When she was three or four, Judith Ortiz Cofer, born in Hormigueros, Puerto Rico, in 1952, began the routine that was to define her existence for a number of years. Because her father, J. M. Ortiz Lugo, was a career Navy man stationed on a ship from the Brooklyn Naval Yard in New York, Judith and her brother came with their mother, Fanny Morot Ortiz, to Paterson, New Jersey, where the family lived in “El Building,” a vertical barrio. When the father went on long cruises, the family returned to Hormigueros in the southwestern corner of Puerto Rico and stayed with Judith’s grandmother.
When she was nineteen, Judith Ortiz married Charles John Cofer, a businessman. The couple has a daughter, Tanya. Following her marriage, Ortiz Cofer continued her education at Augusta College, from which she received a B.A. in 1974. Three years later, she earned an M.A. from Florida Atlantic University. Ortiz Cofer attended Oxford University for part of 1977 on a scholarship from the English Speaking Union.
Fluent in English and Spanish, Ortiz Cofer worked as a bilingual teacher in the public schools of Palm Beach County, Florida, during the 1974-1975 school year. In 1978, master’s degree in hand, she was named an adjunct instructor in English at Broward Community College in Fort Lauderdale, Florida. The following year, she was appointed an instructor in Spanish at the same institution. During this period, 1978-1980, she was also an adjunct instructor in English at Palm Beach Community College.
In 1980, having published her first collection of poems, Latin Women Pray (1980), as a chapbook, Ortiz Cofer became a lecturer in English at the University of Miami at Coral Gables, staying there until 1984, when she joined the Department of English at the University of Georgia as an...
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