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"Casa" is one of Ortiz Cofer's many "ensayos" in which she narrates and analyzes the social customs of Puerto Rican society as they occur in the 1950s. "Casa" appears inSilent Dancing,which is her famous collections of essays dealing with topics of a similar kind.
In "Casa", Ortiz Cofer takes us back in time to her household in San Juan, particularly during the traditional Puerto Rican daily hour of "cafe con leche", or coffee time. Here in the mahogany parlor, we witness how Mama (grandma) runs the hour as her listeners, made of four women of different generations from her family, sit to share stories.
The basic theme in "Casa" is, therefore, the tradition of sharing stories, which is a sign of the strong Spaniard influence in the island during this time in history. During the era of the 1950's, Puerto Ricans of the middle and upper classes had a social tendency to display much Spaniard customs that were quite evident in the idiosyncrasy of the people during that time, and some of hose customs are still quite guarded now in the 21st century.
Judith Ortiz Cofer takes special interest in the custom of storytelling because it denotes, in her eyes, the strongest of Puerto Rican traditions. She writes how stories that often were told over and over in the household were still listened to with the same degree of interest each time that they were repeated. With time, these ageless stories became more and more embellished. In the end, the actual story takes a personality of its own and is basically put into a "pool" of stories that will be used for specific reasons and during particular times.
For instance, the story of "Maria la Loca" (crazy Mary) would coincide with someone's engagement or upcoming wedding, since Maria was known for being jilted at the altar and for becoming mad as a result of it.
However, aside from the art of storytelling, Ortiz also honors the unique qualities of Puerto Rican tradition, particularly the tendencies of believing in the supernatural, the ironically yet superbly-powerful role of the matriarch in an otherwise male-dominated society, and the strong bond among parents and their adult children which, in a non-Puerto Rican environment, may seem almost exaggerated.
Therefore, Judith Ortiz focuses on analyzing these specific traditions as a former self-described "Navy Brat" who has seen the differences and similarities of the American and Puerto Rican cultures and who can definitely appreciate the unique traits of both.
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