Historical Context

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Last Updated on May 6, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 727

Literary Heritage
Magic realism is a fictional style, popularized by Gabriel García Márquez, that appears most often in South American literature. This style may have emerged from the mystification of Latin America that occurred during colonization, as many Europeans chronicled strange and supernatural occurrences in the new land. The term was first associated with the arts and later extended to literature. In the 1920s and 1930s, Latin American artists were influenced by the surrealist movement and so incorporated the style into their art. Authors who use this technique mingle the fantastic or bizarre with the realistic. Magic realism often involves time shifts, dreams, myths, fairy tales, surrealistic descriptions, the element of surprise and shock, and the inexplicable. Often something common converts into something unreal or strange in order to reveal the inherent mystery in life. The writer, however, usually creates a supernatural atmosphere without denying the natural world—a paradox characters appear to accept without question.

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In an interview in Callaloo, Ortiz Cofer notes that Puerto Rican authors extend the definition of magical realism "to include a different way of looking at the world." She continues:

When you read One Hundred Years of Solitude by Gabriel García Márquez or The House of the Spirits by Isabel Allende, you are required to accept supernatural phenomena and to practice suspension of disbelief. When I write about espiritismo, I am writing about an ordinary, everyday thing that most Puerto Ricans live with...As I use espiritismo in my novel, there is nothing there that cannot be explained through natural law. I do not have any flying carpets or any other magical occurrences...My work reflects the reality that espiritismo...[is] for many ordinary people...an outlet for their emotions, a way to feel that they are in control of their world.

Historical Context
In an interview in Callaloo, Ortiz Cofer comments on the cultural background of the poem as well as the collected works:

The book is called The Latin Deli because the centers, the hearts of the barrios in New Jersey were the bodegas, which were called delis by some of us. There were Jewish and Italian delis. So if you sold sandwiches, well, it was a deli and that was part of our language...[F]ood is important in its nurturing of the barrio. To my parents their idea of paradise was eating pasteles (pork meat turnovers). All my stories, I feel, have political commitment, but in "Corazon's Cafe" there is a woman fully committed to nurturing the barrio, to bringing life to it, not by standing on a soap box, not by becoming a great philosopher, but by keeping this bodega open. So that the people of "el building" could have their pasteles, could have their cafe (coffee), could have a taste of what they needed to nurture them spiritually. It is a political story in that this woman supersedes her own personal needs in order to take care of the people of the barrio. This is the Puerto Rican experience that I know.

In a Melus interview with Edna Acosta-Belen, Ortiz Cofer comments on the tensions experienced by Spanish-speaking immigrants in the United States, which resulted from their experiences with conflicting cultures. Acosta-Belen comments that the writings of Latina authors like Ortiz Cofer "represent an excellent illustration of how issues of gender, race, culture, and class become intertwined, expanding the terms in which marginalized groups construe their identity in relation to the U.S. mainstream society." Ortiz Cofer adds, "One of the things that is so dissonant about the lives of children in my situation is that I would go to school in Paterson and mix and mingle with the Anglos and Blacks, where the system of values and rules were so much different than those inside our...

(The entire section contains 1046 words.)

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