Borderlands La Frontera: The New Mestiza


Borderlands/La Frontera: The New Mestiza is a 1987 semi-autobiographical work by Gloria E. Anzaldúa that examines the Chicano and Latino experience through the lens of issues such as gender, identity, race, and colonialism. Borderlands is considered to be Anzaldúa’s most well-known work and a pioneering piece of Chicana literature.[1]

In an interview, Anzaldúa claims to have drawn inspiration from the ethnic and social community of her youth[1] as well as from her experiences as a woman of color in academia.[2] Scholars also argue that Anzaldúa re-conceptualized the theory of the "mestiza" from the Chicano Movement.[3]

The term Borderlands, according to Anzaldúa, refers to the geographical area that is most susceptible to la mezcla [hybridity], neither fully of Mexico nor fully of the United States.[4] She also used this term to identify a growing population that cannot distinguish these invisible "borders," who instead have learned to become a part of both worlds, worlds whose cultural expectations they are still expected to abide by.[4] Borderlands details the invisible "borders" that exist between Latinas/os and non-Latinas/os, men and women, heterosexuals and homosexuals, and other groups.[4] Each of the essays and poems draws on the author’s life experiences as a Chicana and lesbian. In both prose and poetry sections, Anzaldúa challenges the conception of a border as a divide and calls for the majority, especially those from the Western culture, to nurture active interest in the oppressed and change their attitudes that foster the growth of borders.

Borderlands is a semi-autobiographical account that contains a mixture of prose and poetry. Anzaldúa alternates between Spanish and English using a technique such as “code-switching.”[2] Additionally, Anzaldúa’s frequent usage of metaphors and imagery has been described by scholars as “poet-shaman aesthetics.”[5]

Scholars have analyzed Borderlands/La Frontera from a variety of perspectives. Professor María  L. Amado describes Anzaldúa’s Borderlands and her theory of “the new mestiza” as one of racial inclusivity.[3] Critical race scholar Miriam Jiménez Román contends that Anzaldúa’s emphasis on intermixing identities through the “mestiza consciousness” reifies current racial hierarchies and inequality.[6] Scholar Ian Barnard argues that Anzaldúa universalizes the queer experience by incorporating various identity categories into her theory of the borderlands.[7] Literary scholar Hsinya Huang examines argues that Borderlands forefronts the often excluded narratives of Indigenous people.[8] Scholar AnaLouise Keating argues that Anzaldúa appropriates Indigenous by referring to herself as “shaman." [5] Professor Amy-Reed Sandavol argues that Anzaldúa’s Borderlands contains early portrayals “socially undocumented identity” by depicting the deportation of U.S. Citizens.[9]

Borderlands has been a subject of controversy due to House Bill 2281 passed by the Arizona legislature, which banned the teaching of ethnic studies courses and literature that were thought to “promote resentment towards a race or class of people,” resulting in the banning of Borderlands.[10] However, Borderlands has also been promoted in educational spaces by Professor Cati V. de Los Ríos, who describes its role in affirming student identity.[10] Borderlands also received recognition from the Literary Journal as one of the 38 Best Books of 1987.[11]

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