American History Questions and Answers
by Judith Ortiz Cofer

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From Cofer's "American History," how is El Building described and what is its significance?  

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Elena describes the apartment block where she lives—colloquially known as "El Building"—as being like "a monstrous jukebox." This description tells us two things about the place. First of all, it's big and ugly; and second, it's very noisy, with lots of loud salsa music blasting out of it at all times of the day and night.

As Elena goes on to explain, the people who play loud music tend to be new immigrants who've just recently arrived from Puerto Rico. They blast loud salsas out of the open windows as a way of drawing out whatever problems they're currently enduring.

And it's not just salsa music that makes El Building sound like a giant jukebox. There's also the sound of screaming children, the abusive tongues of viragoes (an old-fashioned word meaning bad-tempered women), and the cursing of the unemployed.

Taken together, all these descriptions of El Building and its residents emphasize that this is a run-down apartment block full of poor Puerto Rican families. The full...

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