Gloria E. Anzaldúa
Gloria Evangelina Anzaldúa
Gloria Evangelina Anzaldúa (1990)
Gloria Evangelina Anzaldúa
September 26, 1942
|Died||May 15, 2004 (aged 61)|
Santa Cruz, California, United States
|Occupation||author, poet, activist|
Gloria Evangelina Anzaldúa (September 26, 1942 – May 15, 2004) was an American scholar of Chicana cultural theory, feminist theory, and queer theory. She loosely based her best-known book, Borderlands/La Frontera: The New Mestiza, on her life growing up on the Mexico–Texas border and incorporated her lifelong experiences of social and cultural marginalization into her work. She also developed theories about the marginal, in-between, and mixed cultures that develop along borders, including on the concepts of Nepantla, Coyoxaulqui imperative, new tribalism, and spiritual activism.
Early life and education
Anzaldúa was born in the Rio Grande Valley of south Texas on September 26, 1942, to Urbano Anzaldúa and Amalia Anzaldúa née García, oldest of four children. Gloria Anzaldúa's great-grandfather, Urbano Sr., once a precinct judge in Hidalgo County, was the first owner of the Jesús María Ranch on which she was born. Her mother grew up on an adjoining ranch, Los Vergeles ("the gardens"), which was owned by her family, and she met and married Urbano Anzaldúa when both were very young. Anzaldúa was a descendant of many of the prominent Spanish explorers and settlers to come to the Americas in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries and also had indigenous ancestry. The surname Anzaldúa is of Basque origin.
When she was eleven, her family relocated to Hargill, Texas. She graduated as valedictorian of Edinburg High School in 1962.  In 1968, she received a B.A. in English, Art, and Secondary Education from University of Texas–Pan American, and an M.A. in English and Education from the University of Texas at Austin. While in Austin, she joined politically active cultural poets and radical dramatists such as Ricardo Sanchez, and Hedwig Gorski.
Career and major works
After obtaining a Bachelor of Arts in English from the then Pan American University (now University of Texas Rio Grande Valley), Anzaldúa worked as a preschool and special education teacher. In 1977, she moved to California, where she supported herself through her writing, lectures, and occasional teaching stints about feminism, Chicano studies, and creative writing at San Francisco State University, the University of California, Santa Cruz, Florida Atlantic University, and other universities.
She is perhaps most famous for co-editing This Bridge Called My Back: Writings by Radical Women of Color (1981) with Cherríe Moraga, editing Making Face, Making Soul/Haciendo Caras: Creative and Critical Perspectives by Women of Color (1990), and co-editing This Bridge We Call Home: Radical Visions for Transformation (2002). She also wrote the semi-autobiographical Borderlands/La Frontera: The New Mestiza (1987). At the time of her death she was close to completing the book manuscript, Light in the Dark/Luz en lo Oscuro: Rewriting Identity, Spirituality, Reality, which she also planned to submit as her dissertation. It has now been published posthumously by Duke University Press (2015). Her children's books include Prietita Has a Friend (1991), Friends from the Other Side — Amigos del Otro Lado (1993), and Prietita y La Llorona (1996). She has also authored many fictional and poetic works.
Anzaldúa wrote a speech called "Speaking in Tongues: A Letter to Third World Women Writers" focusing on the shift towards an equal and just gender representation in literature but away from racial and cultural issues because of the rise of female writers and theorists. She also stressed in her essay the power of writing to create a world that would compensate for what the real world does not offer.
