tolerance. In her essay, “5:00 A.M.: Writing as Ritual,” Professor Cofer confesses: “There was something missing in my life that I came close to only when I turned to my writing, when I took a break from my thesis research to write a poem or an idea for a story on the flip side of an index card” (166).
She continues, saying she felt an “urgent need . . . to work with language as a search; I did not know for a long time what I was looking for” (168). She places priority on conducting a quest without a known goal, and this is important because few men and even fewer women will set aside precious time today to do anything that does not have a practical and announced aim. A woman with every hour booked in a fourteen-hour day can routinely, for example, find time to wash one more special blouse for a daughter, but most will rarely (and, I will say, unhealthily) think of themselves and what they themselves need. They have been taught by society that that is “selfish.” Very early in The Latin Deli, Cofer acknowledges the goal-lessness of her writing-as-search by quoting San Juan de la Cruz (St. John of the Cross): “Para venir a lo que no sabes, / has de ir por donde no sabes.” (“To come to what you do not know / you must go by the way you do not know”) (5).
Ignorance, then, is not an enemy in a spiritual expedition, as long as one is en route. A terrible obstacle, though, when growing a soul, is the lethargy that comes from society’s pressures to conform, and Judith Ortiz Cofer is well aware of that. She refers to “society’s emphasis on the ‘acceptable’ priorities” for women, and, even though we are already into the third millennium, writing is still not one of those traditional careers a women is encouraged to cultivate with pride and satisfaction, or without guilt. The world over, “Kinder, Küche, und Kirche” still prevail, in spite of all hype to the contrary.