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Nepantla is a concept used often in Chicano and Latino anthropology, social commentary, criticism, literature and art. It represents a concept of "in-between-ness."[1] Nepantla is a Nahuatl word which means "in the middle of it" or "middle."[2]

Nepantla was a term that was first used by the Nahuatl-speaking people in Mexico (Aztecs) during the 16th century.[3] During this time, they were being colonized by the Spaniards and the concept of being "in between" was useful to describe how the experience felt.[3] Some attribute the concept directly to the colonized Aztec, and others have attributed anthropologist, Miguel Leon-Portilla, as first describing the concept.[4] Leon-Portilla further describes how indigenous people who were conquered by the Spanish created their own "in between" culture.[5] They would leave behind aspects of their culture that they could not synthesize into the new culture being imposed on them. The new world that they inhabited was made up of parts of both cultures and offered a limited, but real sense of resistance, since at least part of their own culture was kept.

In the arts, nepantla is a creator's imaginary world that encompasses historical, emotional and spiritual aspects of life. Nepantla as a term might also refer to living in the borderlands or being at literal or metaphorical crossroads.[6]

Nepantla can also describe individuals or groups who are today in conflict with a larger, perhaps more globally reaching culture or ideology.[3] Nepantla has also been identified as a tool for political change.[4] Individuals who live within two different "worlds" or "cultures" can act as "fulcrum" to engage political change.[4]

Nepantla as a concept has also been identified as a painful experience, where a person's sense of self has been "shattered."[7] It can also signify a personal state of "invisibility and transition."[8] Writer, Gloria E. Anzaldúa, described nepantla as time where individuals experience a loss of control and suffer anxiety and confusion as a result.[9]

Nepantla can be described as a "liminal" space, where multiple forms of reality are viewed at the same time.[10] This concept can be useful when addressing multicultural groups of people where trying to come to a consensus isn't always easy.[10] Allowing individuals to examine concepts that seem to compete and understanding both is also a process of using nepantla.[10]

Nepantla is also the name of several different journals.


"The world is in a constant state of Nepantla."—Maria E. Fránquiz[11]

"Living between cultures results in 'seeing' double, first from the perspective of one culture, then from the perspective of another. Seeing from two or more perspectives simultaneously renders those cultures transparent. Removed from that culture's center you glimpse the sea in which you've been immersed but to which you were oblivious, no longer seeing the world the way you were enculturated to see it."—Gloria E. Anzaldúa[9]

"You're experiencing nepantla. We feel that in South Texas. We have these two cultures coalescing, and this third one emerges. We eat hot dogs and tacos. We drink hot chocolate and Lone Star Beer." -- Santa Barraza[12]


  1. ^ Hernandez, Ruben (January 2008). "I am Indian". Native Peoples Magazine. 21 (1). ISSN 0895-7606. Retrieved 14 March 2015.
  2. ^ "Nepantla". Translate Nahuatl. Retrieved 16 March 2015.
  3. ^ a b c Mignolo, Walter D. (1 January 2000). "Introduction: From Cross-Genealogies and Subaltern Knowledges to Nepantla". Nepantla: Views From the South. 1 (1). ISSN 1527-0858. Retrieved 14 March 2015.
  4. ^ a b c Black, Charlene Villasenor (1 January 2014). "Introduction to Part III: The Intersection of Contemporary Latin American Art and Religion". Religion & the Arts. 18 (1/2): 239–244. doi:10.1163/15685292-01801012. Retrieved 14 March 2014.
  5. ^ Haas, Lisbeth (1996). Conquests and Historical Identities in California, 1769-1936. Berkeley, California: University of California Press. ISBN 9780520207042.
  6. ^ "Nepantla". Chicano Art. Retrieved 14 March 2015.
  7. ^ Salgado, Brenda (2013). "Nepantla Consulting". Nepantla Counsulting. Retrieved 14 March 2015.
  8. ^ Walter, Roland (1998). "The Cultural Politics of Dislocation and Relocation in the Novels of Ana Castillo". Melus. 23 (1): 81–97. doi:10.2307/467765. ISSN 0163-755X. Retrieved 16 March 2015.
  9. ^ a b Keating, AnaLouise (2006). "From Borderlands and New Mestizas to Nepantlas and Nepantleras: Anzaldúan Theories for Social Change" (PDF). Human Architecture: Journal of the Sociology of Self-Knowledge. Ahead Publishing House. IV. ISSN 1540-5699. Retrieved 16 March 2015.
  10. ^ a b c Guiterrez, Rochelle (20 October 2008). "What is "Nepantla" and How Can it Help Physics Education Researchers Conceptualize Knowledge for Teaching?". AIP Conference Proceedings. 1064 (1): 23–25. doi:10.1063/1.3021263. Retrieved 14 March 2015.
  11. ^ Diuguid, Lewis (25 November 2014). "Educators Say Unity, Inclusiveness and Nonviolence Offer the Best Path to Improve America". Kansas City Star. Retrieved 14 March 2015.
  12. ^ Tamez-Robledo, Nadia (26 November 2014). "A&M-Kingsville professor explores blurring of borders through art". Corpus Christi Caller Times. Retrieved 17 March 2015.

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