Borderlands/La Frontera: The New Mestiza

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Borderlands/La Frontera: The New Mestiza
Borderlands La Frontera (Anzaldua book).jpg
Author Gloria Anzaldúa
Cover artist Pamela Wilson
Country United States
Language English & Spanish
Genre Essay
Publisher Aunt Lute Books
Publication date
Media type Print (paperback)
Pages 260 pp.
ISBN 978-1-879960-12-1

Borderland-La Frontera: The New Mestiza[edit]

"This book is dedicated a todos mexicanos on both sides of the border. "[1]

Borderlands/La Frontera: The New Mestiza [1987] is a semi-autobiographical work by Gloria E. Anzaldúa that includes prose and poems detailing the invisible "borders" that exist between Latinas/os and non-Latinas/os, men and women, heterosexuals and homosexuals, and numerous other opposing groups.

The term Borderlands, according to Anzaldúa, refers to the geographical area that is most susceptible to la mezcla [hybridity], neither fully of Mexico nor fully of the United States.[2] She also used this term to identify a growing population that cannot distinguish these invisible "borders," who instead have learned to become a part of both worlds whose cultural expectations they are still expected to abide by.

Each of the essays and poems draws on the author’s life experiences as Chicana and lesbian activist. In both prose and poetry sections, Anzaldúa challenges the conception of a border as a simple divide and ultimately calls for the oppressors, especially those from the Western culture, to nurture active interest in the oppressed and change their attitudes that foster the growth and sustenance of borders.

In this semi-autobiographical account, Anzaldúa comes to terms with her Chicana lesbian identity to recognize the components of its existence. Not only does her lesbian nature have traces of both male and female identities, but her culture is a mixture of many different races and cultures. By using both English and Spanish in her writing, she demonstrates that Chicana literature cannot be expressed in only one language. Cultural identity is very important to Anzaldua, but she claims that "culture is made by those in power –men. Males make the rules and laws; women transmit them." By emerging beyond the limits of either American or Mexican culture, Chicana literature provides a voice to the people of the borderlands.


Twenty-five years after its original publishing date, Borderlands/La Frontera was among one of the books banned by the Tucson Unified School System in Arizona when enforcing a new law that prohibited the teaching of Mexican-American studies in the public school system. HB 2281's main purpose was to prohibit school districts or other educational institutions from including any courses/classes that promote resentment towards any race or class and many other provisions that target the Mexican-American studies programs that were already in existence. Legislation like this show the danger of books like Anzaldúa's because of their power to change minds and disturb complacency.[3]

About the Author[edit]

Gloria Anzaldua is a Multi-Identity Chicana Feminist writer, born in Rio Valley of South Texas in September 26, 1942.[4] Her parents were farm workers and Gloria grew up in a ranch. In 1969 Anzaldua received her Bachelor's degree in English from the University of Texas- Pan American. From there she went onto a master's program at the University of Texas-Austin and graduated with her master's in English and Education in 1972. During the 1980s Gloria started writing, teaching, and traveling to workshops on Chicanas.[5] Sadly, on May 5, 2004 Gloria Anzaldua died of diabetes complications. Gloria Anzaldua won the following awards: ''Before Columbus Foundation American Book Award'' (1986), ''Lambda Lesbian Small Book Press Award'' (1991), ''Lesbian Rights Award'' (1991), ''Sappho Award Distinction'' (1992), ''National Endowment for the Arts Fiction Award'' (1991), ''American Studies Association Lifetime Achievement Award'' (2001), ''LGBT 31 History Icons'' (2012).[6][7]

Atravesando Fronteras/ Crossing Borders[edit]

Chapter 1: The Homeland, Aztlán/ El Otro México[edit]

El otro Mexico que aca hemos construido, el espacio es lo que ha sido territorio nacional. Este el efuerzo de todos nuestros hermanos y latinoamericanos que han sabido progressar.[8]

The other mexico that we have constructed, the space is what has become national territory. This is the work of all our brothers and latinamericans that have known how to progress.

Within this first chapter, Anzaldua begins her book by dispelling the Gringo notion, that this land land belongs to the descendants of European families. The first recorded evidence of "humankind in the U.S. - the Chicanos' ancient Indian ancestors- was found in Texas and has been dated to 3500 B.C." [9] Furthermore, she explains how the Gringos imposed themselves and took the land from Indigenous people. Due to the fiction of "White Superiority" [10] the only legitimate inhabitants are those in power, the whites, and those who align themselves with whites.[11] The invasion of land and privacy has displaced families and communities. the "border" didn't stop in the U.S. and carried into Mexico where Indigenous communities were displaced by powerful landowners in partnership with U.S. colonizing companies.[12] Yet despite all the barriers, Chican@s have been able to make a living and support their communities. Slowly, but progressively they continue to prosper.

