Gloria Anzaldúa 1942-2004
(Full name Gloria Evanjelina Anzaldúa) American novelist, poet, short story writer, essayist, critic, editor, and children's author.
The following entry presents an overview of Anzaldúa's career through 2004.
Anzaldúa is recognized as a significant figure in contemporary Chicano literature. Her fiction, poetry, and essays explore her experience as a mestiza, a woman living on the border between different countries and cultures. She is respected as an authoritative voice on feminist and homosexual issues, particularly as they relate to Third World countries and Chicano culture.
Anzaldúa was born September 26, 1942, in Jesus Maria of the Valley, a Mexican community on the Rio Grande in South Texas. Her father was a sharecropper, and she was raised on a series of corporate farms. From an early age, she worked in the fields with her family. Despite financial and emotional hardships—her father died when she was fifteen—she excelled at school and became interested in writing. Anzaldúa attended Pan-American University in Edinburg, Texas, and received a B.A. in English, art, and education in 1969. She received an M.A. in literature and education from the University of Texas at Austin in 1973 and did further post-graduate study at the University of California at Santa Cruz. Later she taught high-school English in migrant, adult, and bilingual programs in Texas. With co-editor Cherríe Moraga, Anzaldúa collected a series of essays titled This Bridge Called My Back (1981), which became Anzaldúa's first publication and received a Before Columbus Foundation American Book Award. The volume explores the feminist revolution from the perspective of women of color and addresses the cultural, class, and sexual differences that impact them. In La Prieta (1995), she openly discusses her lesbian sexuality, a contentious issue that divided her and her family for three years. She has been an instructor on such subjects as creative writing, feminist studies, and Chicano studies at several universities, including the University of Texas at Austin, San Francisco State University, and the Vermont College of Norwich University. Her critical and fictional work is often published in numerous anthologies and alternative-press journals. Anzaldúa died on May 15, 2004.
Published in 1987, Borderlands/La Frontera is considered Anzaldúa's major work. It traces the historical and personal journey of the people who inhabit the border between Mexico and the United States and elucidates the socioeconomic, political, and spiritual impact of the European conquest of indigenous peoples on the borderland as well as the ways in which marginalized peoples oppress one another. The volume is divided into two sections, the first a series of seven essays and the second a grouping of several poems. The poetry and essays in the collection are thematically linked by their focus on the borderland experience as well as the factors that affect cultural, sexual, and class unity. In the essay “La conciencia de la mestiza,” Anzaldúa touches on the divisiveness of sexism and homophobia to Chicano culture. By calling herself a mestiza, she rejects gender and sexual boundaries and attempts to create a new identity. Another essay, “The Homeland, Aztlán/El Otro México,” offers an extensive view of the major historical events that have resulted in the present-day border between the United States and Mexico. The second half of the essay provides a collective, familial, and personal perspective on the issue. In “How to Tame a Wild Tongue,” Anzaldúa explores the negative social attitudes toward Chicano ways of speaking, as well as the deleterious effects of these negative attitudes on the self-identity of Chicano people living in the borderlands. The last essay in the book, “La conciencia de la mestiza/Towards a New Consciousness,” introduces the concept of a mestiza consciousness, which is rooted in the borderlands, the breaking down of cultural boundaries, and the synthesis of different cultures, races, and languages. This amalgamation results in a new awareness, the mestiza consciousness, which subverts traditional perspectives on cultural identities to create a multicultural paradigm. In 1990, Anzaldúa edited Making Face, Making Soul: Haciendo Caras, an anthology of essays and poetry written by female students, artists, political activists, and academics.
Reviews of Anzaldúa's work have been highly favorable. The majority of critical attention to her oeuvre is focused on Borderlands/La Frontera, which critics regard as an important cultural study. While a few reviewers have criticized Anzaldúa's style as elliptical and have identified a tendency in her writing to leave ideas undeveloped, most commend as innovative her approach to cultural and feminist theory, the scope of her essays, and her articulation of the challenges facing lesbians and people of color. Feminist interpretations of her work analyze the impact of her theoretical frameworks of identity and mestiza consciousness on feminist and homosexual studies. Commentators also praise the combination of historical information and personal experience in Anzaldúa's essays. Borderlands/La Frontera is recognized as an influential work in Chicano cultural theory, and has been a popular text in Chicano, homosexual, and feminist studies.
