Anzaldúa, Gloria

Assigned: Anzaldúa, Gloria. From Borderlands/La Frontera: The New Mestiza, Chapter 7. “La conciencia de la mestiza/Towards a New Consciousness”(1986-97). Also read the editors’ introduction (1983-86).

From Borderlands/La Frontera: The New Mestiza (1987)

Chapter 7. La conciencia de la mestiza/Towards a New Consciousness

Introductory Paragraph and Una Lucha de fronteras/A Struggle of Borders

1. On 1986-88 (“José Vasconcelos, Mexican philosopher…”), How does Gloria Anzaldúa adapt philosopher José Vasconcelos’ concept of an inclusive, “cosmic race” (1986) to her own interest in “una conciencia de mujer” (a consciousness belonging to woman)? How does she go on to describe the border (la frontera) that marks the emergence of a related new consciousness, and the struggle (la lucha) that goes on in the consciousness of a woman who is at once part of more than one culture; that is, a mestiza or “mixed” person in terms of culture and race? (1987) Why is it insufficient for a person so situated to found her future on conflict with a “patriarchal, white” (1987) set of conventions and assumptions? What is necessary instead?

A Tolerance for Ambiguity

2. On 1988-89 (“These numerous possibilities leave la mestiza…”), what does Anzaldúa apparently mean by her term “divergent thinking” to describe the consciousness of a mestiza? What kind of thinking does that divergent thinking oppose, and why? What is “the work of mestiza consciousness” (1988), and what are the expected benefits of such work?

La Encrucijada/The Crossroads

3. On 1989-90 (“A chicken is being sacrificed…”), Anzaldúa provides a creative sense of what it feels like to be a mestiza situated at a cultural and historical crossroads, at once cast out and “cultureless” (1989) and yet creative of a new culture. The key metaphor she employs is that of “kneading” (1989) and of all the activities that go into the making of corn tortillas, tortillas de masa. Why do you suppose she has chosen this particular metaphor to describe the spiritual complexity and productivity of mestiza experience? How is it at once traditional and yet something other than that? Explain.

El Camino de la mestiza/The Mestiza Way

4. On 1990-91 (“Caught between the sudden contraction…”), Anzaldúa offers a prose poem and a number of Spanish expressions to describe the manner in which a mestiza might best treat history and the present. What attitude towards the historical past, then, does this brief section counsel? What attitude towards those who dwell in the present does it suggest?

Que no se nos olvide los hombres

5. On 1991-92 (“Tú no sirves pa’ nada…”), how does Anzaldúa deal with the concept of machismo (1991) among Chicano men in particular, but also among men in other cultures as well? How does she identify the root cause of many men’s fear of and cruelty towards women? In what sense, according to Anzaldúa, do “queer” people help link larger and initially isolated groups—how are they, in a sense, cultural conduits among peoples?

Somos una gente

6. On 1992-93 (“Hay tantísimas fronteras…”), what stance does Anzaldúa take towards white people? What does she think Chicanos should be sure to say to white society in the United States? (1993) What relationship between Mexico and the United States does she posit—what must be acknowledged about that relationship, and why?

By Your True Faces We Will Know You

7. On 1993-94 (“I am visible—see this Indian face—…”), Anzaldúa writes, “The dominant white culture is killing us slowly with its ignorance” (1993). What ignorance is meant here—what is it that white culture is ignorant about with regard to Chicano/Latino people? What call does Anzaldúa make to Chicano/Latino and other people regarding their own various histories and cultures? (1993-94) Finally, what relationship between “inner” recognition/change and external transformation of whole societies does she posit? To what other esteemed human rights figures does this claim connect her? (1994)

El Día de la chicana

8. On 1994-95 (“I will not be shamed again…”), what is “El Día de la chicana” (the day of the Chicana) for Anzaldúa? What does she wish, examine, and do on that day, and what does she say is the main goal in celebrating it?

El Retorno

9. On 1995-97 (“All movements are accomplished…”), Anzaldúa recounts a visit to the place where she grew up with her family on a farm in Hidalgo County, Texas, in the Lower Rio Grande Valley. What affects her most about this bittersweet visit to the struggling, hardscrabble land of her early years? What does she tell us about her family, and about herself? How is this deeply personal section of Anzaldúa’s text connected to the earlier, somewhat less intimate sections we have read?

10. General question: In Borderlands/La Frontera: The New Mestiza, Gloria Anzaldúa uses a good deal of Spanish, some of it poetical and/or colloquial. If you know Spanish well or can without too much difficulty look it up and understand it, choose a few passages and discuss what they add to your understanding of the English section in which those passages are located. What is clearer, or better emphasized, or somehow rendered more complicated, by the Spanish text (which Anzaldúa refrains from translating)?

11. General question: In Borderlands/La Frontera: The New Mestiza, Gloria Anzaldúa seems at least somewhat optimistic, if wary, about the prospects for improvement in the lives of Mexican-Americans and other Latin-American people. Unfortunately, she died more than a decade-and-a-half ago, in 2004, and these are difficult, uncertain times for immigrants. How do you think Anzaldúa would analyze the situation of immigrants to America as we enter the third decade of the twenty-first century? Do you believe she would still be optimistic about the future? Explain.

Edition: Leitch, Vincent B. et al., eds. The Norton Anthology of Theory and Criticism. 3rd ed. New York and London: W. W. Norton & Company, 2018. ISBN-13: 978-0-393-60295-1.

Copyright © 2021 Alfred J. Drake