What Are the Main Conflicts That Elena Faces in the Story American History?

Elena is the main protagonist of the story “American History” by Judith Ortiz Cofer. The story revolves around Elena’s experiences as a Puerto Rican immigrant in America during the early 1960s.

Elena faces a number of conflicts throughout the story, ranging from cultural clashes to personal struggles. In this article, we will explore the main conflicts that Elena faces in “American History.”

Cultural Identity

One of the most significant conflicts that Elena faces is related to her cultural identity. As a Puerto Rican immigrant living in America, she is caught between two worlds and struggles to find her place in either one.

In one scene, she describes how she feels like a “foreigner” among her American classmates, who view her as an outsider because of her accent and appearance. At the same time, she also feels disconnected from her Puerto Rican heritage and struggles to reconcile her traditional values with the new culture she finds herself in.

Racism and Prejudice

Another major conflict that Elena faces is racism and prejudice from both Americans and other immigrants. Throughout the story, we see how Elena is constantly subjected to discrimination because of her race and ethnicity. She describes how some of her classmates mock her accent and make fun of her name, while others refuse to associate with her because of their own prejudices.

Gender Roles

In addition to cultural clashes and racism, Elena also struggles with gender roles in American society. As a young woman growing up in a patriarchal society, she feels pressure to conform to traditional gender roles and expectations. At one point in the story, she reflects on how she has been taught that “girls did not fight or curse or get dirty,” highlighting the restrictive nature of these gender norms.

Personal Struggles

Finally, Elena also faces a number of personal struggles throughout the story as she navigates the challenges of growing up and finding her place in the world. She grapples with issues of self-confidence and self-esteem, as well as feelings of loneliness and isolation. These personal struggles are particularly poignant because they highlight the universal nature of Elena’s experiences – even though she is a Puerto Rican immigrant living in America, her struggles are relatable to anyone who has ever felt like an outsider or struggled to find their place in the world.


In “American History,” Elena faces a number of conflicts that reflect the challenges of being a Puerto Rican immigrant in America during the early 1960s. From cultural clashes to personal struggles, these conflicts highlight the complexities of identity and belonging that many immigrants face when they move to a new country. By exploring these conflicts through Elena’s experiences, Cofer offers a nuanced and insightful portrayal of what it means to be an immigrant in America.