Water by the Spoonful

by

Quiara Alegría Hughes

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Yaz / Yazmin Ortiz Character Analysis

Yaz is Elliot’s cousin, Odessa and Mami Ginny’s niece, and William’s ex-wife. She is 29 years old, a music composer, and a professor at the prestigious Swarthmore College. Although Yaz was born into the same extended family and circumstances as Elliot, her musical talents earned her an early scholarship to an all-white prep school, removing her from the barrio and propelling her on to a successful career and a marriage to a respectable white man. Though Elliot and many of their cousins view Yaz’s life as a great success story, proof that one of them could actually make something of themselves, Yaz finds her life to be hollow and disappointing—her marriage ends when William wakes up and decides he simply doesn’t love her anymore. Although Yaz was able to find freedom outside the barrio by building a “normal” life for herself, the dissonance between the Puerto Rican world she grew up in and the cultured, white, sophisticated world she inhabits causes her to have an identity conflict, alternately ashamed of her Puerto Rican blood or her attempts to inhabit a white world. To solve this dissonance, Yaz ultimately decides to move back into the barrio, stepping into the role of family leader left vacant by Mami Ginny’s passing. While she once buried her Puerto Rican heritage and oriented her life around personal achievements, now Yaz opts to embrace who she is as a Puerto Rican and take responsibility for her family and her community.

Yaz / Yazmin Ortiz Quotes in Water by the Spoonful

The Water by the Spoonful quotes below are all either spoken by Yaz / Yazmin Ortiz or refer to Yaz / Yazmin Ortiz. For each quote, you can also see the other characters and themes related to it (each theme is indicated by its own dot and icon, like this one:
Substance Addiction Theme Icon
). Note: all page numbers and citation info for the quotes below refer to the Theatre Communications Group edition of Water by the Spoonful published in 2017.
Scene One Quotes

YAZ: You wanna be my witness?

ELLIOT: To What?

YAZ: My now-legal failure. I’m divorced.

ELLIOT: Yaz. I don’t want to hear that.

YAZ: You’ve been saying that for months and I’ve been keeping my mouth closed. I just need a John Hancock.

Related Characters: Elliot Ortiz (speaker), Yaz / Yazmin Ortiz (speaker), William
Page Number: 8
Explanation and Analysis:
Scene Three Quotes

YAZ: […] The ugliness bore no promise of a happy ending. The ugliness became an end in itself. Coltrane democratized the notes. He said, they’re all equal. Freedom. It was called Free Jazz but freedom is a hard thing to express musically with spinning into noise.

Related Characters: Yaz / Yazmin Ortiz (speaker)
Page Number: 18
Explanation and Analysis:
Scene Five Quotes

ELLIOT: All those have carnations. I don’t want a carnation within a block of the church.

YAZ: You told me to eliminate seven. I eliminated seven. Close your eyes and point.

ELLIOT: Am I a particularly demanding person?

YAZ: Yes. What’s so wrong with a carnation?

ELLIOT: You know what a carnation says to the world? That they were out of roses at the 7-Eleven.

Related Characters: Elliot Ortiz (speaker), Yaz / Yazmin Ortiz (speaker), Mami Ginny
Page Number: 29
Explanation and Analysis:

YAZ: […] You know, [William’s] been to four funerals in the Ortiz clan and I could feel it, there was a part of him, under it all, that was disgusted. The open casket. The prayers.

ELLIOT: It is disgusting.

YAZ: Sitting in the pew knowing what freaks we are.

ELLIOT: He’s good people.

YAZ: I was probably at his side doing the same thing, thinking I’m removed, that I’m somehow different.

Related Characters: Elliot Ortiz (speaker), Yaz / Yazmin Ortiz (speaker), William
Page Number: 32
Explanation and Analysis:

YAZ: […] Look at that guy. Arranging his daisies like little treasures. What do you think it’s like to be him? To be normal?

ELLIOT: Normal? A hundred bucks says that dude has a closet full of animal porno at home.

YAZ: I bet in his family, funerals are rare occasions. I bet he’s never seen a cousin get arrested. Let alone one under the age of eighteen. I bet he never saw his eight-year-old cousin sipping rum through a twisty straw.

Related Characters: Elliot Ortiz (speaker), Yaz / Yazmin Ortiz (speaker)
Page Number: 33
Explanation and Analysis:
Scene Eight Quotes

ELLIOT: Let’s not act like this is some heroic sacrifice. Like this makes her the world’s martyr.

YAZ: We’re not going to get more than fifteen bucks for it.

