In general, when people discuss Borderlands/La Frontera, they refer primarily to the first section, “Atravesando Fronteras / Crossing Borders,” which is written primarily in prose and centers around a political argument. For that reason, this guide primarily focuses on the first seven chapters of Borderlands. This last summary and analysis section serves less as an in-depth guide to “Un Agitado Viento / Ehécatl, The Wind” than an overview of its content and an introduction to its themes and motifs. It ends with in-depth readings of a few poems which are especially interesting or connected to the broader themes of Borderlands/La Frontera; these analyses can also serve as examples of how each individual poem might be read more closely.
“Un Agitado Viento / Ehécatl, The Wind” is divided into six sections, each tied together by some overarching theme or motif. The first section “Más antes en los ranchos [Earlier in the ranches]” focuses on animals and on childhood. In “White-wing Season,” a Chicana woman has to sell the hunting rights to the birds on her land to white hunters, but she remembers hunting those birds herself. In “Cervicide,” a young girl kills her family’s fawn to protect her family from the game warden, who could imprison them for keeping an animal illegally. The children of a rich white man torture and mutilate a horse in “horse,” and the mexicanos, haunted by his pain and death, can do nothing to punish them. In “Immaculate, Inviolate: Como Ella,” the speaker remembers her grandmother visiting when she was a child, and recalls learning about dignity in the face of male violence, poverty, and sickness. Finally, in “Nopalitos” the young speaker remembers plucking the thorns off of cactuses to use for cooking.
The next section, “La Perdida [Loss],” centers around farming and economic exploitation. In “sus plumas el viento,” Anzaldúa honors her mother’s hard and brutal work as a farmer, focusing on the ways it changed her body. In “cultures,” the speaker, likely Gloria herself, describes the little patch of land she, as a girl, was told to cultivate, and how it ultimately grew only weeds. The next poem, “sobre piedras con lagartijos (para todos los mojaditos que han cruzado para este lado) [On Rocks with Lizards (for all the wetbacks who have crossed to this side)]” is one of several poems in “Ehécatl, The Wind” which are written entirely in Spanish. In it, Anzaldúa tells the story of a Mexican man who immigrates to the U.S. to work, only to be pushed down over and over by the brutality and greed of white America.
In contrast, in the next poem, “el sonavabitche,” the speaker tells the story of standing up to a white landowner and forcing him to pay back wages to her family by threatening to expose him for using the labor of illegal immigrants. The poem “Mar de repolios (para la gente que siempre ha trabajado en las labores) [A Sea of Cabbages (for those who have worked in the fields)]” appears first in Spanish and then translated into English, and descibes a cabbage farmer and the faith and hope it takes to survive working in the fields. “We Call Them Greasers” is written from the perspective of a white landowner who brutalizes his Mexican workers. The last poem, “Matrix sin tumbo o ‘el baño de la basura ajena’ [Womb without Tomb or ‘The Bath of Other People’s Trash’] is published only in Spanish and returns to the motif of trash.
The third section is titled “Crossers y otros atravesados” and center bodily transformation and horror. The first poem, “Poets Have Strange Eating Habits” speaks to the transformations and border transgressions which are inherent to writing poetry. “The Cannibal’s Cancion” compares love with eating someone, and “Corner of 50th St. and Fifth Av.” describes the police assaulting a man they have arrested, and casts their violence to a twisted kind of sex. On a more whimsical and optimistic note, in “Interface,” the speaker falls in love with an alien woman who has no body, but begins to desire a corporeal form and eventually comes into the world as a flesh and blood being.
The fourth section, “Cihuatlyotl, Woman Alone” focuses on the treatment of women. In “Holy Relics” Anzaldúa describes in gory detail the gradual dismemberment of the body of Saint Teresa of Ávila in order to acquire and sell relics. In “En el nombre de todas las madres que han perdido sus hijos en la guerra [In the name of all the mothers who lost sons in the war],” the speaker is a woman holding her bullet-stricken child to her chest as he bleeds out, unable to accept his horrible death. “Letting Go” is a surrealist poem in which the speaker turns her body inside out to find it full of grains and desert creatures, until the normal world begins to feel unnatural. In “I Had To Go Down,” Anzaldúa describes a descent into a basement, representing a descent into one’s own dark unconscious. In “that dark shining thing,” Anzaldúa describes the difficulties and necessity of bringing other women to see their own power. Finally, “Cihuatlyotl, Woman Alone,” is a kind of manifesto for existing both as a member of a community and as an individual woman of color with a fully realized sense of self.
The penultimate section “Animas” combines magical realist elements with a spirituality deriving from Anzaldúa’s Indigenous ancestry. In “La curandera,” the speaker tells the story of how they became a healer through defying the U.S.-Mexican border. “Cuyameca” describes the land of the Southwest, and how the speaker encounters an Indigenous woman who has already been disappeared by the U.S. government in order to sell land for profit. In “My Black Angelos,” the speaker describes a terrifying guardian who cares for her. In “Creature of Darkness,” the speaker retreats into solitude and both becomes afraid of the dark and begins to feel at home in it.
