Since this site is intended to be both History and Culture–it’s about time I start posting about some of the amazing Chicana Artists who have been so influential.
One who I will be writing a lot more on is Gloria Anzaldúa. She is definitely the best writer I’ve ever read. Why have you never heard of her? Perhaps it’s because her books have often been banned and removed from schools across the US. Perhaps it’s because when Americans think of their writers and poets they don’t think about Hispanics–they don’t think about anything written in Spanish, from poor migrant communities or from Mexican Americans. But in order to write something meaningful there’s little that can replace the perspective of being outside. This is the space where Anzaldúa really excels as a writer. As a Chicana growing up in South Texas experienced the racism of America–being brown, Mexican and American, but at the same time neither Mexican nor American–yet instead of simply raging or assimilating either position into life she uses her introspection on racism to teach us about ourselves and each other. As a woman and a lesbian she is also a hard critic on Mexican machismo and her frustration with Gringo culture is not one sided but extends to frustrations with her native culture and family dynamics.
She writes some pretty radical hard hitting truth too. This essay, La Prieta is definitely one of those radical moments. It’s free and will only take you 8 minutes to read and I highly recommend it.
Her main work is a book Borderlands/La Fronteria was written in 1987. I have so much I’d like to say about it but the reality is that it’s a bit like talking about the Grand Canyon–you just need to see it for yourself. The books starts as an essay on culture but turns toward first person narrative. It’s written in English and Spanish, poetry and prose. Here are just a few passages that I double highlighted when reading–buy the book!
“The U.S.-Mexican border es una herida abierta where the Third world grates against the first and bleeds. And before a scab forms it hemorrhages again, the lifeblood of two worlds merging to form a third country—a border culture.
Chicanos and other people of color suffer economically for not acculturating. This voluntary (yet forced) alienation makes for psychological conflict, a kind of dual identity—we don’t identify with the Anglo American cultural values and we don’t totally identify with the Mexican cultural values. We are a synergy of two cultures with various degrees of Mexicanness or Angloness. I have internalized the borderland conflict that sometimes I feel like one cancels out the other and we are zero, nothing, no one. A veces yo soy nada ni nadie. Pero hasta cuando no lo soy, lo soy.
Yet the struggle of identities continues, the struggle of borders is our reality still. One day the inner struggle will cease and a true integration take place. In the meantime, tenemos que hacerla lucha. ¿Quién está protegiendo los ranchos de mi gente? ¿Quién está tratando de cerrar la fisura entre la india y el blanco en nuestro sangre? El Chicano, sí, el Chicano que anda como un ladrón en su propia casa.”
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 view and beliefs, and, for this, it is proudly defiant. All reaction 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 toward liberation from cultural domination. But it is not a way of life.
The struggle is inner: Chicano indio, American Indian, mojado, mexicano, immigrant Latino, Anglo in power, working class Anglo, Black, Asian–our psyches resemble the border towns and are populated by the same people. This struggle has always been inner, and is played out in the terrains. Awareness of our situation must come before inner changes, which in turn come before changes in society. Nothing happens in the “real” world unless it first happens in the images in our heads.
This land was Mexican Once,
was Indian always
And will be again.”