Cherríe Moraga

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Cherríe L. Moraga
AuthorPhoto for REPRO-cherrie moraga.jpg
Born (1952-09-25) September 25, 1952 (age 65)
Whittier, California
Occupation Playwright, activist
Nationality US
Subject Feminism, Chicana studies
Notable works This Bridge Called My Back, Heroes and Saints
Notable awards Critics' Circle; PEN West; American Book Award

Cherríe Lawrence Moraga[1] (born September 25, 1952) is a Chicana writer, feminist activist, poet, essayist, and playwright. She is part of the faculty at the University of California, Santa Barbara in the Department of English. Her works explore the ways in which gender, sexuality and race intersect in the lives of women of color. Moraga is also a founding member of the social justice activist group La Red Xicana Indígena which is an organization of Xicanas fighting for education and culture rights, as well as, Indigenous Rights.[2]

Early life[edit]

Moraga was born on September 25, 1952 in Whittier, California located approximately 10 miles southeast from Los Angeles.[3] Raised in California’s San Gabriel Valley, Moraga felt the effects of her mixed ethnicity—Mexican and Anglo—from an early age. Her early writing acknowledges the complex relationship of being able to "pass" for white, while emotionally deeply identifying with the non-white part of her identity and her extended Chicano (Mexican American) family. In her article, "La Guera," she compares the difference between her life being fair-skinned, with her mother's life as an easily identifiable Hispanic woman. For a long time, she used her Anglo looks to her advantage, until she realized that, "it is frightening to acknowledge that I have internalized a racism and class-ism, where the object of oppression not only someone outside of my skin, but the someone inside my skin."[4] In those moments, she realized that she herself had been undermining her Chicana culture, by conforming to an Anglo culture, as she calls it. Her family has remained a large focus of her writing—her Mexican American mother, specifically, who was forced to leave school at an early age to support her younger siblings. As a working class writer, Moraga acknowledges that the main inspiration to become a writer was her mother, who was an eminent storyteller.[5] Moraga earned her bachelor's degree from Immaculate Heart College in Los Angeles, California, a nonsectarian college, which Moraga describes as "Radical Catholic." She graduated in 1974 earning a bachelor's degree in English. Soon after attending Immaculate Heart College, she enrolled in a writing class at the Women's Building and produced her first lesbian poems.[3][6] In 1977 she moved to San Francisco where she supported herself as a waitress, became politically active as a burgeoning feminist, and eventually found her way to women of color feminism. She earned her master's degree in Feminist Writings from San Francisco State University in 1980. This was the same period of her association with Gloria Anzaldúa, and the project of This Bridge Called My Back: Writings by Radical Women of Color, which would be published in 1981.


Moraga was one of the few writers to write and introduce the theory of Chicana lesbianism. Her interests include the intersections of gender, sexuality, and race, particularly in cultural production by women of color. Moraga's work was featured in tatiana de la tierra's Latina lesbian magazine Esto no tiene nombre, which sought to inform and empower Latina lesbians through the work of writers like Moraga.[7] There are not many women of color writing about issues that queer women of color face today: therefore, her work is very notable and important to the new generations. Throughout her struggles within herself and her family, and coming out as a lesbian, Moraga made a decision to act upon her feminist ways. She is an indigenous rights activist and also a writer. In the 1980s her work started to be published, such as This Bridge Called My Back: Writings by Radical Women of Color. Throughout this journey with many essays from other feminist writers, Moraga gave an opportunity for these women to express themselves and to learn about different sides of how women share different experiences, but also sharing a similar goal. She is one of the first, and few Chicana/Lesbian writers of our time, she sets the stage for younger generations of other minority writers and activists.[8]


