| The Heath Anthology of
American Literature, Fifth Edition
When Gloria Anzaldúa describes the United States and
Mexico border as “una herida abierta” (an open wound), she speaks from her
lived experience as a native border dweller. Born in the ranch settlement of
Jesus Maria in South Texas, Anzaldúa grew up in the small town of Hargill, Texas.
She currently writes and teaches in northern California. In her poetry,
fiction, essays, and autobiography, she writes eloquently of the indignities a
Chicana lesbian feminist overcomes as she escapes the strictures of patriarchal
Chicano traditions and confronts the injustices of dominant culture.
highly acclaimed text, Borderlands/La Frontera: The New Mestiza, interweaves
autobiography, history of the Chicana/o Southwest, essay, autobiography, and
poetry in a manner that defies traditional categorization. Chicana mestizaje in
the late twentieth century can be seen as a new genre that describes the
cultural and linguistic global connections between Chicana writers and writers
of the Americas. The bilingual title of her book illustrates the transcultural
experience of border dwellers and border consciousness. English and Spanish
co-exist for Mexican-descent people of the borderlands. In Anzaldúa’s text, the
pre-conquest language, Nahuatl, mixes with English and Spanish. Likewise, the
Chicana language Anzaldúa deploys in this text can be said to be a new Chicana
language, one that legitimizes the intermingling of English and Spanish with
Borderlands Anzaldúa presents multiple issues that inform a radical political
awareness. These issues culminate in what she calls a new consciousness for the
women who examine and question the restrictions placed on them in the
borderlands of the United States. In Anzaldúa’s political manifesto, a “new
mestiza” emerges only after her oppositional consciousness develops.
chapter “Entering into the Serpent” presents some cuentos (stories) border
families tell their children. For Prieta, the narrator of this section, the
story of the snake that slithers into a woman’s uterus and impregnates her provides
the link to Anzaldúa’s “serpentine” feminist theory. The new mestiza’s task is
to “winnow out the lies” as a Chicana feminist historian. She also provides
alternative metaphors to the ones promoted by androcentric psychologists and
priests. Anzaldúa’s new mestiza invokes Olmec myth when she asserts that “Earth
is a coiled Serpent” and rewrites the origin of the Catholic Guadalupe,
empowering her as a pre-Columbian “Coatlalopeuh, She Who Has Dominion Over
the constantly shifting identities of the Chicana in the contemporary world,
the deities Anzaldúa unearths and names become a pantheon of possible feminist
icons. Through these icons mestizas can unlearn the masculinist versions of
history, religion, and myth. She methodically shows how both the
“male-dominated Azteca-Mexica culture” and the post-conquest church established
the binary of the virgen/puta (Virgin/whore) when they split
Coatlalopeuh/Coatlicue/Tonantsi/Tlazolteotl/Cihuacoatl into good and evil,
light and dark, sexual and asexual beings. Guadalupe, then, is Coatlalopeuh
with “the serpent/sexuality out of her.”
revises androcentric myths of the Chicano homeland, Aztlán, and of La Llorona
(the Weeping Woman). She intertwines the familiar stories with new feminist threads
so that her insistence on the recuperation of the feminist—the serpent—produces
a tapestry at once familiar and radically different. While “la facultad” can be
interpreted as a spiritual extrasensory perception, what Anzaldúa has in fact
developed is the ability to rupture dominating belief systems that have been
presented as ancient truths and accurate histories.
second excerpt, “La conciencia de la mestiza: Towards a New Consciousness,” is
the final chapter of the prose section of the book. In this essay, Anzaldúa
summarizes her mestiza methodology. Mestiza methodology offers strategies for
unearthing a razed indigenous history as a process of coming to consciousness
as political agents of change. Mestizas can turn to pre-conquest history and historical sites such as the Aztec
temples to recover women’s place in a past that has been satanized. With the
new knowledge they learn of the central importance of female deities rendered
passive with Western androcentric ideology. The mestiza/mestizo Aztec legacy focuses
only on the blood sacrifices of this military power and further obscures the
other indigenous tribal traditions that Aztec hegemony absorbed. Anzaldúa’s
reclamation of Aztec deities and traditions begins a reformulation of Aztlán
from a male nation-state to a feminist site of resistance.
Anzaldúa, Chicana feminism and lesbian politics emerge as forces that give
voice to her political agenda as a new mestiza, an identity that claims much
more than the simple definition of mestizo (mixed blood) allows. In this
section, Anzaldúa clearly presents her political ideology, which is
historically grounded in the colonial legacy of the American Southwest in its
relation to larger hemispheric events. In Borderlands, American and Mexican
history, American and Mexican culture are contested fields.
University of California at Los Angeles
In the Heath Anthology
from Borderlands/La Frontera
"Chapter 3: Entering into the Serpent"
"Chapter 7: La conciencia de la mestiza/ Towards a New Consciousness"
This Bridge Called My Back: Writing by Radical Women of Color, ed. with Cherrie Moraga
"El Paisano Is a Bird of Good Omen," Cuentos: Stories by Latinas
Making Face, Making Soul/Haciendo Caras: Creative and Critical Perspectives by Women of Color, ed.
Images of Coatlicue
Would you like to add a Cultural Object?
There are no pedagogical assignments or approaches for this author.
The Myth of Homogeneity
An academic essay by Karen Lambeth May that uses Anzaldua among others to "examine the complexity of the assimilation process."
A biographical sketch.
Making Face, Making Soul... A Chicana Feminist homepage
Provides information about Chicana issues and, tangentially, Anzaldua's contributions/roles therein.
Voices from the Gaps
This page provides a biography with some criticism, a bibliography of selected works, and links.