Anzaldúa’s Borderlands/La Frontera has been critically analyzed by several scholars through the lens of race, sexuality, indigeneity, and immigration.
Race and Sexuality
Using a critical race lens, Professor of Sociology María L. Amado argues that Anzaldúa subverts colonial paradigms and oppressive racial categories through her utilization of the term "new mestiza," which relies on the inclusion of racial minorities and queer people. Amado contrasts this to the concept of "old mestiza,” which relies on notions of racial purity and superiority as conceptualized by philosopher José Vasconcelos.
Race scholar Miriam Jiménez Román describes Anzaldúa’s “mestiza consciousness” as an extension of the multicultural project within the United States. Roman argues that due to Anzaldúa’s emphasis on the intermixing of identities and the “elasticity of racial definitions,” the new consciousness that emerges replicates racial hierarchies and dismisses calls for racial equality.
Through the lens of queer theory, literary scholar Ian Barnard contends that Anzaldúa’s Borderlands re-conceptualizes the binary between “queer” people of color and white “lesbian/gay” people in her theory of the “new mestiza.” Through this, Barnard argues that the book universalizes the queer experience, inviting queer people of all identity categories into this collective consciousness of the borderlands. Barnard notes that this universalization cannot be compared to white-centric depictions of multiculturalism as Anzaldúa references her own experiences as a Chicana and that of other racial minorities.
Literary scholar Hsinya Huang highlights Borderlands/La Frontera’s portrayal of indigeneity, arguing that Anzaldúa forefronts narratives of Indigenous identity often excluded within diasporic studies. Through depictions of pandemics nearly eradicating the Native American population, Huang argues that Anzaldúa “remaps the borderlands by following the movement of the diasporic bodies,” subverting colonial paradigms that have historically excluded Indigenous narratives. Huang also notes Anzaldúa's portrayal of the working Indigenous women along the borders facing economic, racial, and sexual oppression as a means to further confront colonialism through narration.
Professor of Women and Gender Studies at the Texas Woman's University AnaLouise Keating argues that Anzaldúa appropriates indigeneity in Borderlands, particularly in analogizing her experience to Native Americans and her self-depictions as a “shaman,” which she lent from the indigenous culture.
Professor of Philosophy Amy-Reed Sandavol contends that Anzaldúa’s Borderlands portrayed “socially undocumented identity,” describing the deportation of an immigrant named Pedro who despite having been a U.S. Citizen, was coded as an immigrant due to his ethnic identity. Sandavol further draws on Borderlands’ descriptions of U.S territorial grabs after the Mexican-American War as a forced removal of the Mexican and Indigenous people to which the land originally belonged.