The Latin Deli: An Ars Poetica by Judith Ortiz Cofer

Teacher Guide by Rebecca Ray

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The Latin Deli Lesson Plans

Student Activities for The Latin Deli: An Ars Poetica Include:

Judith Ortiz Cofer is known for incorporating her experiences as a Puerto Rican American into her writing, and "The Latin Deli: An Ars Poetica" is no different. Centered around a Latin market, the reader learns about different foods and cultural items that unite the diverse customers who visit the deli, and their common experiences as immigrants. Cofer weaves Spanish vocabulary seamlessly into the English lines, drawing the reader into the language that is central to the deli’s existence. This guide will take students through the theme, motifs, and vocabulary from "The Latin Deli: An Ars Poetica", with activities and examples for further inspiration!

The Latin Deli: An Ars Poetica Lesson Plans, Student Activities and Graphic Organizers

TPCASTT for "The Latin Deli: An Ars Poetica"

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Poetry is one of the most expressive forms of literature. It can evoke emotions, set a mood, tell a story, or create a feeling that can be deeply and universally understood by its readers. This makes it even more important to be able to expound its elements and understand its rich meaning, comparisons, and symbols. Teaching students to look at a poem with an order of operation in mind will greatly help them to understand and see beyond the literal words. Using the TPCASTT method is the perfect way to get students reading and analyzing with little assistance from the instructor.

TPCASTT is a great way to teach students to dissect a poem and understand its part and deeper meaning. TPCASTT is an order of operations similar to PEMDAS for Math. It asks students to list items in sequentially and answer questions based on their reading of the poem.

TPCASTT Example for "The Latin Deli: An Ars Poetica"



“The Latin Deli: An Ars Poetica” is, perhaps, about a place that the speaker visits frequently.


The poem describes a store where Latinos gather. Despite their differences, many Latinos in the United States find themselves connected by their experiences and life in America. The speaker of the poem mentions the specific foods and customs of various Latino groups that visit the deli, what makes them unique, and what ties them together. As the customers express memories of their home countries and their American Dreams, a sense of unity is conveyed for all people of Latino heritage.


The poem expresses both uniqueness and individuality among Hispanic backgrounds. It also conveys a complex feeling of homesickness and nostalgia, and how these feelings are mediated through the food the deli sells.


Ortiz Cofer achieves her tone with words that suggest a strong tie to the past, such as ancient, exiles, lost lovers, stale, old man, and “places that now exist only in their hearts”. Her word choice presents an attitude of longing for something that once was. The tone is nostalgic for the past and for the cultures of the people in the poem.


No shift occurs.


After reading the poem my interpretation of the title was correct. The speaker romanticizes a Latino deli where members from various Hispanic backgrounds gather.


The theme of the poem is one of unity; despite coming from various background, their common language and their experience as immigrants create a bond for among these Latinos in the United States.

This is a great activity to have students do in a small group! Once they are finished, ask them to create a storyboard with the TPCASTT steps.

(These instructions are completely customizable. After clicking "Copy Assignment", change the description of the assignment in your Dashboard.)

Student Instructions

Perform a TPCASTT analysis of "The Latin Deli: An Ars Poetica". Remember that TPCASTT stands for Title, Paraphrase, Connotation, Attitude/Tone, Shift, Title, Theme.

  1. Click "Use this Template" from the assignment.
  2. Choose any combination of scenes, characters, items, and text to represent each letter of TPCASTT.
  3. Write a few sentences describing the importance or meaning of the images.
  4. Finalize images, edit, and proofread your work.
  5. Save and submit storyboard to assignment.

(Modify this basic rubric by clicking the link below. You can also create your own on Quick Rubric.)

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Vocabulary in "The Latin Deli: An Ars Poetica"

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In poetry, just like prose, students will frequently encounter unfamiliar words and terms. When teaching a poem, it is important to ensure students understand these words, as they may not have the same context clues available to them that they would in a prose composition. Also, because poetry frequently relies on dense structure and language to convey complex concepts, a missing word can severely impact student comprehension of poetry.

After you have read the poem once, ask your students to create a list of words that they need to know. Research and discuss the words, either as a class or in small groups, so that students can help fill in the gaps in each other's knowledge. Finally, have students create a storyboard that depicts and explains the use of each word, term, or phrase they have learned to cement them.

Here are some examples of items to know Ortiz Cofer’s poem:

  • formica counter
  • plantains
  • dólares
  • suspiros o merengues
  • jamón y queso

(These instructions are completely customizable. After clicking "Copy Assignment", change the description of the assignment in your Dashboard.)

