Borderlands La Frontera: The New Mestiza

Borderlands La Frontera: The New Mestiza Symbols, Allegory and Motifs

The Serpent (Symbol)

The serpent symbolizes sexuality. For Gloria’s mother, the serpent is a masculine figure because she sees its form as phallic. However, Gloria herself seeks to internalize the serpent, which she views as an instantiation of the sexual aspect of the goddess Coatlicue.

The Mexican Flag (Symbol)

The Mexican flag depicts an eagle holding a serpent in its beak while perched on a cactus, the sight which supposedly convinced the Aztecs to settle in what is today Mexico City. In Anzaldúa’s reading of this image, the eagle symbolizes the male forces of spirit, sun, and father, while the serpent symbolizes the female forces of soul, earth, and mother. Because the eagle is holding the serpent up to the sky, the image as a whole symbolizes the defeat of matriarchy by patriarchy, and the sacrifice of the female in pursuit of male power.

The Story of Coatlicue (Allegory)

In chapter 3, Anzaldúa recounts the history of the female Aztec goddess Coatlicue. She recounts that Coatlicue contained and tolerated dichotomies such as light and dark, nurturing and sexuality. Later, she was split into three aspects: la Virgen, la Chingada, and la Llorona. All but la Virgen, or Coatlalopeuh, later interpreted by the Spanish Catholics as the Virgin Mary, were marginalized and rejected. This history of Coatlicue thus becomes an allegory for the history of Chicana women, who were at first powerful within a matriarchal structure, then disempowered by Aztec patriarchy, and finally severed from their spiritual practice and mixed with the Spanish due to colonialism. Nevertheless, in the mestiza woman as in la Virgen, the Indigenous past is still there, hidden but not forgotten.

Mirrors (Motif)

Anzaldúa discusses mirrors in “The Coatlicue State,” and returns to them in “How to Tame a Wild Tongue.” She uses them as a visual representation of self-perception, as well as how Chicana women perceive one another.

The Body (Motif)

Throughout Borderlands, Anzaldúa emphasizes her own body, describing it in visceral detail. The body is often shaped or transformed, and it often combines with other living things, such as when Gloria ingests the snake’s blood at the beginning of “Entering Into the Serpent.” This focus offers a decolonial, feminist lens in opposition to the valorization of the mind which is typical of white patriarchal discourse.