E. Judith Ortiz Cofer, “Nada”

Judith Ortiz Cofer

Judith Ortiz Cofer wrote many stories about the experience of Puerto Rican immigrants trying to balance mainland American and Hispanic identities.

The story: The loss of her son in Vietnam torments a Puerto Rican immigrant mother, her extended family, and her entire community.

Characters: an unnamed first-person woman narrator. Dona Ernestina, a woman who learns her son Tony has been killed in Vietnam. A priest named Padre Alvaro.

Themes: Impact of war on families, grieving, honoring fallen soldiers

Discussion Questions:

  1. What about Dona Ernestina’s grief is peculiar to her? What is rooted in her Puerto Rican identity? What is universal?
  2. How effective is religion and Padre Alvaro in providing solace to Padre Alvaro?
  3. How is Tony’s death a collective experienced for everyone in “El Building”?

For further exploration, watch this video of Judith Ortiz Cofer on balancing mainland American and Puerto Rican identities:

Find “Nada” here:

The Latin Deli


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