Student Instructions

Demonstrate your understanding of the vocabulary words in "The Latin Deli: An Ars Poetica" by creating visualizations.

  1. Choose three vocabulary words from the story and type them in the title boxes.
  2. Find the definition in a print or online dictionary.
  3. Write a sentence that uses the vocabulary word.
  4. Illustrate the meaning of the word in the cell using a combination of scenes, characters, and items.
    • Alternatively, use Photos for Class to show the meaning of the words with the search bar.
  5. Save and submit your storyboard.

(Modify this basic rubric by clicking the link below. You can also create your own on Quick Rubric.)

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Motifs in "The Latin Deli: An Ars Poetica"

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Themes, symbols, and motifs come alive when you use a storyboard. In this activity, students will identify themes and symbols from the poem, and support their choices with details from the text. While “The Latin Deli” is not a long poem, it has several interesting themes to explore and powerful motifs to describe.

Themes and Motifs to Examine and Explore

Hispanic Foods

In the course of the poem, Ortiz Cofer refers to many items of Latino origin including specialty foods, candies, and items that the store owner keeps. Each stanza includes examples like Bustelo Coffee, Jamón y Queso, Merengues, Plantanos, and dried cod fish. Each of these items is meant to represent a part of the culture that has remained visible, even though the various customer live in America.


All of the patrons at the deli retain a strong connection to their countries of origin, even though they may never return. They come to the deli to hear their native language, and to be with others who have come to the United States as immigrants or children of immigrants. The woman behind the counter of the deli is called the “Patroness of Exiles” (evoking the Statue of Liberty, sometimes called “Mother of Exiles”) and she provides a connection for customers to their past by “selling canned memories”, and trading with the “closed ports” of the places in their hearts. The poem focuses on the bittersweet feelings that accompany nostalgia.

(These instructions are completely customizable. After clicking "Copy Assignment", change the description of the assignment in your Dashboard.)

Student Instructions

Create a storyboard that identifies and explains one motif from the text.

  1. Type in the motif in the title box.
  2. Illustrate an example of the motif.
  3. In the description box, describe the importance of the motif.

(Modify this basic rubric by clicking the link below. You can also create your own on Quick Rubric.)

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Judith Ortiz Cofer was born in Puerto Rico, but moved to the mainland United States at a young age. She often uses her real-life experiences as inspiration and a source of detail in her woks. She is known for working with a variety of genres, including short stories, essays, young-adult fiction, and poetry. Ortiz Cofer regularly combines American and Latino culture in her writing, utilizing vocabulary from both the Spanish and English languages. Her career spans generations and she continues to write to this day.

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•   (English) The Latin Deli An Ars Poetica   •   (Español) El Deli Latino: Un Ars Poetica   •   (Français) Le Deli Latin: Un Ars Poetica   •   (Deutsch) Das Lateinische Deli: Ein Ars Poetica   •   (Italiana) The Deli Latina: Un Ars Poetica   •   (Nederlands) De Latijnse Deli: An Ars Poetica   •   (Português) O Deli Latino: Um Ars Poetica   •   (עברית) המעדנייה הלטינית: An Ars פואטיקה   •   (العَرَبِيَّة) وديلي اللاتينية: وآرس Poetica   •   (हिन्दी) लैटिन डेली: एआरएस पोएटिका   •   (ру́сский язы́к) Латинский Гастроном: Ars Poetica   •   (Dansk) Det Latinske Deli: En Ars Poetica   •   (Svenska) Det Latinska Deli: An Ars Poetica   •   (Suomi) Latinalaisen Deli: ARS Poetica   •   (Norsk) Det Latinske Deli: En Ars Poetica   •   (Türkçe) Latin Şöleni: Bir Ars Şiiri   •   (Polski) Łacina Deli: Ars Poetica   •   (Româna) Latin Deli: Un Ars Poetica   •   (Ceština) Latinské Deli: Ars Poetica   •   (Slovenský) Latinská Deli a Ars Poetica   •   (Magyar) A Latin Deli Egy Ars Poetica   •   (Hrvatski) Latinski Deli An Ars Poetica   •   (български) Латинска Деликатесия   •   (Lietuvos) Lotynų Deli ars Poetica   •   (Slovenščina) Latinski Deli Ars Poetica   •   (Latvijas) Latīņu Deli Ars Poetica   •   (eesti) Ladina Deli Ars Poetica