For the American-born or raised children, however, the differences are not as easy to determine. The transformation happens subtly. As the time passes by, the society assimilates the new immigrants, and the immigrants blend in the new environment.