Borderlands / La Frontera

by Gloria Anzaldúa

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Part 2, Chapter 5–6 Summary and Analysis

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Last Updated on April 12, 2021, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 986

Part 2, Chapter 5

The fifth section of poetry is titled “Animas.”

The first poem, “La curandera,” details how the speaker became a healer. After she grew sick, a healer was sent for, but the healer was found dead. The speaker herself then died but was resurrected when Juan Davila prayed for her. The speaker then saw serpents crawling on her floor, who introduced themselves as her “healing spirit guides.” She began to cultivate healing herbs and took Juan Davila as her apprentice.

The second poem, “Mujer cacto,” compares a woman of the desert to a cactus. She is thorny and has developed numerous ways to protect herself. However, she does not necessarily live long, and she also possesses a predatory and destructive nature.

In the third poem, “Cuyamaca,” the speaker describes seeing land for sale in the Southwest. However, Indigenous people are confined to reservations, denied access to the land they used to live on. She also describes her encounter with an Indigenous woman from a nearly extinct tribe, who she later sees “behind glass in the museum.”

In the fourth poem, “My Black Angelos,” the speaker encounters a woman, possibly La Llorona, crying for a dead child or a lost lover. The woman has talons and a snake’s tongue, and she possesses the speaker. The two then fly through the night sky, roaming “with the souls of the dead.”

In the fifth poem, “Creature of Darkness,” the speaker describes her seclusion in the aftermath of grief. She withdraws from her friends and family and comes to be at war with herself. Part of her wants to escape from the darkness, while the other part has become “a creature at home in the dark.”

In the sixth poem, “Antigua, mi diosa,” the speaker interacts with her goddess, Antigua, who forces an awakening upon her. Antigua’s claws tear the speaker apart, opening her up to her feelings. However, this forceful opening is painful, and the speaker is left to contend with the pain while crying out to Antigua for help.

Part 2, Chapter 6

The sixth section of poetry is titled “El Retorno,” or “The Return.”

In the first poem, “Arriba mi gente,” the speaker sings to her people and encourages them to join together. “Mi gente” translates to “my people,” and the speaker tells them to wake up and help her free all people from their oppression.

In the second poem, “To live in the borderlands means you,” the speaker describes what it means to live in a borderland between identities. Those who occupy the space between races often have claim to both all and none of their heritage. They are left adrift, forced to resist vices such as alcohol and suicide. She concludes that in order to successfully thrive in the borderlands, people must make themselves into “a crossroads,” increasing connection between races and cultures rather than remaining adrift.

The third poem, “Canción de la diosa de la noche,” is an invocation of the dark spirits and goddesses. The speaker journeys through the spirit realm, renouncing her “fealty to nature” and instead discovering her “kindred spirits.” She calls on all of those in tune with these spirits to “don the feathered mantle / and change our fate.”

The fourth poem, “Don’t give in, Chicanita,” is addressed to young Chicana girls, urging them not to give up. The speaker acknowledges that for now, life is tough. Chicanos are economically and socially disadvantaged, and white people continue to hoard the land. However, the speaker states that white people can never “take that pride of being mexicana-Chicana-tejana / nor our Indian...

(This entire section contains 986 words.)

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woman’s spirit.” The Chicano people are resilient, and they will someday “rise up” and reclaim their culture and their land, like “serpent lightning.”


The poems in chapter 5 center on the notion of an intuitive and self-driven life, as well as the consequences of refusing to do the hard work of self-improvement. The “anima” is sometimes conceptualized as the irrational part of the soul, and this harkens back to the ideas Anzaldúa raises in part 1, chapter 3, about la facultad, or the concept of a deeper, more intimate kind of knowing than can be accomplished purely through reason or education. The healing spirits in “La Curandera” and the terrifying but also empowering figures in “My Black Angelos” and “Antigua, Mi Diosa” speak to the ways in which spirituality and the giving of the self over to other, higher powers can in turn empower a person. This thread continues in part 2, chapter 4, through “Canción de la diosa de la noche,” when the speaker invokes a dark goddess to help her change fate.

By contrast, the rejection of transformation is depicted in all of its grisly consequences in “mujer cacto” and “Creature of Darkness.” The cactus woman may be able to protect herself with thorns, but her life force is drained as a result of her efforts. Similarly, the speaker in “Creature of Darkness” becomes trapped within her self-made denial and depression. Without properly processing the pain and trauma of life, people become trapped and unable to escape their current way of thinking.

These two sections of poetry together form a call to both personal and communal ascendance. Through spiritual connection and art, Anzaldúa calls women to be the priestesses of a new world order. She urges all of her people to join with her in creating this better world by refusing to give in to despair and oppression. “To Live in the Borderlands Means You” acknowledges the hardships of being Chicano, but “Arriba Mi Gente” and “Don’t Give In, Chicanita” are a reminder that the present need not also be the future. By coming together as a community, the Chicano people—and all other races of the world—can forge a new, better reality. Someday, the symbolic return to Aztlán may transcend myth, and the Chicano people may finally be able to return home.


Part 2, Chapters 3–4 Summary and Analysis