Study Guide

The Latin Deli: An Ars Poetica Setting

By Judith Ortiz Cofer

Setting

Come on in, Shmoopers. Have a look around. What looks good today?

When you read this poem, you're stepping into the setting in a very important way. You're entering the deli and learning about its sights, sounds, and smells. The poem is a guided tour of sorts, but it's not just trying to show you around.

Instead, Ortiz Cofer is trying to show us how a particular place can create an important space. By stocking the shelves with foods from their homelands, the Latin Deli offers customers a way to connect to their memories—just by doing a little shopping.

They do more than shop, though. The people who come to the deli do a lot of talking—with the owner and with each other. Once again, our deli creates a space for connection.
The shoppers connect with the store owner, with each other, and most importantly with their past.

Ultimately, the setting of this poem is so important because is recreates a setting that folks have had to leave behind: home. It's been said (cheesily) that home is where the heart is, but in this case home is where the Merengues are.

The setting, then, is pretty much the whole point of the poem. It celebrates a place that allows people to revisit their homes, no matter how far away they are or how long ago they left.

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