Borderlands/La Frontera by Gloria Anzaldua

“Borderlands/La Frontera: The New Mestiza” by Gloria Anzaldúa is a HIGHLY recommended book for anyone interested in indigenous religion, gender studies, the history of the Southwestern United States, the history of the Chicano people, and ALL women of color.

Some passages that resound:

A borderland is a vague and undetermined place created by the emotional residue of an unnatural boundary.

The world is not a safe place to live in. We shiver in separate cells in enclosed cities, shoulders hunched, barely keeping the panic below the surface of the skin, daily drinking shock along with our morning coffee, fearing the torches being set to our buildings, the attacks in the streets. Shutting down. Woman does not feel safe when her own culture, and white culture, are critical of her; when the males of all races hunt her as prey.

Institutionalized religion fears trafficking with the spirit world and stigmatizes it as witchcraft. It has strict taboos against this kind of inner knowledge. It fears what Jung calls the Shadow, the unsavory aspects of ourselves. But even more it fears the supra-human, the god in ourselves.

Those who are pushed out of the tribe for being different are likely to become more sensitized (when not brutalized into insensitivity). Those who do not feel psychologically or physically safe in the world are more apt to develop this sense. Those who are pounced on the most have it the strongest – the females, the homosexuals of all races, the darkskinned, the outcast, the persecuted, the marginalized, the foreign.

I remember being caught speaking Spanish at recess – that was good for three licks on the knuckles with a sharp ruler. I remember being sent to the corner of the classroom for “talking back” the the Anglo teacher when all I was trying to do was tell her how to pronounce my name. “If you want to be American, speak ‘American.’ If you don’t like it, go back to Mexico where you belong.”

Ethnic identity is twin skin to linguistic identity – I am my language. Until I can take pride in my language, I cannot take pride in myself.

“You’re nothing but a woman” means you are defective. Its opposite is to be un macho. The modern meaning of the word “machismo,” as well as the concept, is actually an Anglo invention. For men like my father, being “macho” meant being strong enough to protect and support my mother and us, yet being able to show love. Today’s macho has doubts about his ability to feed and protect his family. His “machismo” is an adaption to oppression and poverty and low self-esteem.

But don’t take my word for it. Get it, read it. If you’re anything like me, you’ll need to buy the book simply because it cries out for the kiss of a highlighter and caress of a pencil.


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