This Bridge Called My Back: Writings by Radical Women of Color [editor with Cherríe Moraga] (essays and poetry) 1981
This Way Daybreak Comes [with Annie Cheatham and Mary Clare Powell] (poetry) 1986
Borderlands/La Frontera: The New Mestiza (essays and poetry) 1987
Making Face, Making Soul: Haciendo Caras: Creative and Critical Perspectives by Women of Color [editor] (poetry and essays) 1990
Prietita Has a Friend—Prietita tiene un amigo (juvenilia) 1991
Friends from the Other Side—Amigos del otra lado (juvenilia) 1993
La Prieta (novel) 1995
Lloronas, Women Who Howl: Autohistorias—Torias and the Productions of Writing, Knowledge, and Identity (essays) 1996
Prietita and the Ghost Woman—Prietita y la llorona (juvenilia) 1996
This Bridge We Call Home: Radical Visions for Transformation [editor and contributor] (poems, letters, stories, essays) 2002
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SOURCE: Yarbro-Bejarano, Yvonne. “Gloria Anzaldúa's Borderlands/La Frontera: Cultural Studies, ‘Difference,’ and the Non-Unitary Subject.” In Contemporary American Women Writers: Gender, Class, Ethnicity, edited by Lois Parkinson Zamora, pp. 11-31. New York: Addison Wesley Longman Limited, 1998.
[In the following essay, originally published in a 1994 issue of Cultural Critique, Yarbro-Bejarano discusses Anzaldúa's theory of mestiza or border consciousness in relation to the theory of difference and the mixed critical reaction to Borderlands/La Frontera.]
In 1979, Audre Lorde denounced the pernicious practice of the ‘Special Third World Women's Issue’ (100). Ten years later, the title of one of the chapters in Trinh T. Minh-ha's Woman, Native, Other—‘Difference: A Special Third World Women's Issue’—alludes to the lingering practice of acknowledging the subject of race and ethnicity but placing it on the margins conceptually through ‘special issues’ of journals or ‘special panels’ at conferences. In her ‘Feminism and Racism: A Report on the 1981 National Women's Studies Association Conference’, Chela Sandoval critiqued the conference's structure, which designated one consciousness-raising group for women of color yet offered proliferating choices for white women (60). Nine years later, a conference at UCLA on ‘Feminist Theory and the Question...
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SOURCE: Reuman, Ann E. “‘Wild Tongues Can't Be Tamed’: Gloria Anzaldúa's (R)evolution of Voice.” In Violence, Silence, and Anger: Women's Writing as Transgression, edited by Deirdre Lashgari, pp. 305-19. Charlottesville: University Press of Virginia, 1995.
[In the following essay, Reuman asserts that Anzaldúa utilizes her voice to protest injustices against women and people of color and ranks the author as a bold and valuable figure in the modern literary world.]
But it was the glint of steel at her throat that cut through to her voice. She would not be silent and still. She would live, arrogantly.
—Lorna Dee Cervantes, Emplumada
As it is for the Chicana poet Lorna Dee Cervantes in the epigraph above, so it is for her contemporary Gloria Anzaldúa, that the glint of steel at her throat does not cut her voice, but cuts through to her voice. Living on the border between Texas and Mexico, Anzaldúa finds herself in a land annexed by violent conquest, where the prominent features are hatred, anger, and exploitation.1 As a twentieth-century Chicana tejana feminist poet and fiction writer, she realizes that little has changed since the middle of the nineteenth century when Mexican Americans, particularly women, had little voice. Alienated from both the Mexican and the American cultures, which find no room for lesbian, working-class...
(The entire section is 6068 words.)
SOURCE: Embry, Marcus. “Cholo Angels in Guadalajara: The Politics and Poetics of Anzaldúa's Borderlands/La Frontera.” Women & Performance 8, no. 2 (1996): 87-108.
[In the following essay, Embry explores issues of Chicana cultural and sexual identity in Borderlands/La Frontera.]
BORDERLANDS IN THE ACADEMY
When introducing an upper-level undergraduate course in Chicana/o or Latina/o Studies, there is a high probability that Gloria Anzaldúa's Borderlands/La Frontera will be among the texts to which many students have already been exposed. Despite the book's popularity and use in a variety of courses, Borderlands/La Frontera has a relatively brief critical biography, and among the critical examinations, there are only a handful of close textual analyses. Lately, other facets and terms of Latinidad, once contained in Latin American, Latina/o, and Chicana/o Studies, have been appropriated far afield, in some ways continuing or paralleling the dissemination of Borderlands/La Frontera. But there are dangers in these appropriations, specifically the elision or erasure of the Latina/o experience, in all its variety and difference, that forms Latinidad. In the following close reading of Borderlands/La Frontera, I will examine how Anzaldúa's 1987 text navigates the problems caused by contemporary appropriations of...