After her college years, Moraga openly accepted her lesbianism, after hiding it from others and herself, and it was then that she compared the feelings and emotions she was experiencing to her mother’s feelings. She was making a connection between the way that the society was discriminating her by being a lesbian and the feelings her mother faced by the oppression of being poor, a women of color and with a lack of education. “My lesbianism is the avenue through which I have learned the most about silence and oppression, and it continues to be the most tactile reminder to me that we are not free human beings” describing lesbianism as poverty, just as being dark, women or simply poor. Her own acceptance as a lesbian made her embrace her ethnic background and sexual orientation, which later helped and guided her through the struggles she faced. She understood that even in her generation, women continued to be discriminated against and were not free since there are still many standards that the U.S society has constructed and strengthen throughout the years.[5] She has stated that in order for queer Chicanas to understand their place in the world, they need to first understand their oppression of intersecting identities fully. If one fails to do this, in her opinion, queer Chicanas will merely be "isolated" in their oppression.[9]

Moraga began writing early in her life, but did not get serious until after she “came out” as a lesbian. She then got involved with the feminist movement. She writes about having to choose between referring to herself as a “Chicana lesbian” or a “lesbian Chicana”–linguistically, only one of these two identities can serve as the essential part of her being, while the other can only serve as a modifier. Knowing and being proud of her sexuality was easier for Moraga to express her feelings and thoughts on writing. Her work has been part of who she is as a woman that identifies as a Chicana and a lesbian. In Loving in the War Years, Moraga cites Capitalist Patriarchy: A Case for Social Feminism as an inspiration when realizing her intersecting identity as a Chicana lesbian, saying, "The appearance of these sisters' words in print, as lesbians of color, suddenly made it viable for me to put my Chicana and lesbian self in the center of my movement."[10]

Moraga's perspective on most of her work and writings exploring multiple intersecting identities as a “Xicanadyke” in the U.S., which composes the “raza” identity and sexual orientation, and how this has shaped her interactions with both the gay and lesbian movement and the Chicano movement. Nevertheless, the oppositional consciousness that she brings in her work has served as one of her most important characteristics. This “oppositional consciousness” is in stark contrast to the assimilationist core of many of the activist movements that Moraga criticizes.[11]


She is perhaps best known for co-editing, with Gloria Anzaldúa, the anthology of feminist thought This Bridge Called My Back: Writings by Radical Women of Color in 1981; which was one of her most successful books that won the Before Columbus Foundation American Book Award in 1986.[12] Along with Ana Castillo and Norma Alarcon, she adapted this anthology into the Spanish-language Esta puente, mi espalda: Voces de mujeres tercermundistas en los Estados Unidos. Writings in the anthology, along with works by other prominent feminists of color, call for a greater prominence within feminism for race-related subjectivities which included her complex bicultural position to Anglo and Chicano culture, and ultimately laid the foundation for third wave feminism or Third World Feminism in the United States. Barbara Smith, Audre Lorde and Moraga started Kitchen Table: Women of Color Press in 1983, a group which did not discriminate against homosexuality, class, or race. it is the first publisher dedicated to the writing of women of color in the United States.[13]

Moraga's first sole-authored book, Loving in the War Years: lo que nunca pasó por sus labios (1983), a combination of autobiographically modulated prose and poetry, is also an influential critical work among Chicana feminists and other feminists of color, and among scholars working in Chicano Studies. In this book she establishes the connections between her mother and herself, her sexuality and the influence her mother had on her life.[14] Her play Giving up the Ghost, published in 1986, focuses mainly on Chicana lesbianism and the main heroine embracing her lesbianism rather than denying it. The play was presented and premiered at the Theater Rhinoceros in San Francisco from February 10 to March 12 in 1989; it was directed by Anita Mattos and Jose Guadalupe Saucedo. In a plug for the show, political activist Angela Davis recently said, "[Ghost] is an emotionally haunting encounter that asks us as women to look back over our shoulders and face the unforgettable. Cherrie Morgan drums up the pulse of the past in all of us." It is important because during this time, the civil rights movements were at its climax. Integrating all women’s issues into one and cooperating in solidarity.

