Gloria Anzaldúa, Borderlands/La Frontera (1987)

Chapter 1: The Homeland, Aztlán; El otro México

Anzaldúa’s concept of borderlands connotes a literal, geographic and a mental, emotional space–there is, for her, a third, hybridized space [a liminal space, the interstices] where those who are non-normative. She focuses primarily on those who resist gender conventions and defy ethnic expectations, looking at women and queer people within sociocultural, economic, and political sites along the Mexico-US border. Chicano residents of this hybrid area are uniquely positioned to adapt themselves to various cultural contexts–because they suffer under the oppression of not only white Americans but also Mexicans who view their mixed heritage as impure. Women, especially, are vulnerable to patriarchal culture, where they are given to believe that they should paradoxically be strong caretakers of children yet subservient to men. [Machismo.]

I stand at the edge where earth touches ocean
where the two overlap
a gentle coming together
at other times and places a violent crash. (23)

The US-Mexican border es una herida abierta where the Third World grates against the first and bleeds. And before a scab forms it hemorrhages again, the lifeblood of two worlds merging to form a third country–a border culture. … A borderland is a vague and undetermined place created by the emotional residue of an unnatural boundary. (25)

We [Indians and Mexicans] were jerked out by the roots, truncated, disemboweled, dispossessed, and separated from our identity and our history. (30)

Chapter 2: Movimientos de rebeldía y las culturas que traicionan

Culture: living language that forms reality: “Culture is made by those in power–men. Males make the rules and laws; women transmit them.” (38)

The female, by virtue of creating entities of flesh and blood in her stomach (she bleeds every month but does not die), by virtue of being in tune with nature’s cycles, is feared. (39)

The welfare of the family, the community, and the tribe is more important than the welfare of the individual. The individual exists first as kin–as sister, as father, as padrino–and last as self. … The queer are the mirror reflecting the heterosexual tribe’s fear: being different, being other and therefore lesser, therefore sub-human, in-human, non-human. (40)

There is something compelling about being both male and female, about having an entry into both worlds. … What we are suffering from is an absolute despot duality that says we are able to be only one or the other. It claims that human nature is limited and cannot evolve into something better. … I am the embodiment of the hieros gamos: the coming together of opposite qualities within. (41)

I will have to stand and claim my space, making a new culture–una cultura mestiza–with my own lumber, my own bricks and mortar and my own feminist architecture. (44)

Chapter 5: How to Tame a Wild Tongue

Language is identity; controlling and suppressing language controls and suppresses identity. Anzaldúa: corrected when speaking English (even by her own mother). Neither Spanish nor English a totally “native” language: Chicano as a “language which [speakers] can connect their identity to, one capable of communicating the realities and values true to themselves–a language with terms that are neither espanõl ni inglés, but both. We speak a patois, a forked tongue, a variation of two languages” (77).

I will have my serpent’s tongue–my woman’s voice, my sexual voice, my poet’s voice. I will overcome the tradition of silence. (81)

Chapter 7: La conciencia de la mestiza: Towards a New Consciousness

At the confluence of two or more genetic streams, with chromosomes constantly “crossing over,” this mixture of races, rather than resulting in an inferior being, provides hybrid progeny, a mutable, more malleable species with a rich gene pool. From this racial, ideological, cultural and biological cross-pollination, an “alien” consciousness is presently in the making–a new mestiza consciousness, una conciencia de mujer [“a woman’s consciousness”]. It is a consciousness of the Borderlands. (99)

A counterstance locks one into a duel of oppressor and oppressed; locked in mortal combat… At some point, on our way to a new consciousness, we will have to leave the opposite bank, the split between the two mortal combatants somehow healed so that we are on both shores at once and, at once, see through serpent and eagle eyes. [She adds that there are other options, as well; this is not the only one.] (101)

La mestiza constantly has to shift out of habitual formations; from convergent thinking, analytical reasoning that tends to use rationality to move toward a single goal (a Western mode), to divergent thinking, characterized by movement away from set patterns and goals and toward a more whole perspective, one that includes rather than excludes. The new mestiza copes by developing a tolerance for contradictions, a tolerance for ambiguity. (101)

The third element is a new consciousness–a mestiza consciousness–and though it is a source of intense pain, its energy comes from continual creative motion that keeps breaking down the unitary aspect of each new paradigm. (102)

Many feel that whites should help their own people rid themselves of race hatred and fear first. I, for one, choose to use some of my energy to serve as mediator. I think we need to allow whites to be our allies. … Individually, but also a racial entity, we need to voice our needs. (107)


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