ELLIOT: Symbols matter, Yaz. This isn’t about the money. This is shaking hands. This is tipping your hat. This is holding the door open. This is the bare minimum. The least effort possible to earn the label “person.”

Related Characters: Elliot Ortiz (speaker), Yaz / Yazmin Ortiz (speaker), Haikumom / Odessa Ortiz
Page Number: 56
Explanation and Analysis:

YAZ: Why wouldn’t you ask me for help? Why would you deal with that alone?

ELLIOT: The opposite of alone. I seen barracks that looked like dope houses. It was four months in my life, it’s over. We’ve chopped up a lot of shit together, Yaz, but we ain’t gonna chop this up. This shit stays in the vault. You got me?

YAZ: No!

ELLIOT: Yaz. Please. Please.

Page Number: 59
Explanation and Analysis:
Scene Twelve Quotes

ELLIOT: Titi, Odessa fucking OD’d and she’s dying on her living room floor and I can’t take this anymore! COME GET US before I walk off and leave her on the sofa.

YAZ: If you need to, go. No guilt. I got this.

ELLIOT: She’s my mom. Can I be angry? Can you let me be angry?

Related Characters: Elliot Ortiz (speaker), Yaz / Yazmin Ortiz (speaker), Haikumom / Odessa Ortiz
Page Number: 74
Explanation and Analysis:
Scene Fourteen Quotes

YAZ: […] I wrote a list [of achievements] on a piece of paper and dug a hole in Fairmount Park and put it in the ground and said, “When I turn thirty, I’ll dig it up and cross it all off.” And I promise you I’ll never have the courage to go to that spot with a shovel and face my list full of crumbs, decoys, and bandaids.

Page Number: 83
Explanation and Analysis:
Scene Fifteen Quotes

ELLIOT: I wanted Mami Odessa to relapse, Yaz. I wanted her to pick up that needle. I knew precisely what to do, what buttons to push, I engineered that shit, I might as well have pushed the thing into her vein. Because I thought, Why would God take the good one? Yo, take the bad mom instead! I was like, Why wouldn’t you take the bad fucking mom? If I stay in Philly, I’m gonna turn into it. I’m gonna become one of them. I’m already hallway there. You’ve got armor, you’ve got ideas, but I don’t.

YAZ: Go. Go and don’t you ever, ever look back.

Related Characters: Elliot Ortiz (speaker), Yaz / Yazmin Ortiz (speaker), Haikumom / Odessa Ortiz
Page Number: 91
Explanation and Analysis:

YAZ: I’m the elder now. I stay home. I hold down the fort.

Related Characters: Yaz / Yazmin Ortiz (speaker), Elliot Ortiz, Mami Ginny
Related Symbols: Yaz’s Piano
Page Number: 92
Explanation and Analysis:
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Yaz / Yazmin Ortiz Character Timeline in Water by the Spoonful