This Bridge Called My Back
Anzaldúa's essay '"La Prieta" deals with her manifestation of thoughts and horrors that have constituted her life in Texas. Anzaldúa identifies herself as an entity without a figurative home and/or peoples to completely relate to. To supplement this deficiency, Anzaldúa created her own sanctuary, Mundo Zurdo, whereby her personality transcends the norm-based lines of relating to a certain group. Instead, in her Mundo Zurdo, she is like a "Shiva, a many-armed and legged body with one foot on brown soil, one on white, one in straight society, one in the gay world, the man's world, the women's, one limb in the literary world, another in the working class, the socialist, and the occult worlds". The passage describes the identity battles which the author had to engage in throughout her life. Since early childhood, Anzaldúa has had to deal with the challenge of being a woman of color. From the beginnings she was exposed to her own people, to her own family's racism and "fear of women and sexuality". Her family's internalized racism immediately cast her as the "other" because of their bias that being white and fair-skinned means prestige and royalty, when color subjects one to being almost the scum of society (just as her mother had complained about her prieta dating a mojado from Peru). The household she grew up in was one in which the male figure was the authoritarian head, while the female, the mother, was stuck in all the biases of this paradigm. Although this is the difficult position in which white, patriarchal society has cast women of color, gays and lesbians, she does not make them out to be the archenemy, because she believes that "casting stones is not the solution" and that racism and sexism do not come from only whites but also people of color. Throughout her life, the inner racism and sexism from her childhood would haunt her, as she often was asked to choose her loyalties, whether it be to women, to people of color, or to gays/lesbians. Her analogy to Shiva is well-fitted, as she decides to go against these conventions and enter her own world: Mundo Zurdo, which allows the self to go deeper, to transcend the lines of convention and, at the same time, to recreate the self and the society. This is for Anzaldúa a form of religion, one that allows the self to deal with the injustices that society throws at it and to come out a better person, a more reasonable person.
An entry in the book titled "Speaking In Tongues: A Letter To Third World Women Writers", spotlights the dangers Anzaldúa considers women writers of color deal with, and these dangers are rooted in a lack of privileges. She talks about the transformation of writing styles and how we are taught not to air our truths. Folks are outcast as a result of speaking and writing with their native tongues. Anzaldúa wants more women writers of color to be visible and be well represented in text. Her essay compels us to write with compassion and with love. For writing is a form of gaining power by speaking our truths, and it is seen as a way to decolonize, to resist, and to unite women of color collectively within the feminist movement.
Borderlands/La Frontera: The New Mestiza
She is highly known for this semi-autobiographical book, which discusses her life growing up on the Mexico–Texas border. It was selected as one of the 38 best books of 1987 by Library Journal. Borderlands examines the condition of women in Chicano and Latino culture. Anzaldúa discusses several critical issues related to Chicana experiences: heteronormativity, colonialism, and male dominance. She gives a very personal account of the oppression of Chicana lesbians and talks about the gendered expectations of behavior that normalizes women's deference to male authority in her community. She develops the idea of the "new mestiza" as a "new higher consciousness" that will break down barriers and fight against the male/female dualistic norms of gender. The first half of the book is about isolation and loneliness in the borderlands between cultures. The latter half of the book is poetry. In the book, Anzaldúa uses two variations of English and six variations of Spanish. By doing this, she deliberately makes it difficult for non-bilinguals to read. Language was one of the barriers Anzaldúa dealt with as a child, and she wanted readers to understand how frustrating things are when there are language barriers. The book was written as an outlet for her anger and encourages one to be proud of one's heritage and culture.
Light in the Dark⁄Luz en lo Oscuro: Rewriting Identity, Spirituality, Reality
Anzaldúa wrote Light in the Dark during the last decade of her life. Drawn from her unfinished dissertation for her PhD in Literature from University of California, Santa Cruz, the book is carefully organized from The Gloria Anzaldúa Papers, 1942-2004 by AnaLouise Keating, Anzaldúa's literary trustee. The book represents her most developed philosophy. Throughout Light in the Dark, Anzaldúa weaves personal narratives into deeply engaging theoretical readings to comment on numerous contemporary issues—including the September 11 attacks, neocolonial practices in the art world, and coalitional politics. She valorizes subaltern forms and methods of knowing, being, and creating that have been marginalized by Western thought, and theorizes her writing process as a fully embodied artistic, spiritual, and political practice. Light in the Dark contains multiple transformative theories including include the nepantleras, the Coyolxauhqui imperative (named for the Aztec goddess Coyolxāuhqui), spiritual activism, and others.
Themes in writing
Anzaldúa drew on Nepantla, a Nahuatl word that means "in the middle" to conceptualise her experience as a Chicana woman. She coined the term, "Nepantlera". "Nepantleras are threshold people; they move within and among multiple, often conflicting, worlds and refuse to align themselves exclusively with any single individual, group, or belief system." 
