Gloria Anzaldua Borderlands/La Frontera: The New Mestiza


In a radical genre she calls autohistoria, which offers an innovative way to write history, Gloria Anzaldua presents a non-linear history of both the geographical and psychological landscapes of Borderlands.  Anzulda’s autohistoria is a genre of mixed media—personal narrative, testimonio, factual accounts, cuento, and poetry—that refutes stasis just as the Borderlands from which Anzaldua comes.  According to Anzaldua, the Border is a “third country” whose history as been told on Anglocentric terms, which she attempts to disrupt through feminist analysis and issues.  As one of many subaltern Indian women of the Americas working hard to overcome the traditions of silence, Anzaludua  attempts to recover the female historical presence by restorying Border history and rewriting the stories of Malinali, la Llorona and the Virgen de Guadalupe.  As Sonia Saldivar-Hull writes in the introduction to La Frontera, Anzaldua’s recovery project “leads to the political, feminist, social awareness Anzaldua calls New Mestiza Consiousness” (8).  As Anzaldua explains it, this consciousness entails  a “shift out of habitual formations: form convergent thnking, analytical reasoning that tends to use rationality to move toward a single goal (a Western mode), to divergent thinking, characterized by movement away from set patterns and goals toward a more whole perspective, on ethat includes rather than excludes” (101). 

 

Anzaluda’s multilingual methodology invokes what Mignolo calls “border thinking,” which embodies a double consciousness and employing multi-languaging to think from the border and offer a new epistemology.   As Anzaldua describes it, border thinking creates a new mythos—“a change in the way we perceive reality, the way we see ourselves, and the ways we behave” (102).  In essence, from the border, Anzaldua is creating another culture altogether, “ a new story to explain the world and our participation in it, a new value system with images and symbols that connect us to each other and to the planet” (103).  The first step in “the Mestiza way” is taking inventory of our own selves that have been constructed by traceless historical processes.  Then, we must put history “though a sieve, winnow out the lies, looks at the forces that we as a race, as women, have been part of” (104).  This process causes “conscious ruptures with all oppressive traditions of all cultures and religions.  She [then] communicates that rupture, documents the struggle, and reinterprets history, and using new symbols, she shapes new myths” (104).  Deconstruct in order to construct…

 

Part of this methodology that is so effective is the personal accounts that Anzaldua offers to describe the psyche of those on the border.  She explains, for instance, that she bought into Western claims that Indians are incapable of rationale thought and higher consciousness (59).  She admonishes Western intellectual thought for turning Indians into objects of study and making it shameful to speak their own language and trust their own ways of knowing–all of which are at the roots of violence.   She explains that ethnic identity is wrapped up in language; thus, those on the border attempt to create a language in which “they can create their own identity to, one capable of communicating the realities and values true to themselves—a language with terms that are neither espanol ni ingles, but both.  We speak a patois, a forked tongue, a variation of two language” (76). 

 

In attempt to explain the psyche of those on the border, Anzaldua explains that many on the border develop la facultad—“the capacity to see in surface phenomena the meaning of deeper realities to see the deep structure below the surface.  It is an instant “sensing,” a quick perception arrived at without conscious reasoning.  It is an acute awareness mediated by the part of the psyche that does not speak, that communicates in images and symbols which are the faces of feelings, that is behind which feelings reside/hide”  (60).  

 

Anzaldua also explains how important the role of art in Indian ways of life.  As she explains, art was not separated from daily life. “The writer, as shape-changer, is a nahual, a shaman” (88).   She deems her own writing as an art—an object, “an assemblage,  a montage, a beaded wrok with several leitomotifs and with a central core, now appearing, now disappearing in a crazy dance” (88).  She also considers her “stories” as “acts, encapsulated in time, ‘enacted’ everytime they are spoken aloud or read silently. [She] like[s] to think of them as performances and not as inert and ‘dead’ objects (as the aesthetic of Western culture think of art works).  Instead, the work has an identity; it is ‘who’ or a ‘what’ and contains the presences of persons, that is, incarnations of gods or ancestors or natural and cosmic powers.  The work manifests the same needs as a person, it needs to be ‘fed,’ la tengo que banar y vestir” (89).

 

Anzaldua argues that “western cultures behave differently toward works of art than do tribal cultures” (89).  “Ethnocentricism,” she claims, “is the tyranny of Western aesthetics” (90).  Western culture kills/conquers the power of art; it counts art as a “’dead thing’ separate from nature” (90).  “Lets stop importing Greek myths and the Western Cartesian split point of view,” she argues, “and root ourselves in the mythological soil and soul of this continent.  White America has only attended to the body of the earth in order to exploit it, never to succor it or to be nurtured by it.  [W]hites could allow themselves t shared and exchange and learn from us in a respectful way” (90). 

 

She explains the importance of images in Indian ways of knowing:  “An image is a bridge between evoked emotion and conscious knowledge; words are the cables that hold up the bridge.  Images are more direct, more immediate than words, and closer to the unconscious.  Picture language precedes thinking in words; the metaphorical mind precedes analytical consciousness” (90).

 

Anzaldua explains that her process of writing entails “picking out images from [her] soul’s eye, fishing forth the right words to recreate the images” (93).  Why is a reimaging of reality in our consciousness so important:  “nothing happens in the ‘real’ world unless it first happens in the images in our heads” (109).

 

Key Concepts:

 

Borderland—vague and undertrmined placed created by the emotional residue of an unnatural border -25

 

Mexican—used to describe race and ancestry

Mestizo—used to affirm both Indian and Spanish ancestry

Chicano-used to signal political awareness of people born and raised in U.S.

 

 

 

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10 Comments

Filed under cultural rhetorics exam, historiography exam

10 responses to “Gloria Anzaldua Borderlands/La Frontera: The New Mestiza

  1. jeremypessoa

    Great post!

  2. mixbee

    shes definitely not Indian

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