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SOURCE: Fowlkes, Diane L. “Moving from Feminist Identity Politics to Coalition Politics through a Feminist Materialist Standpoint of Intersubjectivity in Gloria Anzaldúa's Borderland/La Frontera: The New Mestiza.” Hypatia 12, no. 2 (spring 1997): 105-24.
[In the following essay, Fowlkes maintains that Borderlands/La Frontera “develops and presents a form of subjectivity and the needed standpoint that prepare the ground for using feminist identity politics to build feminist coalitions.”]
When the Combahee River Collective proclaimed its new practice of feminist identity politics (1978), it was acting as part of a grassroots movement that would become a new wave of feminist theorizing.1 Its Statement was included in the next collection of writings that represented the flowering of identity politics, This Bridge Called My Back: Writings by Radical Women of Color (Moraga and Anzaldúa 1981, 1983).2 The initiation of feminist identity politics by radical women of color involved two moves, both of which had profound philosophical and political implications. The Combahee River Collective members exemplified the first move when they declared their own group identity as Black lesbian feminists, in order to become visible and to gain attention in what too many others perceived as (heterosexual) Black (men's) and (white, heterosexual) women's liberation struggles....
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SOURCE: Barnard, Ian. “Gloria Anzaldúa's Queer Mestisaje.” MELUS 22, no. 1 (spring 1997): 35-53.
[In the following essay, Barnard examines Anzaldúa's utilization of queer theory in Borderlands/La Frontera.]
In the 1992 “queer issue” of The Village Voice, Dennis Cooper quotes Johnny Noxzema and Rex Boy characterizing the Canadian publication BIMBOX, which Noxzema and Rex Boy edited:
You are entering a gay and lesbian-free zone. … Effective immediately, BIMBOX is at war against lesbians and gays. A war in which modern queer boys and queer girls are united against the prehistoric thinking and demented self-serving politics of the above-mentioned scum. BIMBOX hereby renounces its past use of the term lesbian and/or gay in a positive manner. This is a civil war against the ultimate evil, and consequently we must identify us and them in no uncertain terms. … So, dear lesbian womon or gay man to whom perhaps BIMBOX has been inappropriately posted … prepare to pay dearly for the way you and your kind have fucked things up.
Readers unfamiliar with recent debacles within lesbian and gay political circles might be forgiven for at first assuming this to be a particularly scurrilous instance of violent homophobia. But, of course, the BIMBOX editors are...
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SOURCE: Saldívar-Hull, Sonia. “Mestiza Consciousness and Politics: Gloria Anzaldúa's Borderlands/La Frontera.” In Feminism on the Border: Chicana Gender Politics and Literature, pp. 59-79. Berkeley: University of California Press, 2000.
[In the following essay, Saldívar-Hull elucidates Anzaldúa's theory of mestiza consciousness in Borderlands/La Frontera, viewing it as an articulation of “the politics of feminism on the border.”]
Who, me confused? Ambivalent? Not so. Only your labels split me.
—Gloria Anzaldúa, “La Prieta,” in This Bridge Called My Back
In Borderlands/La Frontera: The New Mestiza (1987), Gloria Anzaldúa presents an explicit articulation of the politics of feminism on the border. Soon after the publication of this text, “the border” quickly became a fashionable metaphor used by many feminist Chicana/o studies and cultural studies critics and scholars.1 Anzaldúa's theoretical statements illustrate the dialectical position in which feminists on the border “find themselves,” in every sense of the phrase. Her theory of “Mestiza Consciousness” recenters her brand of Chicana feminism in the concrete, material locations of working-class-identified women whose ethnicity and sexuality further dislocate and displace them. The multiple and...
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SOURCE: Rotger, Antònia Oliver Maria. “‘Sangre Fértil’/Fertile Blood: Migratory Crossings, War and Healing in Gloria Anzaldúa's Borderlands/La Frontera.” In Dressing Up for War: Transformations of Gender and Genre in the Discourse and Literature of War, edited by Aranzazu Usandizaga and Andrew Monnickendam, pp. 189-211. Amsterdam: Rodopi, 2001.
[In the following essay, Rotger uses the term “sangre fértil” to describe Anzaldúa's ability to speak from a borderland position between a variety of cultures, languages, and perspectives and discusses the author's creation of a new consciousness as a feminist and political activist.]