Anzaldúa described herself as a very spiritual person and stated that she experienced four out-of-body experiences during her lifetime. In many of her works, she referred to her devotion to la Virgen de Guadalupe (Our Lady of Guadalupe), Nahuatl/Toltec divinities, and to the Yoruba orishás Yemayá and Oshún. In 1993, she expressed regret that scholars had largely ignored the "unsafe" spiritual aspects of Borderlands and bemoaned the resistance to such an important part of her work. In her later writings, she developed the concepts of spiritual activism and nepantleras to describe the ways contemporary social actors can combine spirituality with politics to enact revolutionary change.
Language and "linguistic terrorism"
Anzaldua's works weave English and Spanish together as one language, an idea stemming from her theory of "borderlands" identity. Her autobiographical essay, "La Prieta," was published in (mostly) English in This Bridge Called My Back, and in (mostly) Spanish in Esta puente, mi espalda: Voces de mujeres tercermundistas en los Estados Unidos. In her writing, Anzaldúa uses a unique blend of eight dialects, two variations of English and six of Spanish. In many ways, by writing in a mix of languages, Anzaldúa creates a daunting task for the non-bilingual reader to decipher the full meaning of the text. Language, clearly one of the borders Anzaldúa addressed, is an essential feature to her writing. Her book is dedicated to being proud of one's heritage and to recognizing the many dimensions of her culture.
Anzaldúa emphasized in her writing the connection between language and identity. She expressed dismay with people who gave up their native language in order to conform to the society they were in. Anzaldúa was often scolded for her improper Spanish accent and believed it was a strong aspect to her heritage; therefore, she labels the qualitative labeling of language "linguistic terrorism." She spent a lot of time promoting acceptance of all languages and accents. In an effort to expose her stance on linguistics and labels, Anzaldúa explained, "While I advocate putting Chicana, tejana, working-class, dyke-feminist poet, writer theorist in front of my name, I do so for reasons different than those of the dominant culture... so that the Chicana and lesbian and all the other persons in me don't get erased, omitted, or killed."
Health and body
Anzaldúa began menstruating when she was only three months old, a symptom of the endocrine condition that caused her to stop growing physically at the age of twelve. As a child, she would wear special girdles fashioned for her by her mother in order to disguise her precocious sexual development. Her mother would also ensure that a cloth was placed in Anzaldúa's underwear as a child in case of bleeding. Anzaldúa remembers, "I'd take [the bloody cloths] out into this shed, wash them out, and hang them really low on a cactus so nobody would see them.... My genitals... [were] always a smelly place that dripped blood and had to be hidden." She eventually underwent a hysterectomy in 1980 when she was 38 years old to deal with uterine, cervical, and ovarian abnormalities.
One of Anzaldúa's major contributions was her introduction to United States academic audiences of the term mestizaje, meaning a state of being beyond binary ("either-or") conception, into academic writing and discussion. In her theoretical works, Anzaldúa called for a "new mestiza," which she described as an individual aware of her conflicting and meshing identities and uses these "new angles of vision" to challenge binary thinking in the Western world. The "borderlands" that she refers to in her writing are geographical as well as a reference to mixed races, heritages, religions, sexualities, and languages. Anzaldúa is primarily interested in the contradictions and juxtapositions of conflicting and intersecting identities. She points out that having to identify as a certain, labelled, sex can be detrimental to one's creativity as well as how seriously people take you as a producer of consumable goods. The "new mestiza" way of thinking is illustrated in postcolonial feminism.
Anzaldúa called for people of different races to confront their fears to move forward into a world that is less hateful and more useful. In "La Conciencia de la Mestiza: Towards a New Consciousness," a text often used in women's studies courses, Anzaldúa insisted that separatism invoked by Chicanos/Chicanas is not furthering the cause but instead keeping the same racial division in place. Many of Anzaldúa's works challenge the status quo of the movements in which she was involved. She challenged these movements in an effort to make real change happen to the world rather than to specific groups. Scholar Ivy Schweitzer writes, "her theorizing of a new borderlands or mestiza consciousness helped jump start fresh investigations in several fields -- feminist, Americanist [and] postcolonial."
In the same way that Anzaldúa often wrote that she felt that she could not be classified as only part of one race or the other, she felt that she possessed a multi-sexuality. When growing up, Anzaldúa expressed that she felt an "intense sexuality" towards her own father, animals, and even trees. She was attracted to and later had relationships with both men and women, although she identified herself as a lesbian in most of her writing. Anzaldúa wrote extensively about her queer identity and the marginalization of queer people, particularly in communities of color.