Chapter 2: Movimientos de Rebeldía y las Culturas que Traicionan[edit]

Esos movimientos de rebeldia que tenemos en la sangre nosotros los mexicanos surgen como rios desbocanados en mis venas.

Those rebellious movements us mexicans have in our blood surge like overflowing rivers in my veins.[13]

Gloria recognizes that she challenges social norms and her culture in various ways. She wants to be happy with she is, but it causes discomfort within society and her family. By being lesbian she the norms imposed by the Church. As a little girl she was raised to keep her mouth shut, respect men, slave for men, marry a man, and to not ask questions. Gloria was not allowed to be "selfish", if she wasn't doing something for a man then it was considered being lazy. "Every bit of self-faith I'd painstakingly gathered took a beating daily".[8] It was wrong for her to improve herself and despite the beatings she continued on her journey.

Anzaldua challenged all forms of her life. Aspects such as religion, culture, homosexuality, and femininity. All presented barriers that forced her to be someone she was not comfortable being. She did not meet these demands because her identity is grounded in the Indian women's history of resistance.[14] instead of moving forward she feels as if the ideas presented in those circles are regressive and hinder other people from growing and being happy. The rebellious movements are a means to disband certain ideologies and show people that some cultural traditions betray its people.

Chapter 3: Entering into the Serpent[edit]

Sueño con serpientes, con serpientes del mar, Con cierto mar, ay de serpientes sueño yo. Largas, transparentes, en sus barrigas llevan lo que puedan arebatarle al amor. Oh, oh, oh, la mató y aparece una mayor. Oh, con much más infierno en digestión.

I dream of serpents, serpents of the sea, oh, of serpents I dream. Long, transparent, in their bellies they carry all that thye can snatch away from love. Oh, oh, oh, I kill one and a larger one appears. Oh, with more hellfire burning inside![15]

One of the main symbols of Mexican religious and mythological culture is that of the snake, la víbora. Anzaldúa, in this chapter, thoroughly outlines the different aspects [both negative and positive] of la víbora and how these different characteristics have affected her life as a Chicana. She continues the chapter by identifying the Virgen de Guadalupe, one of Catholicism’s famous pagan entities, through her Indian name Coatlalopeuh and Coatlicue, which translate into “serpent” and “she who wears a serpent skirt,” respectively. In the Aztec-Mexica society, after the trek from Aztlán, women were able to possess property, were curers & priestesses, and royal blood ran through the female line. By taking away her Coatlalopeuh, Guadalupe was desexed; no longer having the serpent/sexuality aspect in her personality. Her story was remade by a male-dominated Aztec-Mexica culture that drove female entities underground by placing male entities in their place.

Regardless of the stance she remained after her desexing and the masculization of religion, she became the largest symbol in Mexican religion, politics, and culture today, surpassing the importance of Jesus and God the Father in the lives of the Mexican population both in Mexico and in the United States. Chicana culture, according to Anzaldúa, no longer identifies with the Spanish father but with the Indian mother. Continuing with the symbol of the serpent, Anzaldúa claims that the Serpent’s mouth is associated with womanhood, which was guarded by rows of dangerous teeth. She also states that it is a symbol of the dark, sexual drive, the chthonic, the feminine, the serpentine movement of sexuality, of creativity, and the basis of all energy and life. She ends the chapter by identifying and thoroughly describing la facultad, or the capacity to see in surface phenomena the meaning of deeper realities.[16]

Chapter 4: La Herencia de Coatlicue/ the Coatlicue State[edit]

"The act of being seen, held immobilized by a glance, and 'seeing through' an experience are symbolized by the underground aspects of Coatlicue, Cihuacoatl, and Tlazolteotl which cluster in what I call the Coatlicue state."[17]

In this chapter, Anzaldúa begins by describing the importance of the mirror and what it can symbolize in different cultures. To her, the mirror is a "door through which the soul may ‘pass’ to the other side and [her mother] didn’t want [her children] to accidentally follow [their] father to the place where the souls of the dead live."[18] Through this personal anecdote which becomes relevant to the rest of her chapter, she then transitions into the idea of the Coatlicue state and what being a part of that state entails. She describes the Coatlicue state as having duality in life, a synthesis of duality, and a third perspective-- something more than mere duality or a synthesis of duality.[19] She concludes this short chapter by describing the moment in which she allowed the Coatlicue state to take control after years of attempting to rule herself. She states that she is never alone, and that she is no longer afraid after this moment when she finally felt complete.