She published A Xicana Codex of Changing Consciousness: Writings, 2000-2010, in 2011.[15][16] Her play New Fire: To Put Things Right Again had its world premiere January 11–29, 2012, in San Francisco, California.[17][18][19] Cherrie Moraga was named a 2007 USA Rockefeller Fellow and granted $50,000 by United States Artists, an arts advocacy foundation dedicated to the support and promotion of America's top living artists. She won a Creative Work Fund Award in 2008, and the Gerbode-Hewlett Foundation Grant for Playwriting in 2009.[17] The Last Generation (1993) is a politicized and intensely personal collection of poetry and prose that argues for a reconceptualization of on gender, sexuality, and ethnic identity, race, art and nationalism and the politics of survival.[20]


From 1994 to 2002, Moraga published a couple of volumes of plays through West End Press of Albuquerque, NM. The first, Heroes and Saints (1994), won an award. This play focuses on the issues faced by the large immigrant population working in the fields poisoned by pesticides.[21] The Hungry Woman (2001) she makes the links between the mystical and the Chicano politics with her own perspective as a lesbian feminist. Watsonville/Circle in the Dirt (2002) these plays bring together the struggles of farmworkers and their resistance to cultural domination as well as the threat of economic enslavement. Her plays have been shown throughout the Southwest, in Chicago, Seattle and New York.

Moraga has taught courses in dramatic arts and writing at various universities across the United States and is currently an artist in residence at Stanford University. She has written and produced numerous theater productions. Moraga is currently involved in a theatre communications group and was the recipient of the NEA Theatre Playwriting Fellowship Award[12] Her plays and publications have won and received national recognition including a TCG Theatre Residency Grant, a National Endowment for the art fellowship for play writing and two Fund for New American Plays Awards in 1993. She was awarded the United States artist Rockefeller Fellowship for literature in 2007. In 2008, she won a Creative Work Fund Award. The following year, in 2009 she received a Gerbode-Hewlett foundation grant for play writing.[5][8]

The Mathematics of Love

Cherrie Moraga’s most recent play, The Mathematics of Love, made an initial workshop production performance on Thursday, May 5, 2016, at Stanford University’s Nitery Theater.[22] The work incorporates characters and dialog written by Ricardo Bracho.[23] The director lead a staged reading with the company of the Angels Theater in Los Angeles took place on August 29, 2009. The premiere of the production will take place at Brava Theater in the Mission district of San Francisco, August 10, 2017 to August 27, 2017.[24] The Mathematics of Love is set in the lobby area of the infamous Biltmore Hotel in Los Angeles and takes place through an afternoon into the dawn of the next day. Peaches, the protagonist, is a Mexican woman with early-staged Alzheimers. She and her Anglo husband Poppa are waiting for their out-of-town son, God, who will throw them an anniversary party the next day. While they wait the couple's daughter manages the two parents in conflict and while grieving over the death her partner Virginia. The arrival of Malinxe, the 16th century Native female slave-turned-slaveholder (a created by Ricardo Bracho) unearths an unresolved history shared by mother and daughter.[25]

A workshop production of The Mathematics of Love took place at Stanford University Theater and Performance May 5–8, 2017. where Moraga was a TAPS artist-in-residence. She has released an un-published workshop version of her script for The Mathematics of Love to university theater departments around the country as an effort to begin promoting her play.

Watsonville: Some Place Not Here

Moraga's 1996 play, Watsonville: Some Place Not Here was commissioned by the Brava Theatre Center with support from the Rockefeller Foundation and had its world premiere at the Brava Theater May 25, 1996. It won the Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts and was winner of the Fund for New American Plays Award from the Kennedy center for the Performing Arts.[26] Staged Reading at The John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts on February 19, 1996, directed by Amy Mueller. A staged reading of the play at South Coast Repertory Theater of Costa Mesa, CA took place on August 6, 1995, directed by José Luis Valenzuela.

