Study Guide

The Latin Deli: An Ars Poetica Speaker

By Judith Ortiz Cofer

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If we had to describe our speaker in one word, it would be "descriptive." We've never set food in this Latin deli, but thanks to all the sights, sounds, and smells that the speaker includes, we feel like we're right there.

Now, we don't get any info about whether this super-descriptive person is a man, woman, or a dried codfish. For the sake of ease, we can call this speaker a "she," though we should be careful not to confuse her with our poet, Judith Ortiz Cofer. At the same time, some key comments lead us to believe that she and our poet might have a lot in common.

As we pointed out, our speaker beings by giving us a rich and detailed account of the deli. Those observations come from a kind of limited, third person perspective. Once the speaker introduces "the Patroness of Exiles" (7), though, we start to see the deli from the store owner's more complex perspective.

This move to the store owner's experience is interesting, as now the speaker is able to give us more commentary about what her experiences running the store actually mean. She's not just the store owner, for example. She's "the Patroness of Exiles." She doesn't just stock food. She sells "canned memories" (9).

The speaker's running commentary, in fact, is designed to point out how meaningful a place this deli is to its customers. Much like Ortiz Cofer herself, this speaker is calling our attention to this deli, a place we might have ordinarily overlooked. She's pointing out all the ways in which this place, and its products, matter to its customers.

Just as the store owner provides her shoppers this service, then, our speaker is doing the same for us readers. She's there to stock our minds with the knowledge of how a place like this can connect a group of people to the homes they've left behind.

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