Chapter 5: How to Tame the Wild Tongue[edit]

"And I think, how do you tame a wild tongue, train it to be quiet, how do you bridle and saddle it? How do you make it lie down?"[20]

This chapter focuses on language, primarily the different aspects of Spanish and English as people of Mexican descent in the United States speak each. She brings up the struggle of learning a second language as a young girl in school when the educators are attempting to suppress a large part of her culture. She goes as far as saying that the “attack on one’s form of expression with the intent to censor [is] a violation of the First Amendment” and that “wild tongues can’t be tamed, they can only be cut out.”[21]

Anzaldúa also lists eight different varieties of languages spoken by Chicanas/os including:

1. Standard English

2. Working class and slang English

3. Standard Spanish

4. Standard Mexican Spanish

5. North Mexican Spanish dialect

6. Chicano Spanish (Texas, New Mexico, Arizona and California have regional variations)

7. Tex-Mex

8. Pachuco (called caló)

She reserves a section to talk about Pochos, or Anglicized Mexican or American of Mexican origin who speaks Spanish with an accent characteristic of North Americans and who distorts and reconstructs the language according to the influence of English. This person is someone who has betrayed their culture by not properly speaking the language of their homeland. However, Anzaldúa argues that being Mexican is a state of soul, not one of mind, nor one of citizenship. Neither eagle nor serpent, but both.[22]

She ends the chapter with a discourse about Chicano Spanish and its influence on the lives of Chicanas, like Anzaldúa, who grew up believing that they spoke a broken dialect of Spanish. There is an internalization of identification through childhood experiences with culture [language, food, music, film, etc.], which according to Anzaldúa means the different experiences the Chicanas/os had growing up that influenced the manner in which they saw the world.

Chapter 6: Tlilli, Tlapalli/ The Path of Red and Black Ink[edit]

“My 'stories' are acts encapsulated in time, 'enacted' every time they are spoken aloud or read silently I like to think of them as performers and not as inert and 'dead' objects. Instead, the work has an identity; it is a 'who' or a “what' and contains the presences of persons, that is, incarnations of gods or ancestors or natural and cosmic powers. The work manifests the same needs as a person, it needs to be 'fed,' la tengo que banar y vestir."

This chapter covers an overall view on her writing. It tells how she used to tell stories to her sister under the covers at night. How she notices a Mosaic pattern (Aztec-like) emerging pattern (66). Starts talking about modern Western cultures and how they behave differently towards work of art than do tribal cultures. Explains Ethnocentrism as the tyranny of Western aesthetics. Talks about the conscious mind, how black and dark may be associated with death, evil and destruction, in the subconscious mind and in our dreams, white is associated with disease, death and hopelessness (69). Goes on to say about dreams how “awakened dreams” are about shifts. Through shifts, reality shifts, gender shifts: one person metamorphoses it to another in a world where people fly through the air, heal from mortal wounds (70). How to her writing produces anxiety, to look into herself and her experience looking at her own conflicts, engenders anxiety within herself. This bring about the notion of shifts to borders.[23]

Chapter 7: La Conciencia de la Mestiza/ Towards a New Consciousness[edit]

“From this racial, ideological, cultural and biological crosspollinization, an “alien” consiousness is presently in the making- a new mestiza consciousness, una conciencia demujer. It is a consciousness of the Borderlands.”[1]

In this chapter, Anzaldúa speaks about the mestiza. La mestiza, is a product transfer of the cultural and spiritual values one group to another. She goes on to talk about la mestiza as perceiving a vision of reality in a culture that we all communicate. La mestiza gets multiple cultures including the Chicana culture. In the book it is stated that a Chicana culture is the white culture attacking common beliefs of the Mexican culture, and both attack commonly held beliefs of the indigenous culture. This chapter is deep on the thought of the mestiza who constantly has to shift to different problems who constantly include rather than exclude (78-79). Anzaldúa continues the chapter by writing about the work of the mestiza, whose main job is to break down the subject-object duality that keeps one prisoner. It is clear what Anzaldúa is trying to portray the pain of Indigenous people, the mestiza being a crossbreed, and how one is culture-less.[1]

