In Cisneros's "Straw Into Gold: The Metamorphosis of the Everyday," what do Cisneros's Latin American friends assume she can do?

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Ashley Kannan | Middle School Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

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The exposition of Cisernos's essay shows the assumptions that culture can impose on individuals.  Cisneros's Latin American friends think that she can make tortillas because she is Mexican:

What I didn’t realize when they made this invitation was that I was supposed to be involved in preparing the meal. I guess they assumed I knew how to cook Mexican food because I am Mexican. They wanted specifically tortillas, though I’d never made a tortilla in my life. 

In this setting, Cisneros's use of language is very important.  She suggests that her friends "assumed" that she knew "how to cook Mexican food because" she is Mexican.  The implication that she makes is that cultural notions of the good can play a significant role in how individuals are seen by others.  At the same time, these cultural forces can shape what individuals do as well as their place in the world.  Cisneros surprised herself in being able to make tortillas, in much the same way that she surprised herself with all that she has done throughout her life:  "I’ve managed to do a lot of things in my life I didn’t think I was capable of and which many others didn’t think I was capable of either."  In being able to challenge external perceptions and redefine them through her ability to make "straw into gold," Cisneros is able to take her Latin- American friends' assumptions and make them work for her benefit.

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