A Circle in the Dirt

A Circle in the Dirt was commissioned by The Committee for Black Performing Arts at Stanford University, where it had its world premiere November 29 - December 3, 1995. It was directed by Roberto Gutiérrez Varea.

Heart of the Earth: A Popol Vuh Story

Heart of the Earth was commissioned by INTAR Theater, New York and had its world premiere at the Public Theater in New York on September 14, 1994. Directed by Ralph Lee, the production was a collaboration with composer Glen Velez and included visuals by Ralph Lee. It later opened at INTAR Theater of New York, January 10, 1995 and then two years later at The John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts in January 1997. Heart of the Earth is Moraga's her adaptation of Popol Vuh, the Maya creation myth.[27]

Heroes and Saints

The play Heroes and Saints was commissioned by the Los Angeles Theater Center and had its world premiere at The Mission Theater in San Francisco. It was produced by Brava Theater Center, April 4 - May 17, 1992 under the direction of Albert Takazauckas. Winner of the Pen West Drama Award and the Will Glickman Prize, the play went on to be performed at the Borderlands Theater in Tucson, Arizona, Teatro Visión in San José, California, The Working Theater in New York City, and elsewhere.

Shadow of a Man

The World Premiere of Shadow of a Man took place at The Eureka Theater in San Francisco, co-production with Brava! For Women in the Arts, November 10 - December 9, 1990, and was directed by María Irene Fornes. The work was winner of the Fund for New American Plays Award.

Coatlicue's Call/ El llamado de Coatlicue

Premiered at Theater Artaud in San Francisco. October 25, 1990, Coatlicue's Call/ El llamado de Coatlicue was conceived and performed by Guadalupe García and directed by Cherríe Moraga.

Transgender controversy[edit]

In her 2009 essay, “Still Loving in the (Still) War Years: On Keeping Queer Queer,” which critiqued the mainstreaming of LGBT politics through an emphasis on same-sex marriage, Cherrie Moraga sparked a controversy over her discussion of transgender people in queer communities, and her critique of the increasing inclusion of trans issues in LGBT politics. In that text she argues that young people are being pressured into transitioning by the larger queer culture, stating “the transgender movement at large, and plain ole peer pressure, will preempt young people from residing in that queer, gender-ambivalent site for as long and as deeply as is necessary.” (184). Some community members responded by emphasizing how this invalidated and dismissed the lived experience of young people who decide to transition.[28][29] In this essay Moraga goes further to lament what she sees as the loss of butch and lesbian culture to those who choose to transition, stating that she “[does] not want to keep losing [her] macha daughters to manhood through any cultural mandates that are not of our own making.” (186) One cultural critic, Francisco J. Galarte, argues that “Moraga’s text forces transgender folks to bear the burden of proving loyalty to a nation as well as being the figure that is the exemplar of race, sex, and gender abjection and liberation" (131-32).[29] She was also criticized for her refusal to address transwomen in this essay.[28]

Selected bibliography[edit]

Selected critical works on Cherríe Moraga[edit]