Anzaldúa self-identifies in her writing as a feminist, and her major works are often associated with Chicana feminism and postcolonial feminism. Anzaldúa writes of the oppression she experiences specifically as a woman of color, as well as the restrictive gender roles that exist within the Chicano community. In Borderlands, she also addresses topics such as sexual violence perpetrated against women of color. Her theoretical work on border culture is considered a precursor to Latinx Philosophy.
- Before Columbus Foundation American Book Award (1986) – This Bridge Called My Back: Writings by Radical Women of Color
- Lambda Lesbian Small Book Press Award (1991)
- Lesbian Rights Award (1991)
- Sappho Award of Distinction (1992)
- National Endowment for the Arts Fiction Award (1991)
- American Studies Association Lifetime Achievement Award (Bode-Pearson Prize – 2001).
Additionally, her work Borderlands/La Frontera: The New Mestiza was recognized as one of the 38 best books of 1987 by Library Journal and 100 Best Books of the Century by both Hungry Mind Review and Utne Reader.
Death and legacy
Anzaldúa died on May 15, 2004, at her home in Santa Cruz, California, from complications due to diabetes. At the time of her death, she was working toward the completion of her dissertation to receive her doctorate in Literature from the University of California, Santa Cruz. It was awarded posthumously in 2005.
Several institutions now offer awards in memory of Anzaldúa.
The Chicana/o Latina/o Research Center (CLRC) at University of California, Santa Cruz offers the annual Gloria E. Anzaldúa Distinguished Lecture Award and The Gloria E. Anzaldúa Award for Independent Scholars and Contingent Faculty is offered annually by the American Studies Association. The latter "...honors Anzaldúa's outstanding career as an independent scholar and her labor as contingent faculty, along with her groundbreaking contributions to scholarship on women of color and to queer theory. The award includes a lifetime membership in the ASA, a lifetime electronic subscription to American Quarterly, five years access to the electronic library resources at the University of Texas at Austin, and $500".
In 2007, three years after Anzaldúa's death, the Society for the Study of Gloria Anzaldúa (SSGA) was established to gather scholars and community members who continue to engage Anzaldúa's work. The SSGA co-sponsors a conference – El Mundo Zurdo – every 18 months.
The Gloria E. Anzaldúa Poetry Prize is awarded annually, in conjunction with the Anzaldúa Literary Trust, to a poet whose work explores how place shapes identity, imagination, and understanding. Special attention is given to poems that exhibit multiple vectors of thinking: artistic, theoretical, and social, which is to say, political. First place is publication by Newfound, including 25 contributor copies, and a $500 prize.
The National Women's Studies Association honors Anzaldúa, a valued and long-active member of the organization, with the annual Gloria E. Anzaldúa Book Prize, which is designated for groundbreaking monographs in women's studies that makes significant multicultural feminist contributions to women of color/transnational scholarship.
To commemorate what would have been Anzaldúa's 75th birthday, on September 26, 2017 Aunt Lute Books published the anthology Imaniman: Poets Writing in the Anzaldúan Borderlands edited by ire'ne lara silva and Dan Vera with an introduction by United States Poet Laureate Juan Felipe Herrera and featuring the work of 52 contemporary poets on the subject of Anzaldúa's continuing impact on contemporary thought and culture. On the same day, Google commemorated Anzaldúa's achievements and legacy through a Doodle in the United States.
Housed at the Nettie Lee Benson Latin American Collection at the University of Texas at Austin, the Gloria Evangelina Anzaldúa Papers, 1942-2004 contains over 125 feet of published and unpublished materials including manuscripts, poetry, drawings, recorded lectures, and other archival resources. AnaLouise Keating is one of the Anzaldúa Trust's trustees. Anzaldúa maintained a collection of figurines, masks, rattles, candles, and other ephemera used as altar (altares) objects at her home in Santa Cruz, California. These altares were an integral part of her spiritual life and creative process as a writer. The altar collection is presently housed by the Special Collections department of the University Library at the University of California, Santa Cruz.
