Despite differences in customs, foods, and even political perspectives, Latinos in the United States are bound together as a community through collective roots in Europe, Africa, and the New World as well as by their experiences in America itself. One writer who has addressed the essential unity of Latinos is the Puerto Rican poet Judith Ortiz Cofer. After spending most of her childhood in New Jersey, Cofer began to write poetry and prose fiction. In "The Latin Deli: An Ars Poetica" (from The Latin Deli, 1993), the poet reminds us not only of the specific characteristics of various Latino groups in America but also of the ties that bind them. Cofer employs a local Latin Deli to demonstrate that the qualities of uniformness and uniqueness are not mutually exclusive, and that the memories of the past and hopes for the future can be intertwined on a daily basis.

Judith Ortiz Cofer: "The Latin Deli: An Ars Poetica"

Presiding over a formica counter,
plastic Mother and Child magnetized
to the top of an ancient register,
the heady mix of smells from the open bins
of dried codfish, the green plantains
hanging in stalks like votive offerings,
she is the Patroness of Exiles,
a woman of no-age who was never pretty,
who spends her days selling canned memories
while listening to the Puerto Ricans complain
that it would be cheaper to fly to San Juan
than to buy a pound of Bustelo coffee here,
and to Cubans perfecting their speech
of a "glorious return" to Havana--where no one
has been allowed to die and nothing to change until then;
to Mexicans who pass through, talking lyrically
of dólares to be made in El Norte--

all wanting the comfort
of spoken Spanish, to gaze upon the family portrait
of her plain wide face, her ample bosom
resting on her plump arms, her look of maternal interest
as they speak to her and each other
of their dreams and their disillusions--
how she smiles understanding,
when they walk down the narrow aisles of her store
reading the labels of packages aloud, as if
they were the names of lost lovers; Suspiros,
Merengues, the stale candy of everyone's childhood.

She spends her days
slicing jamón y queso and wrapping it in wax paper
tied with string: plain ham and cheese
that would cost less at the A&P, but it would not satisfy
the hunger of the fragile old man lost in the folds
of his winter coat, who brings her lists of items
that he reads to her like poetry, or the others,
whose needs she must divine, conjuring up products
from places that now exist only in their hearts--
closed ports she must trade with.

The Voices of Latino Culture: Readings from Spain, Latin America, and the United States, ed. Daniel S. Whitaker (Dubuque, IA: Kendall/Hunt, 1996), 265-67.