  • Alarcón, Norma. “The Theoretical Subject(s) of This Bridge Called My Back and Anglo-American Feminism.” Criticism in the Borderlands: Studies in Chicano Literature, Culture and Ideology. Eds. Héctor Calderón and José David Saldívar. Durham and London: Duke University Press, 1991. 28-39.
  • Allatson, Paul. “‘I May Create a Monster’: Cherríe Moraga’s Hybrid Denial.” Antípodas: Journal of Hispanic and Galician Studies 11-12 (1999/2000): 103-121.
  • Allatson, Paul. “Cherríe Moraga.” The Greenwood Encyclopedia of Multiethnic American Literature. Ed. Emmanuel S. Nelson. Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 2005. Vol. 3: 1520-23.
  • Gilmore, Leigh. Autobiographics: A Feminist Theory of Women’s Self-Representation. Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 1994.
  • Ikas, Karin Rosa. Chicana Ways: Conversations with Ten Chicana Writers. Reno: University of Nevada Press, 2002.
  • Negrón-Muntaner, Frances. “Cherríe Moraga.” Latin American Writers on Gay and Lesbian Themes: A Bio-Critical Sourcebook. Ed. David William Foster. Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1994. 254-62.
  • Vivancos Perez, Ricardo F. Radical Chicana Poetics. London and New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2013.
  • Yarbro-Bejarano, Yvonne. “Cherríe Moraga.” Dictionary of Literary Biography. Vol. 82: Chicano Writers First Series. Eds. Francisco A. Lomelí and Carl R. Shirley. Detroit: Gale/Bruccoli Clark Layman, 1989. 165-77.
  • Yarbro-Bejarano, Yvonne. “De-constructing the Lesbian Body: Cherríe Moraga’s Loving in the War Years.” The Lesbian and Gay Studies Reader. Ed. Henry Abelove, Michèle Ana Barale and David M. Halperin. New York: Routledge, 1993. 595-603.
  • Yarbro-Bejarano, Yvonne. The Wounded Heart: Writing on Cherríe Moraga. Austin: University of Texas Press, 2001.


  • United States Artist Rockefeller Fellowship for Literature, 2007.
  • National Association for Chicana and Chicano Studies Scholars Award, 2001.
  • David R. Kessler Award. The Center for Lesbian and Gay Studies, City University of New York. (In honor of contributions to the field of Queer Studies), 2000.
  • The First Annual Cara Award. UCLA Chicano Studies Research Center/ Cesar Chavez Center for Interdisciplinary Instruction in Chicana/Chicano Studies, 1999.
  • The Fund for New American Plays Award, a project of the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts, 1995 and 1991.
  • Lifetime Achievement Award, Ellas in Acción, San Francisco, 1995.
  • Lesbian Rights Award, Southern California Women for Understanding ("for Outstanding Contributions in Lesbian Literature and for Service to the Lesbian Community"), 1991.
  • The National Endowment for the Arts Theater Playwrights' Fellowship, 1993.
  • The PEN West Literary Award for Drama, 1993.
  • The Critics' Circle Award for Best Original Script, 1992 (Heroes and Saints).[30]
  • The Will Glickman Playwriting Award, 1992.
  • The Drama-logue Award for Playwriting, 1992.
  • The Outlook Foundation, Literary Award, 1991.
  • The California Arts Council Artists in Community Residency Award, 1991-2 /1993-5.
  • The American Book Award, Before Columbus Foundation, 1986.
  • The Creative Arts Public Service (CAPS) Grant for Poetry, New York State, 1983.
  • The Mac Dowell Colony Fellowship for Poetry, New Hampshire, 1982.

See also[edit]


  • (in Spanish) Pignataro, Margarita Elena del Carmen (Arizona State University PhD thesis). "Religious hybridity and female power in "Heart of the Earth: A Popol Vuh Story" and other theatrical works by Cherrie Moraga." (Spanish: El hibridismo religioso y la fuerza femenina en y otras obras teatrales de Cherríe Moraga}}) (Dissertation/Thesis). 01/2009, ISBN 9781109102925. UMI Number: 3353695. - This work has an abstract in English and is written in the Spanish language.


