Judith Ortiz Cofer discusses the assassination of John Fitzgerald Kennedy on November 22, 1963. Actually, her protagonist, Elena, remembers what she was doing on that fateful day; but it wasn't mourning the loss of the president. The assassination of the president seems to be part of the setting in Cofer's short story "American History." While Elena is sent home from school because of the unfortunate news, her mind is not focused on it. For example, Mr. DePalma, the P.E. teacher cries when he sends the kids home; and, Elena sees her mother crying for President Kennedy, too. Elena describes her feelings that day as follows:
"Though I wanted to feel the right thing about President Kennedy's death, I could not fight the feeling of elation that stirred in my chest. Today was the day I was to visit Eugene in his house."
As Elena prepares for her study date, she's not thinking about the historical event that is being broadcast on the TV and radio, she's thinking about what lipstick to put on. Rather than witness the historical event making history, Elena would rather study American history with Eugene.