Borderlands by Gloria Anzaldua is a unique narrative which consists of seven interrelated chapters that includes mythological and personal stories, and poems. The author shares the experiences of her life and writes these stories in a creative way using both English and Spanish languages as well as poems. Anzaldua mainly discusses about “mestiza” and later goes into details. Some of you may not be aware of the word “mestiza”, I know I wasn’t until i read the book. The Oxford Dictionary defines “mestiza” as a woman of mixed race, especially the offspring of a Spaniard and an American Indian. Anzaldua tries to define the “new mestiza” through the examination of herself, her motherland and her culture.
She explores many aspects of complicated cultural issues of “mestiza” and sexual identity as a lesbian woman. Throughout these concepts Anzaldua introduces a very important term called “Mestiza consciousness.” She talks about this new consciousness in her seventh essay titled as La conciencia de la mestiza: Towards a New Consciousness. Furthermore, this chapter intentionally targets cultural determinism that relates to the roles forced on the individuals. Anzaldua argues that, “not being able to obey these formal rules results in rejection by the society.” This particular essay portrays an expansion toward the “mestiza consciousness.”
An obvious example is when Anzaldúa demonstrates three voices, “I”, “we” and the “she”. Through these voices she takes a different approach into what she recognizes as her Chicana identity and a “new mestiza.” A big realization occurs about who she is and what’s her purpose in life when she faces the conflicts caused by her mixed identity. She refers back to the origins of Chicano’s early ancestors and talks about the problematic identity of Chicanos. For example, the ancestors of Mexican people are the progeny of the original Cochise people which is now Mexico and Central America. It’s a mixed race of Spanish and Indian origin that created Chicanos. Throughout this investigation of Mexican American history,
Anzaldua portrays an opposing nature of all the Chicano’s identity. She states, “A kind of dual identity—we don’t identify with the Anglo-American cultural values and we don’t totally identify with the Mexican cultural values” (Anzaldua 85). Therefore, Chicanos have to struggle with their identity all their life and it has become a difficult journey that leaves them feeling self-conscious and less confident about themselves. These feelings often derive from the expression of their identity and their lower judgment of language. They remain in a borderland and their individuality is formed on the margins of many cultural values as well as mystical. This makes impossible for the Chicanos to establish themselves in a particular place without having to worry about constant shifting.
The author indicates that discrimination always lingers with duality because humans are driven to fight each other and gain control over one another. She believes that the dispute between race and gender can be solved by simplifying duality. Therefore, she states, “La mestiza creates a new consciousness. The work of mestiza consciousness is to break down the subject-object duality that keeps her a prisoner and to show in the flesh and through the images in her work how duality is transcended. The answer to the problem between the white rance and colored, between males and females, lies in healing the split that originates in the very foundation of our lives, our culture, our languages, our thoughts. (102)
Basically, the author suggests that if we can only unite these thoughts such as white and colored and create a new consciousness then all the ethnic groups may acknowledge one other and share a positive attitude. In first part of the book titled as Atravesando Fronteras/crossing borders, Anzaldua speaks about crossing the border. According to her, borders exist to distinguish the good from the bad and those who dare to cross the border; either they are “raped, strangled or shot” (31). In my opinion, Anzaldúa expresses that an individual have to understand their own self and where they’ve come from in order to triumph over the struggle of the borderland. g
I’m sure it relates to many of you. It certainly relates to me psychologically to a great extent when referring back to crossing the border because I’ve never made attempts to cross my cultural borders. There’s one part of me that wants to take pleasure from the freedom we’re given but another part prevents me from taking advantage of this “new freedom” mainly because of the culture that is instilled into my mind. It frightens me to act in a certain way beyond my cultural and traditional values. Perhaps, there’s a fear of being considered as “queer” in other’s perception. Often times it feels as if I’m trapped between two worlds and two cultures. After reading about Anzaldua’s rebellious acts and constant struggle for identity, a question that I asked myself was that, what is freedom if I can’t be myself? Certainly, Anzaldua has achieved a great understanding of her own mental borderlands and people of mixed races and cultures who read this book would definitely be inspired by her.
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