Books allow the dead to speak to the living. All writers know this basic fact, that we become immortal by the very act of writing. Today, I picked up a copy of a book called, “Borderlands, La Frontera” by Gloria Anzaldûa. Gloria no longer is among the living, having passed away in 2004. No matter, because she has become immortal.
Immortal? Yes, immortal. Her words, thoughts, emotions, hopes, dreams, the full range of her humanity still speaks to any reader who wants to hear her voice, and learn from her wisdom, gained throughout a lifetime of exploitation and quite simply, an existence at the outer edges of society. Hence, the title of her book, Borderlands.
I just finished reading the preface to her book, and it is powerful in its evocative grip upon the reader’s consciousness. The reading calls forth an awareness of what life is like for people who find themselves outside the mainstream of society…
That is all I wish to say, because Gloria is quite willing and able to speak for herself, even now, a quarter of a century after her book was first published.
The Preface: Borderlands / La Frontera: The New Mestiza
Dedicated to a todos mexicanos on both sides of the border.
The actual physical borderland that I’m dealing with in this book is the Texas-U.S Southwest/Mexican border. The psychological borderlands, the sexual borderlands and the spiritual borderlands are not particular to the Southwest.
In fact, the Borderlands are physically present wherever two or more cultures edge each other, where people of different races occupy the same territory, where under, lower, middle and upper classes touch, where the space between two individuals shrinks with intimacy.
I am a border woman.
I grew up between two cultures, the Mexican (with a heavy Indian influence) and the Anglo (as a member of a colonized people in our own territory). I have been
straddling that tejas-Mexican border, and others, all my life. It’s not a comfortable territory to live in, this place of contradictions.
Hatred, anger and exploitation are the prominent features of this landscape.
However, there have been compensations for this mestiza, and certain joys.
Living on borders and in margins, keeping intact one’s shifting and multiple identity and integrity, is like trying to swim in a new element, an “alien” element. There is an exhilaration in being a participant in the further evolution of humankind, in being “worked” on.
I have the sense that certain “faculties” (not just in me but in every border resident, colored or noncolored) and dormant areas of consciousness are being activated, awakened. Strange, huh?
And, yes, the “alien” element has become familiar-never comfortable, not with society’s clamor to uphold the old, to rejoin the flock, to go with the herd. No, not comfortable, but home.
This book, then, speaks of my existence.
My preoccupations with the inner life of the Self, and with the struggle of that Self amidst adversity and violation; with the confluence of primordial images; with the unique positionings consciousness takes at these confluent streams; and with my almost instinctive urge to communicate, to speak, to write about life on the borders, life in the shadows.
Books saved my sanity, knowledge opened the locked places in me and taught me first how to survive and then how to soar. La madre naturaleza succored me, allowed me to grow roots that anchored me to the earth.
My love of images-mesquite flowering, the wind, Ehecatl, whispering its secret knowledge, the fleeting images of the soul in fantasy-and words, my passion for the daily struggle to render them concrete in the world and on paper, to render them flesh, keeps me alive…
The switching of “codes” in this book, from English to Castillian Spanish to the North Mexican dialect to Tex-Mex to a sprinkling of Nahuatl to a mixture of all of these, reflects my language, a new language-the language of the Borderlands.
There, at the juncture of cultures, languages cross-pollinate and are revitalized; they die and are born again.
Presently this infant language, this “bastard” language, Chicano Spanish, is not approved by any society.
But we Chicanos no longer feel that we need to beg entrance, that we need always to make the first overture-to translate to Anglos, Mexicans and Latinos, apology
blurting out of our mouths with every step.
Today we ask to be met halfway.
This book is our invitation to you-from the New Mestizas…
Gloria Anzaldúa never let borders stop her. In fact, she expanded our understanding of what physical and cultural borders meant. A literary queer Chicana scholar, poet and author, Anzaldúa wrote about her life growing up near the South Texas border, the beauty and perils it offered.
Her best-known book, “Borderlands/La Frontera: The New Mestiza,” is a seminal text that explores the invisible borders between people.
Anzaldúa uses poetry, prose and theory to dive into her own life and the marginalization she faced. Codeswitching from English to Spanish and sometimes to Nahautl, Anzaldúa delivers a message that borders are a fluid space.
— Thomas Jerome Baker (@profesortbaker) June 23, 2018