The timeline below shows where the character Yaz / Yazmin Ortiz appears in Water by the Spoonful. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Scene One
Family Theme Icon
Freedom, Identity, and Dissonance Theme Icon
...Subway sandwich shop uniform, eats breakfast in a café at Swarthmore College with his cousin Yaz, who is a professor. Elliot and Yaz are waiting for someone, but Elliot needs to... (full context)
Family Theme Icon
Freedom, Identity, and Dissonance Theme Icon
In response, Yaz tells Elliot that she is finally signing the papers for her divorce from her husband... (full context)
Substance Addiction Theme Icon
Professor Aman, the man who they’d been waiting for, arrives. Elliot asks Yaz to let them speak in private for a couple minutes. After she leaves, Elliot asks... (full context)
Scene Three
Freedom, Identity, and Dissonance Theme Icon
At Swarthmore College, Yaz lectures to a class about John Coltrane’s work. She explains that in 1964’s A Love... (full context)
Freedom, Identity, and Dissonance Theme Icon
Yaz tries to convince her students that although it seems academic, jazz is more interesting and... (full context)
Family Theme Icon
Freedom, Identity, and Dissonance Theme Icon
Yaz receives a phone call and tells her class to take a short break. Elliot is... (full context)
Scene Five
Internet Communities and Human Connection Theme Icon
Family Theme Icon
Yaz sits in a flower shop reading brochures. Elliot arrives, his limp even more pronounced. Elliot... (full context)
Family Theme Icon
Freedom, Identity, and Dissonance Theme Icon
...garden. Elliot refuses to have anything with carnations since it makes them look poor. Although Yaz has already found the perfect piece, she tries to hide it from Elliot since it... (full context)
Family Theme Icon
Freedom, Identity, and Dissonance Theme Icon
Elliot wants Yaz to conduct the funeral, since she speaks publicly all the time as a teacher. Yaz... (full context)
Family Theme Icon
Freedom, Identity, and Dissonance Theme Icon
Yaz agrees to conduct the service, so long as Elliot will call her ex-husband and tell... (full context)
Family Theme Icon
Freedom, Identity, and Dissonance Theme Icon
Yaz and Elliot sit in the flower shop, wondering how they will pay for the arrangement... (full context)
Family Theme Icon
Freedom, Identity, and Dissonance Theme Icon
Yaz feels guilty about this, since she has college degrees and a seventeen-thousand-dollar piano with a... (full context)
Family Theme Icon
Freedom, Identity, and Dissonance Theme Icon
At the time, her relationship with William and his family made Yaz wish that she could get rid of all her Puerto Rican blood. But now, she... (full context)
Scene Seven
Substance Addiction Theme Icon
Internet Communities and Human Connection Theme Icon
Family Theme Icon
Yaz and Elliot enter and find Odessa, whom Elliot reveals to be his biological mom, though... (full context)
Substance Addiction Theme Icon
Internet Communities and Human Connection Theme Icon
Family Theme Icon
...Odessa’s daughter. Odessa is pained and angry, but resigned to what is about to happen. Yaz tries to leave, but Elliot makes her stay and hear the story, saying, “You were... (full context)
Substance Addiction Theme Icon
Internet Communities and Human Connection Theme Icon
Family Theme Icon
...sister has died from dehydration. Stunned and embarrassed, John pays for his coffee and leaves. Yaz says that they never say Elliot’s sister’s name out loud: Mary Lou. She remembers how... (full context)
Scene Eight
Substance Addiction Theme Icon
Internet Communities and Human Connection Theme Icon
Family Theme Icon
In Odessa’s living room, Elliot and Yaz look at Odessa’s “stone age” computer. Yaz remarks that the computer is the most valuable... (full context)
Substance Addiction Theme Icon
Family Theme Icon
Freedom, Identity, and Dissonance Theme Icon
Despite Yaz’s hesitation, Elliot begins talking to Orangutan, posing as Haikumom, though Orangutan quickly realizes it’s not... (full context)
Scene Ten
Substance Addiction Theme Icon
Family Theme Icon
Yaz and Elliot stand together at the front of a church, conducting Mami Ginny’s funeral and... (full context)
Substance Addiction Theme Icon
Family Theme Icon
As Yaz and Elliot are speaking, Odessa sits in her living room with a cup of water... (full context)
Scene Twelve
Substance Addiction Theme Icon
Internet Communities and Human Connection Theme Icon
Family Theme Icon
Orangutan lies asleep on the train platform in Sapporo. At Odessa’s house, Yaz and Elliot yell for her outside her locked door. When she does not answer, Elliot... (full context)
Substance Addiction Theme Icon
Family Theme Icon
Yaz calls her own mom, since she will likely be faster than the ambulance, and Elliot... (full context)
Scene Fourteen
Family Theme Icon
Freedom, Identity, and Dissonance Theme Icon
In a hotel room in Puerto Rico, Yaz types on her laptop, introducing herself to the forum members as Freedom&Noise and asking if... (full context)
Family Theme Icon
Freedom, Identity, and Dissonance Theme Icon
...the computer; he doesn’t want to be reminded of Philadelphia while he’s in Puerto Rico. Yaz tells Elliot about a list of achievements she made as a little girl and buried... (full context)
Family Theme Icon
Freedom, Identity, and Dissonance Theme Icon
Elliot thinks those goals sound okay, but Yaz denies it, especially compared to what Odessa did for other addicts and Ginny did for... (full context)
Substance Addiction Theme Icon
Yaz leaves the room to make a phone call, and as soon as she is gone,... (full context)
Scene Fifteen
Family Theme Icon
Freedom, Identity, and Dissonance Theme Icon
In Puerto Rico, Elliot stands on an outcropping overlooking a waterfall. Yaz is distracted, digging up plants and putting them in plastic bags. She says she’s going... (full context)
Substance Addiction Theme Icon
Family Theme Icon
Freedom, Identity, and Dissonance Theme Icon
...However, as they get ready to toss Mami Ginny’s ashes over the waterfall, he tells Yaz that he’s not going back to Philadelphia, he’s moving straight to Los Angeles to be... (full context)
Substance Addiction Theme Icon
Family Theme Icon
Freedom, Identity, and Dissonance Theme Icon
Elliot confesses to Yaz that he wanted Odessa to relapse and overdose, and that he knew exactly which buttons... (full context)