This chapter also speaks about the mestiza way and how we are people. She states that the dominant white culture is killing us slowly with their ignorance. This is the point in which Anzaldua starts to speak aboutthe Indigenous people. It ends with Gloria Anzaldua writing about being back in her home, South Texas. How her valley struggles to survive, her father being dead by working himself to death as a farm labor. This ending to her stories speaks towards the land and how it was once Chicano/a, Mexican, Hispanic, and Indigenous.[1]

See also[edit]

  • History of North America
  • Culture of Mexico
  • Chicano Movement
  • University of Washington Collaborative Wiki
  • Artist Biography of Gloria E. Anzaldúa


  1. ^ a b c d Anzaldua, Gloria (1987). Borderlands: La Frontera. 
  2. ^ Anzaldúa, Gloria E. (2012). Borderlands/La Frontera: The New Mestiza. San Francisco: Aunt Lute Books. p. 3. ISBN 978-1-879960-85-5. 
  3. ^ Anzaldúa, Gloria E. (2012). Borderlands/La Frontera: The New Mestiza. San Francisco: Aunt Lute Books. p. 5. ISBN 978-1-879960-85-5. 
  4. ^ "American National Biography Online: Anzaldua, Gloria E.". Retrieved 2015-06-02. 
  5. ^ "Gloria Anzaldua : Voices From the Gaps : University of Minnesota". Retrieved 2015-06-02. 
  6. ^ "About Gloria". The Gloria E. Anzaldua Foundation. Retrieved 2015-06-02. 
  7. ^ "Gloria Anzaldua: Multi-Identity Chicana Feminist Writer". Retrieved 2015-06-02. 
  8. ^ a b Anzaldúa, Gloria E. (1987). Borderlands/La Frontera: The New Mestiza. San Francisco: Aunt Lute Books. p.1
  9. ^ Anzaldúa, Gloria E. (1987). Borderlands/La Frontera: The New Mestiza. San Francisco: Aunt Lute Books. p.4
  10. ^ Anzaldúa, Gloria E. (1987). Borderlands/La Frontera: The New Mestiza. San Francisco: Aunt Lute Books. p.7
  11. ^ Anzaldúa, Gloria E. (1987). Borderlands/La Frontera: The New Mestiza. San Francisco: Aunt Lute Books. p. 10.
  12. ^ Anzaldúa, Gloria E. (1987). Borderlands/La Frontera: The New Mestiza. San Francisco: Aunt Lute Books. p. 10
  13. ^ Anzaldúa, Gloria E. (1987). Borderlands/La Frontera: The New Mestiza. San Francisco: Aunt Lute Books. p.15
  14. ^ Anzaldúa, Gloria E. (1987). Borderlands/La Frontera: The New Mestiza. San Francisco: Aunt Lute Books p.21
  15. ^ Anzaldúa, Gloria E. (2012). Borderlands/La Frontera: The New Mestiza. San Francisco: Aunt Lute Books. p. 47. ISBN 978-1-879960-85-5. 
  16. ^ Anzaldúa, Gloria E. (2012). Borderlands/La Frontera: The New Mestiza. San Francisco: Aunt Lute Books. p. 60. ISBN 978-1-879960-85-5. 
  17. ^ Anzaldúa, Gloria E. (1987). Borderlands/La Frontera: The New Mestiza. San Francisco: Aunt Lute Books. p. 64. 
  18. ^ Anzaldúa, Gloria E. (2012). Borderlands/La Frontera: The New Mestiza. San Francisco: Aunt Lute Books. p. 64. 
  19. ^ Anzaldúa, Gloria E. (2012). Borderlands/La Frontera: The New Mestiza. San Francisco: Aunt Lute Books. p. 68. 
  20. ^ Anzaldúa, Gloria E. (2012). Borderlands/La Frontera: The New Mestiza. San Francisco: Aunt Lute Books. p. 75. 
  21. ^ Anzaldúa, Gloria E. (2012). Borderlands/La Frontera: The New Mestiza. San Francisco: Aunt Lute Books. p. 76. 
  22. ^ Anzaldúa, Gloria E. (2012). Borderlands/La Frontera: The New Mestiza. San Francisco: Aunt Lute Books. p. 78. 
  23. ^ Anzaldua, Gloria (1987). Borderlands: La Frontera. Aunt Lute Book Company. pp. 66, 69, 70.