The final section, “El Retorno,” shares the title and some of the themes of final section of Chapter Seven, “Towards a New Consciousness.” “Arriba mi gente [Rise up my people]” is a hymn calling for unity, written almost entirely in Spanish. The next poem, “To Live in the Borderlands means you,” gives an extensive definition of who can be said to inhabit the borderlands, and what it is like to “be a crossroads” (195). In “Canción de la diosa de la noche,” the speaker invites spirits into her life in order to confront and change her own fate. Finally, the last poem, “No se raje, chicanita” or “Don’t Give In, Chicanita,” written in Spanish and then translated by Anzaldúa into English, tells a young Chicana girl not to give up, to count on the fact that one day the race will rise up and reclaim the world.
Throughout “Un Agitado Viento / Ehécatl, The Wind,” Anzaldúa returns to the themes and motifs of “Atravesando Fronteras / Crossing Borders.” Because this section is written in poetry rather than prose, she is able to take advantage of the genre’s natural emphasis on metaphor and imagery to lean into some of the more surrealistic aspects of the first half of the book. For example, chapter 3, “Entering into the Serpent,” begins with a description of Gloria as a young girl drinking the blood of a dead serpent. In her poetry, Anzaldúa returns to the idea that the boundaries between humans and other living things are blurry or even entirely imposed, through the use of metaphor and simile. She often compares humans to animals, without the negative connotations these comparisons usually connote, such as when she refers to her grandmother’s fingers as “yellowed talons” (108).
This willingness to stretch and bend the borders of the human body through language connects to a broader theme of body horror and bodily transformation in Anzaldúa’s poetry. Much of her poetry about the difficulties of labor focuses on the impact it has on the body, such as in “sus plumas el viento,” which describes her mother looking down at her hands “thick and calloused like a man’s” and how she “wants to chop off her hands/ cut off her feet” (117). A similar theme resurfaces in “el sonavibiche,” where the speaker sees “brown faces bent backs/ like prehistoric boulders in a field” (124). Here, the simile between “bent backs” and “prehistoric boulders,” typical of the comparisons Anzaldúa makes between human beings and the rest of the world, serves to illustrate how the backbreaking work of farm labor has transformed her people into less lively, hunched versions of themselves. Anzaldúa thus emphasizes the impact that farming has on the body, and also suggests that one of the impacts of race is to make having a body a source of pain in and of itself.
The poem “Interface” approaches this painful topic from a more whimsical angle. In it, the speaker notices a presence “at the edges of things” who turns out to be an alien woman without a body. The two become lovers, and the alien woman, who the speaker calls Leyla, tells her that she “had never wanted to be flesh…until she met me” (148). This statement suggests that having a body is not inherently desirable, but also asserts that embodiment might inevitably become desirable through love. Nevertheless, the poem does not seem to conclude that this makes having a body ultimately good. Indeed, the speaker and Leyla have more fulfilling sex before Leyla becomes fully embodied. As Leyla begins to appear physically in the world, the speaker lies to her roommate, says that she has a friend over who is “recovering from a contagious skin disease” (151). Although a falsehood, this lie still reminds the reader of the horrors of having a body. At the same time, the speaker acknowledges the impossibility of becoming insubstantial herself, and accepts the compromise she makes to be with Leyla, that is, both of them embracing embodiment. The poem ends with the speaker bringing Leyla home, and being asked by her brothers “Is she a lez” to which she replies “no, just an alien” (152). This closing statement suggests, conversely, that lesbians are able to access a kind of alien strangeness in their own embodiment which might free them from some of the pain of having a body in an oppressive world.
Another experiment Anzaldúa is able to make through her poetry is using changes in voice. Although the majority of poems in “Un Agitado Viento / Ehécatl, The Wind” are written from the perspective of herself or someone like her, Anzaldúa also inhabits vastly different subject positions, from an immigrant man to a mother whose baby has died. The most jarring example of this is the poem “We Call Them Greasers,” written from the perspective of a violently racist white landowner. Anzaldúa writes his disgust towards the Mexican farmworkers, his belief that they are inferior and laughable. He precedes to rape one woman as her husband watches, then tells the boys working for him to have “her man” lynched (135). By writing the horrible scene from his eyes, Anzaldúa forces the reader to inhabit this position of violence, and realize how much it degrades someone’s humanity. Rather than allowing a white reader to act as voyeur to the suffering of people of color, “We Call Them Greasers” emphasizes that violence is always enacted by someone, and that white readers especially must work to identify this evil within themselves and their own communities.
In contrast, “To Live in the Borderlands means you” is written from the perspective of an omniscient speaker who addresses the reader in the second person. The title is a clever double entendre; at once, it is an open-ended statement, which leaves the poem to answer what it means for you to live in the borderlands. On the other hand, it also literally means that “to live in the borderlands” means “you,” or, in other words, that you are the essence of living in the borderlands. Following from the rest of the book, which is always anti-assimilationist and interested in asserting a unique self, the poem emphasizes the importance of seeing and living with conflict. The addressee must “be a crossroads,” never choosing one way or another. From this position of conflict you must refuse to choose any one race, to acknowledge all of your heritage, reckon with the betrayal of an Indigenous past and accept one’s white ancestry. As Anzaldúa says, “you are the battleground” (194). Rather than just joining the fight, you must embody the spirit of fighting, the willingness to seek out places where ideas and people and clash, the constant state of change which is the line of battle.