This week we attempted to make our way through Gloria Anzaldúa’s Borderlands/ La Frontera. It was mostly agreed that Borderlands is an important text and that it’s conceptual and linguistic complexity asks for more time than one week to work through. We still had an interesting and productive conversation about the text and our experiences with it.
Personally I have now read Gloria Anzaldúa’s Borderlands/La Frontera twice and have in both cases found it to be a spiritual experience. Never have I found a text that so closely mirrors my experiences, wounds and internal questions. I felt very lucky when I found this text because it has helped me recognize feelings and thoughts that I have always possessed but lacked the language to articulate. Reading Borderlands is an experience in pain, healing, acceptance and empowerment. I think this speaks to the importance of teaching the text, especially in communities with large Latinx presences.
Many of my classmates spoke of Borderlands from the experience of having taught sections of it in their courses. This experience usually centered around the difficulty students had reading the text as well as to the students’ realization that reading Borderlands created for them an experience similar to that of the Chicano community and immigrant community. How have you reacted to this text?
Because I, a mestiza,
continually walk out of one culture,
and into another,
because I am in all cultures at the same time,
alma entre dos mundos, tres, cuatro,
me zumba la cabeza con lo contradictorio.
Estoy norteada por todas las voces que me hablan
Anzaldúa speaks about the concept of Mestiza consciousness; a description for those torn between two ways. Mestiza consciousness is a dual consciousness that straddles on the borderlands of multiple cultures and in turn multiple frames of reference or ways of seeing the world. These frames of reference do not always coexist in harmony within someone’s mind. La mestiza carries the pain of cultural collisions and copes with the contradiction of them by adopting a lack of rigidity in thought. With this fluidity they develop a tolerance for contradiction and ambiguity. Bearing this plural personality and fluid thought process, la mestiza is able to throw away oppressive traditions in their cultures, reinterpret history and adopt new perspectives.
Being so emotionally attached to Borderlands, I was at first resistant to the texts that we read critiquing the concept of Mestizaje. Gabriela Raquel Rios has a chapter called Mestizaje in the book Decolonizing Rhetoric and Composition Studies that brought up some pretty relevant points on the subject though. She describes mestizofilia as a method used to find value in Mexico’s mixed race majority, but only by viewing the mixed race as superior to the indigenous one. She describes that this ideology is what justified putting indigenos into ejidos (reservations). What I found to be undeniable was her description of ethnographic entrapment as what occurs when indigenos are seen as historical objects of knowledge rather than empowered individuals. The indigenos, their culture and customs are referred to in past tense and only the customs that the mestizo has kept are allowed access to the present and future tense. Anzaldua makes reference to this phenomenon when she describes the spirituality of objects. She gives the example of how an indigenous piece of art that had spiritual connotations in it’s community, is dead when on display in a museum. While Anzaldúa’s description of mestizaje lifts up and finds empowerment in lo indigeno, it still does not acknowledge a future to indigenous culture. Indigenous culture is treated as an additive. While Borderlands still is a revolutionary text, it is important to acknowledge it’s shortcomings. What ideas did you glean as empowering or problematic within this text?