When writing about events that took place in a foreign culture, authors sometimes choose to use words from that language to describe those events and the places they took place. This is a technique that Cofer uses throughout Silent Dancing. When done well, this technique can enhance the reader's understanding of the world an author is building. When done poorly, it can draw the reader's attention away from that world.
Throughout Silent Dancing, Cofer uses terms like "El Barrio" and "La Tienda" that non-Spanish-speakers may not understand as isolated phrases. However, these words are typically presented in a context that allows us to intuitively understand their meaning. For example, the author makes it clear from context that "La Tienda" means the neighborhood grocery store. This actually mirrors how children learn languages. They don't memorize translations or complex grammar rules. They just see a word used in context and understand what it references.
This writing technique enables the author to reference the culture the story is taking place in. By using Spanish terms throughout the text, Cofer enhances the illustration of her childhood and dreams.