Using prose and poetry in both English and Spanish, the author explores the physical, cultural, and psychological meanings of "borderlands" and what it means to be a mestiza in the United States. She begins by describing the border between the U.S. and Mexico as where "the Third World grates against the first and bleeds." She states that a distinctive border culture is growing up in this region. Though it is now defined as white, this area was first Indian, Spanish, and mestizo and a place of migration from north to south (as Chicanos and mestizos moved from what is the U.S. to Mexico) and then south to north (as Mexicans returned to the U.S. as immigrants). She then explores the ways in which she rebelled against her culture by being a lesbian, and she identifies the resistance inherent in her mestiza culture. She writes that "I want to freedom to chisel my own face." She also identifies the female deities in Latina culture that men drove underground and the ways in which traditional culture once gave more power to women. She pries off the layers of history to find the multiple complex strands that compose her identity and calls for the people who are dominant in the borderland culture to recognize and empower those who are oppressed.
The author in this book, Gloria E. Anzaldua, writes to properly illustrate the meaning of being a "Mestiza." In order to define this for her readers, Gloria examines herself, her homeland, and her language as a daughter of a Spanish American and an American Indian. The "borderlands" that are discussed in the book refer to Mexico and the United States (Texas). In addition, Gloria also refers to other "borderlands," more specifically, sexual and spiritual borderlands.
The book is not only written in English, and not only written in Spanish, but a combination of both. This is the way Gloria chose to show how frustrating life can be when one is confused about language and who they are as a person.
Gloria discusses her homeland, her own migration away from where she lived and the culture she was leaving behind, the folk-Catholic heritage, the power struggle between men and women, speaking "Spanglish," race, and ethnicity. All of these things mixed into an autobiographical and historical book.