In her elegy “Para los Californios Muertos” (“To the Dead Californios”)1 the Californian poet of Mexican origin Lorna Dee Cervantes conjures up the vague historical memory of the destruction of the towns and culture of Californios during the US occupation of former Mexican territory. This occupation began around the 1820s and culminated with the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo (1848), by which Mexico was stripped of the territories that today comprise the states of California, Nevada, Arizona, Utah, New Mexico and half of Colorado. In Cervantes' poem, a visit to a restaurant where the only vestige of her descendants is a cold brass plaque, stirs the poetic voice's raging lament for a history effaced by stretches of highway, white houses and...
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SOURCE: Alarcón, Norma. “Anzaldúa's Frontera: Inscribing Gynetics.” In Chicana Feminisms: A Critical Reader, edited by Gabriela F. Arredondo, Aída Hurtado, Norma Klahn, Olga Nájera-Ramírez, and Patricia Zavella, pp. 354-69. Durham, N.C.: Duke University Press, 2003.
[In the following essay, Alarcón analyzes the role of Anzaldúa's theory of mestiza consciousness in her attempt to repossess the borderlands in Borderlands/La Frontera.]
THE INSCRIPTION OF THE SUBJECT
In our time the very categorical and/or conceptual frameworks through which we explicitly or implicitly perceive our sociopolitical realities and our own subjective (private) contextual insertion are very much in question. There is a desire to construct our own (women of color) epistemologies and ontologies and to obtain the interpretive agency with which to make claims to our own critical theory. Theoretically infused writing practices, such as those found in anthologies like This Bridge Called My Back: Writings by Radical Women of Color (Moraga and Anzaldúa 1981); All the Women Are White, All the Blacks Are Men, but Some of Us Are Brave (Hull, Scott, and Smith 1982), and Making Face, Making Soul: Haciendo Caras. Creative and Critical Perspectives by Feminists of Color (Anzaldúa 1990), are salient testaments to that desire for inscription in a different register—the...
(The entire section is 6387 words.)
SOURCE: Torres, Hector A. “Genre, Gender, and Mestiza Consciousness in the Work of Gloria Anzaldúa.” Contemporary Literary Criticism 200, edited by Jeffrey William Hunter, 2004.
[In the following essay, specially commissioned for Contemporary Literary Criticism, Torres situates Anzaldúa's work within the cultural context of postmodernism via the literary and philosophical concept of mestizaje.]
“… this is where the new mestiza comes in … now, in these postmodern times we do not have to adhere to a windows and doors closed identity that remains in the Chicano community. We can be transcultural. The very concept of mestizaje is this mixture of cultures and we can do that intellectually so that the mestiza is wide open: it's okay for the mestiza to be reading theories of the major, theories of the minor, world literature, world feminism. But not everybody is that stage. There are still some feminists who still need this enclosed Chicano community to give them a foundation, to give them some sort of a sense of security as a Chicana, so that all these doubles are operating simultaneously—the Chicana just becoming aware that she is oppressed as a Chicana, that she is oppressed as a woman coming into her feminism, and the Chicana who has gone through all of this. Movimientos after movimientos and all these struggles and...
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Aldama, Arturo J. “Toward a Hermeneutics of Decolonization: Reading Radical Subjectivities in Borderlands/La Frontera: The New Mestiza by Gloria Anzaldúa.” In Disrupting Savagism: Intersecting Chicana/o, Mexican Immigrant, and Native American Struggles for Self-Representation, pp. 95-128. Durham, N.C.: Duke University Press, 2001.
Contends that Borderlands/La Frontera implements a “radical hermeneutics of antisexist decolonial autohistoriateoría.”
Anzaldúa, Gloria, and Karin Rosa Ikas. “Gloria Anzaldúa: Writer, Editor, Critic, and Third-World Lesbian Women-of-Color Feminist.” In Chicana Ways: Conversations with Ten Chicana Writers, pp. 1-24. Reno: University of Nevada Press, 2002.
Anzaldúa discusses her childhood, the response to her work, and her creative process.
Anzaldúa, Gloria, and AnaLouise Keating. “Writing, Politics, and las Lesberadas: Platicando con Gloria Anzaldúa.” Frontiers 14, no. 1 (1993): 105-30.
Interview in which Anzaldúa reflects on reactions to her work, the concept of cultural unity, and the role of spirituality in her life.
Anzaldúa, Gloria, and Andrea A. Lunsford. “Toward a Mestiza Rhetoric: Gloria Anzaldúa on Composition and Postcoloniality.” In Race, Rhetoric and the Postcolonial,...
(The entire section is 1276 words.)