  1. ^ Pignataro, p. 1. "Cherrie Lawrence Moraga: Introduction"
  2. ^ This bridge called my back : writings by radical women of color. Moraga, Cherríe,, Anzaldúa, Gloria, (Fourth ed.). Albany. ISBN 9781438454382. OCLC 894128432. 
  3. ^ a b "Cherrie Moraga". University of Illinois at Chicago. Retrieved 2013-12-22. 
  4. ^ Moraga, Cherrie. "La Guera" (PDF). 
  5. ^ a b c Moraga, Cherrie (September 1979). "La Guera" (PDF). Retrieved 2013-12-22. 
  6. ^ "Cherríe Moraga & "The Welder"". Literature of Working Women. Retrieved 2013-12-22. 
  7. ^ PhD, María Dolores Costa (2003-06-01). "Latina Lesbian Writers and Performers". Journal of Lesbian Studies. 7 (3): 5–27. doi:10.1300/J155v07n03_02. ISSN 1089-4160. PMID 24816051. 
  8. ^ a b "Cherrie Moraga: Chicana/o-Latina/o Studies". Stanford University. Retrieved 2013-12-22. 
  9. ^ Cassella, Leah. "Queer Indigeneity in Cherríe Moraga's The Hungry Woman: A Mexican Medea". 
  10. ^ Moraga, Cherríe L. (1983). Loving in the War Years. Boston: South End Press. p. 123. ISBN 0-89608-195-8. 
  11. ^ "Cherrie Moraga: Assimilation and Activism". Introduction to Comparative Queer Literary Studies. 2013-03-10. Retrieved 2013-12-22. 
  12. ^ a b "Cherrie Moraga". Voices From the Gaps. University of Minnesota. Retrieved 2013-12-22. 
  13. ^ Short, Kayann. Coming to the Table: The Differential Politics of "This Bridge Called my Back", Genders 19 (1994): pp. 4-8.
  14. ^ Yarbro-Bejarano, Yvonne. The Wounded Heart: Writing on Cherríe Moraga. Austin: University of Texas Press, 2001.
  15. ^ A Xicana Codex of Changing Consciousness: Writings, 2000–2010
  16. ^ Manus, Willard (March 13, 1998). "Giving Up the Ghost, About a Chicana Lesbian, Opens Mar. 13 in San Diego". Playbill. 
  17. ^ a b Ivan Villanueva (December 13, 2011). "Cherrie Moraga Aims to Ignite a New Fire". The Advocate. Retrieved 2011-12-18. 
  18. ^ [1] Archived March 12, 2011, at the Wayback Machine.
  19. ^ Céspedes, Erika Vivianna (2012-01-13). "Moraga Returns With A New Fire; To Put Things Right Again". Silicon Valley De-Bug. Retrieved 2013-12-22. 
  20. ^ "Cherrie Moraga Biography - (1952– ), This Bridge Called My Back: Radical Writings by Women of Color". JRank Articles. Retrieved 2013-12-22. 
  21. ^ "Moraga, Cherríe L.: Heroes and Saints". NYU School of Medicine. 1998-02-19. Retrieved 2013-12-22. 
  22. ^ Calendar, Stanford Event. "PERFORMANCE: "The Mathematics of Love," by Cherrie Moraga". Retrieved 2017-04-26. 
  23. ^ ""Ricardo Bracho"". 05/02/2016. Retrieved 2017-09-09.  Check date values in: |date= (help)
  24. ^ ""Brava presents the world premiere of The Mathematics of Love"". Retrieved 09/9/2017.  Check date values in: |access-date= (help)
  25. ^ ""Theater"". Retrieved 2017-09-09. 
  26. ^ VG/Voices from the Gaps Project: Merideth R. Cleary and Erin E. Fergusson
  27. ^ "THE HUNGRY WOMAN - Cherrie Moraga". Small Press Distribution. Archived from the original on December 24, 2013. Retrieved December 22, 2013. 
  28. ^ a b Collado, Morgan. 2016. “XQsí Magazine — On Actually Keeping Queer Queer: A Response to Cherrie Moraga.” Accessed July 17.
  29. ^ a b Galarte, Francisco J. 2014. “TRANSGENDER CHICAN@ POETICS: Contesting, Interrogating, and Transforming Chicana/o Studies.” Chicana/Latina Studies 13 (2): 118–39.
  30. ^ Peterson, Jane T.; Bennett, Suzanne. Women Playwrights of Diversity: A Bio-bibliographical Sourcebook. Greenwood Publishing Group. p. 252. ISBN 9780313291791. 

External links[edit]