theory #9: Gloria Anzaldua’s Borderlands/La Frontera

1. Apr. 2020


Cradled in one culture, sandwiched between two cultures, straddling all three cultures and their value systems, la mestiza undergoes a struggle of flesh, a struggle of borders, an inner war.

In our last meeting we talked about Gloria Anzaldúa’s “Borderlands/La Frontera: The New Mestiza”, which describes the tensions and ambivalences of the borderland culture between Mexico and the United States. The Mestiza is fluctuating in this space in-between, in the space where “the Third World grates against the first and bleeds”.


The mestiza has a plural personality, she is juggling cultures in the sense that she is viewed as an Indian in Mexico and as a Mexican in the U.S. In this inner clash of cultures a new consciousness arises, a “mestiza consciousness” that focuses on the creation of a new culture within the borderlands. It is a culture based on tolerance for ambiguity and flexibility instead of rigid boundaries. Gloria Anzaldúa invites us to deconstruct borders in a twofold way – not only in a geographical and material sense, but also the borders in the mind. Anzaldúa addresses both the gringo and her own culture. While the gringo is disintegrative and reinforces border-thinking and the “white culture is killing us slowly with its ignorance”, the Chicano culture needs to be freed from hierarchical male dominance (“machismo”) and heterosexist thinking. The mestiza way means to create a third culture within the borderland, a much more inclusive and flexible one: “As a lesbian I have no race, my own people disclaim me; but I am all races because there is the queer of me in all races. I am cultureless because, as a feminist, I challenge the collective rural/religious male-derived beliefs of Indo-Hispanics and Anglos; yet I am cultured because I am participating in the creation of yet another culture, a new story to explain the world and our participation in it.”

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