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- Making Face, Making Soul/Haciendo Caras: Creative and Critical Perspectives by Feminists of Color, Aunt Lute Books, 1990. ISBN 1-879960-10-9
- Interviews/Entrevistas, edited by AnaLouise Keating, Routledge, 2000. ISBN 0-415-92503-7
- This Bridge We Call Home: Radical Visions for Transformation, co-edited with AnaLouise Keating, Routledge, 2002. ISBN 0-415-93682-9
- The Gloria Anzaldúa Reader, edited by AnaLouise Keating. Duke University Press, 2009. ISBN 978-0-8223-4564-0
- Light in the Dark/Luz en lo Oscuro: Rewriting Identity, Spirituality, Reality, edited by AnaLouise Keating, Duke University Press, 2015. ISBN 978-0-8223-6009-4
- Prietita Has a Friend (1991)
- Friends from the Other Side/Amigos del Otro Lado (1995)
- Prietita y La Llorona (1996)
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- Alarcón, Norma. "Anzaldúa's Frontera: Inscribing Gynetics." Eds. Smadar Lavie and Ted Swedenburg. Displacement, Diaspora, and Geographies of Identity. Durham: Duke UP, 1996. 41-52. Print
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- Lavie, Smadar. "Staying Put: Crossing the Israel–Palestine Border with Gloria Anzaldúa." Anthropology and Humanism Quarterly, June 2011, Vol. 36, Issue 1. This article won the American Studies Association's 2009 Gloria E. Anzaldúa Award for Independent Scholars.
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- Reuman, Ann E. "Coming Into Play: An Interview with Gloria Anzaldua" p. 3, in MELUS; Summer 2000, Vol. 25, Issue 2.
- Saldívar-Hull, Sonia. "Feminism on the Border: From Gender Politics to Geopolitics." Criticism in the Borderlands: Studies in Chicano Literature, Culture, and Ideology. Eds. Héctor Calderón and José´David Saldívar. Durham: Duke UP, 1991. 203-220. Print.
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- Broe, Mary Lynn; Ingram, Angela (1989). Women's writing in exile. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press. ISBN 9780807842515.
- Gonzalez, Christopher. (2017) Permissible Narratives: The Promise of Latino/a Literature. Columbus: The Ohio State University Press.
- Perez, Rolando. (2020) "The Bilingualisms of Latino-a Literatures." The Oxford Handbook of Latino Studies. Ed. Ilan Stavans. Oxford.
- Castillo, Debra. (2015). Redreaming America: Toward a Bilingual American Culture (Gloria Anzaldua and Richard Rodriguez). Albany: SUNY. 
|Library resources about |
Gloria E. Anzaldúa
|By Gloria E. Anzaldúa|
- Quotations related to Gloria E. Anzaldúa at Wikiquote
- Voices from the Gaps biography
- San Francisco Chronicle Obituary for Gloria Anzaldúa
- "Society for the Study of Gloria Anzaldua"
- "Gloria Anzaldua Legacy Project – MySpace"
- Finding aid for the Gloria Evangelina Anzaldúa Papers, 1942-2004
- Finding aid for the Gloria Anzaldúa Altares Collection
- "La prieta", ensayo autobiográfico, de la antología Esta puente, mi espalda
- Some of Anzaldua's work has been translated into French by Paola Bacchetta and Jules Falquet in a special issue of the French journal Cahiers du CEDREF on "Decolonial Feminist and Queer Theories: Ch/Xicana and U.S. Latina Interventions" that they co-edited with Norma Alarcon; available at Les Cahiers du CEDREF.
- Gloria Anzaldúa and Philosophy: The Concept/Image of the Mestiza—by Rolando Pérez This article is part of a dossier on GLORIA ANZALDUA edited by Ricardo F. Vivancos for Cuadernos de ALDEEU, Volume 34, Spring 2019.
- González, Christopher (2017). Permissible narratives : the promise of Latino/a literature. Columbus. ISBN 978-0-8142-1350-6. OCLC 975447664.
- The Oxford Handbook of Latino Studies. Stavans, Ilan. New York. ISBN 978-0-19-069120-2. OCLC 1121419672.CS1 maint: others (link)
- Castillo, Debra A. (2005). Redreaming America : toward a bilingual American culture. Albany: State University of New York Press. ISBN 1-4237-4364-4. OCLC 62750478.