Borderlands / La Frontera

by Gloria Anzaldúa

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Part 2, Chapters 3–4 Summary and Analysis

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Last Updated on April 12, 2021, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 1497

Part 2, Chapter 3

The third section of poems is titled “Crossers.”

In the first poem, “Poets Have Strange Eating Habits,” the speaker takes “that plunge off the high cliff” and describes how the “hooves” of her land-traversing self are replaced by feathers. When the speaker then falls from the sky, she begins “slithering into holes with rattlesnakes.” This process endlessly repeats.

In the second poem, “Yo no fui, fue Teté,” a gay man goes out at night. He is picked up by a group of fellow Chicanos, but they end up beating him and insulting him. He is ashamed that they come from the same culture.

In the third poem, “The Cannibal's Canción,” the speaker likens love to an act of consumption, with particular emphasis placed on the sexual organs and erogenous zones. She wears the bones of her lover as jewelry. On Sunday, she goes to mass and puts the “relics to rest.”

In the fourth poem, “En mi corazón se incuba,” the speaker expresses a deep and abiding loneliness. She feels disconnected from love and its possibilities on account of her queerness.

The fifth poem is titled “Corner of 50th St. and Fifth Av.'' The speaker details an incident she witnessed between the police and a Puerto Rican man. Someone in the crowd indicates that the Puerto Rican man is homosexual, and another adds that he just got out of prison. The cops brutally assault the man by repeatedly smacking his buttocks. The speaker remarks that this is the closest that the cops will allow themselves to come to their latent homosexual urges.

In the sixth poem, “Compañera, cuando amábamos,” the speaker urges her female lover to recall the earlier days of their romance, when they still went on dates and still made love. She recalls how happy they were, walking through the park or going to the beach. She wonders if they can truly love each other once again.

In the seventh poem, “Interface,” the speaker describes her romance with an evidently extraterrestrial being that she names Leyla. Leyla is, at first, a non-corporeal being, but she becomes fascinated by the speaker’s flesh body. The speaker, in turn, is fascinated by Leyla’s ability to be “pure sound.” Eventually, Leyla develops a flesh presence, and she and the speaker become lovers. Leyla is in awe of the material world, and the speaker is in awe of Leyla’s apparent ability to influence the world around her. When the speaker takes Leyla home to meet her family, they ask if she is a lesbian, and the speaker replies that Leyla is actually just an “alien.”

Part 2, Chapter 4

The fourth section of poetry is titled “Cihuatlyotl, Woman Alone.”

The first poem, “Holy Relics,” details the history and dismemberment of the body of Saint Teresa of Ávila. After her death, she was quietly entombed, and her grave was cared for by the sisters of her order. However, she was exhumed multiple times in order to verify her sainthood, and each time, another piece of her corpse was removed. The speaker compares the dismemberment of Saint Teresa to the scattering of the Chicano people, insisting that people must “Seek each other” in order to become whole again.

The second poem, “En el nombre de todas las madres que han perdido sus hijos en la guerra,” depicts a mother's lament for her lost children. She declares that she hates the white men who wage war and steal her children from her, begging for her own life to end so that she may rejoin her dead children.

In the third poem, “Letting...

(This entire section contains 1497 words.)

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Go,” the speaker encourages people to “split open” their insides in order to release all of the trauma and pain that is trapped inside them. It is difficult and painful, but she insists that no one else is going to do it for them. People must take care of themselves, and by confronting their own traumas, they can evolve as people and become better able to confront future troubles.

In the fourth poem, “I Had to Go Down,” the speaker laments that she never goes down to the basement because she is afraid of the sounds the furnace makes. However, one day she is forced to make the descent, turning on every light in the house before she goes. Getting down there is hard, as the stairs have decayed. However, when she reaches the basement, she wipes off a window and finds that a tree has started growing there. She also realizes that the creaking footsteps and noises she was so often frightened of were actually of her own making.

The fifth poem, “Cagado abismo, quiero saber,” addresses a series of angry questions to an abyssal manifestation. The speaker laments that life is difficult, especially for women, and asks the abyss why it won’t simply take her and end the misery.

The sixth poem, “That dark shining thing,” is written from the perspective of Anzaldúa herself, who grapples with needing to help a young, marginalized student in one of her writing courses. She does not relish the task, but she knows that as the only person of color on staff, the task will always fall to her. She recognizes the pain and darkness within this student, and she positions herself as a midwife who can help this student birth their own “dark shining thing.” The birthing is difficult for all parties, but she knows that recognizing and externalizing the inner beast is vital.

In the seventh poem, “Cihuatlyotl, Woman Alone,” the speaker tells her culture, or Raza, that her struggle to live life on her own terms has been difficult but important. She does not want to reject her people entirely, but she needs the space to be alone with herself. “Mexicans are collective animals,” she says, but her “life’s work requires autonomy.” She will allow herself to engage with her people and their culture, but she must “whittle” her own final form using her own hands.


The poems that make up part 2, chapters 3 and 4, depict the queer and female Chicana experiences respectively. Poems like “En mi corazón se incuba” and “Compañera, cuando amábamos” discuss the isolating aspects of the queer experience, wherein young queer people are left to wonder if they will ever find love and older queer people constantly look back on old relationships for fear of being alone. Queer desire and yearning is considered taboo by the dominant culture, and so they can only incubate those feelings in the vain hope that someday they can live freely.

Poems like “Yo no fui, fue Teté'' and “Corner of 50th St. and Fifth Av.” depict the violence often aimed at queer individuals. Due to the sexual language and imagery employed in both poems, Anzaldúa seems to be drawing a link between repression and hatred; the cops attack the Puerto Rican man in a sexual manner as an outlet for their own latent homosexual urges, and the speaker in “Yo no fui, fue Teté” is “orphaned” by his people because they fear his desire. Although the true victims in both poems are queer individuals who are being directly attacked, the poems also both highlight the apparent victimhood of the abusers as well: society has so conditioned people to view queer individuals with scorn, hatred, and fear that they cannot recognize the kinship that should otherwise exist between them.

In part 2, chapter 4, Anzaldúa explores the intricacies of being a Chicana woman. “Holy Relics” dissects the cultural belief that women are meant to live in the service of men, breaking off metaphorical pieces of themselves in order to support their fathers, brothers, and husbands. “Cihuatlyotl, Woman Alone” is a direct refutation of this belief, as the speaker tells her culture that as much as she appreciates it, she also cannot give herself over to it entirely. This speaks to the need for female autonomy and the importance of self-improvement and self-actualization.

“Letting Go,” “Cagado abismo, quiero saber,” and “that dark shining thing” all affirm the importance of self-discovery and the advancement of one’s own consciousness. The speaker in “Letting Go” urges people to process and transform their trauma or else it will fester, as it has for the speaker in “Cagado abismo, quiero saber.” That speaker, overwhelmed by anger, trauma, and frustration, calls out to the dark abyss for answers. The speaker in “that dark shining thing” seems to have her answer: Chicanos, especially women, must undergo a constant and painful process of self-reflection and personal growth. They must face their inner Coatlicue and overcome the fear they have been conditioned to have of their Indigenous selves, their sexual selves, and the other darker aspects of their psyche. It is only through facing their fears, as the speaker in “I Had to Go Down” is forced to do, that they are able to leave behind the pain associated with a conflicted and incomplete identity.


Part 2, Chapters 1–2 Summary and Analysis


Part 2, Chapter 5–6 Summary and Analysis