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8: Gloria Anzaldúa (1942-2004)

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    Gloria Anzaldúa

    Derek Schumaker


    Gloria Anzaldúa is an Ethnic American Literature author that is often studied. She is a female author who comes from a Latina background, and specifically from Chicana descent. Gloria Anzaldúa was a culturally diverse person with ties to many different Latina practices and different language dialects. For example, “Chicanas who grew up speaking Chicano Spanish have internalized the belief that we speak poor Spanish. It is illegitimate, a bastard language. And because we internalize how our language has been used against us by the dominant culture, we use our language differences against each other.” (Anzaldúa 58). Oftentimes in her literary works, Gloria Anzaldúa would focus on the struggle to find her own self-identity. She would write about how she would talk one way and act another depending on the company surrounding her because she did not know what to say and how to present herself. For example, Mariana Ortega discusses why people would conform to society when they could just act like themselves. Ortega says, “In a powerful critique against the philosophical tendency to answer the famous/infamous question of personal identity, of finding the criteria to explain selfhood over time, by way of an appeal to thought experiments, Brison asks, Why resort to “fusion, fission, freezing dissolution, reconstitution and/or teletransportation” (Brison, 13) when we can use our own experience to understand who we are?” (Ortega 239). She grew up in a time period where people were fighting for their rights and wanting to be accepted. It is pretty understandable for a person of Latina descent to be confused as to who she really is at that time in United States history, especially because the white male audience dominated the culture in the United States and wanted to micromanage everything that was going on in society.

    “A counterstance locks one into a duel of oppressor and oppressed; locked in mortal combat, like the cop and the criminal, both are reduced to a common denominator of violence."

    One of the main themes that seems to stand out in many of Gloria Anzaldúa’s works is the struggle to find her own self-identity and or pride in herself. One of the reasons why she writes so passionately about her struggle is because she grew up in a time period in the United States where it was looked down upon to speak foreign languages, especially those that descend from Latin America.. In other words, Gloria Anzaldúa offers first hand accounts of the struggle she goes through each and every day along with her passionate personality and fiery sense of being through her resistance to conformity. As she grew up, Anzaldúa refused to conform with society and let white people walk all over her. Rather, she would write how she wanted to, spoke how she wanted, and behave on her own terms to help create her own Chicana American self. Anzaldúa was a mentor and teacher to people growing up in the United States that it is okay to be different and be a symbol of hope. In other words, Anzaldúa was a feminist who would try to integrate different cultures together. In a critique of Anzaldúa, the author brought up this topic about her. For example, “What I did not know but learned from Chicana feminists like Anzaldúa was that the Americas produced indigenous discourses of friendship that recognized and attempted to redress the asymmetry of intercultural relations, by producing, rather than initially requiring, equality.” (Schweitzer pg. 287).

    Another personal struggle that Gloria Anzaldúa faced growing up was being a woman in general, and being a lesbian. She would constantly get put down by the male discourse of society. For example, “‘You're nothing but a woman" means you are defective. Its opposite is to be un macho.’” (Anzaldúa 83). Anzaldúa feels as though she does not belong to any specific culture because of who she is as a person. Anzaldúa says, “As a mestiza I have no country, my homeland cast me out; yet all countries are mine because I am every woman's sister or potential lover. (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.)” (Anzaldúa 80). Even after all of the discrimination against her and the constant negativity surrounding her life choices, Anzaldúa made the best of her situations and persevered to become a well-known feminist author in the United States.


    “ Within us and within la cultura chicana, commonly held beliefs of the white culture attack commonly held beliefs of the culture, and both attack commonly held beliefs of the Mexican culture. Subconsciously, we see an attack on ourselves and our beliefs as a threat and we attempt to block with acounterstance.

    But it is not enough to stand on the opposite river bank, shouting questions, challenging patriarchal, white conventions. A counterstance locks one into a duel of oppressor and oppressed; locked in mortal combat, like the cop and the criminal, both are reduced to a common denominator of violence. The counterstance refutes the dominant culture's views and beliefs and, for this, it is proudly defiant. All reanion is limited! by, and dependent on, what it is reacting against. Because the counterstance stems from a problem with authority- outer as well as inner-it's a step towards liberation from cultural domination. But it is not a way of life. At some point, on our way to a new consciousness, we will have to leave the opposite bank, the split between the two mortal combatants somehow healed so that we are on both shores at once and, at once, see through serpent and eagle eyes. Or perhaps we will decide to disengage from the dominant culture, write it off altogether as a lost cause, and cross the border into a wholly new and separate territory. Or we might go another route. The possibilities are numerous once we decide to act and not react.”


    "Gloria Anzaldúa" by K. Kendall is licensed under CC BY 2.0.

    Works Cited

    Anzaldúa, Gloria. “Borderlands/La Frontera.” Aunt Lute Books Company, 1987.

    Ortega, Mariana. “Wounds of Self: Experience, Word, Image, and Identity.” The Journal of Speculative Philosophy, vol. 22, no. 4, 2008, pp. 235-47.

    Schweitzer, Ivy. “For Gloria Anzaldúa: Collecting America, Performing Friendship.” PMLA, vol. 121, no. 1, 2006, pp. 285-91.

    8: Gloria Anzaldúa (1942-2004) is shared under a CC BY-SA license and was authored, remixed, and/or curated by LibreTexts.

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