Anzaldúa Publishes

Chicana lesbian feminist Gloria Anzaldúa published Borderlands/La Frontera, a foundational work that combines scholarly research, personal narrative, and indigenous world views to reinterpret history and culture.

Summary of Event

Gloria Anzaldúa was one of the first Chicanas to publicly come out as lesbian and to incorporate her cultural roots and queer sexuality within her writings. Published in 1987, Borderlands/La Frontera: The New Mestiza analyzes the psychological, historic, and political conflict inherent along the physical border between the United States and Mexico and the metaphoric borders among individuals living in the border regions. [kw]Anzaldúa Publishes Borderlands/La Frontera (1987)
[kw]Publishes Borderlands/La Frontera, Anzaldúa (1987)
[kw]Borderlands/La Frontera, Anzaldúa Publishes (1987)
Borderlands/La Frontera (Anzaldúa)[Borderlands La Frontera]
Lesbian feminism;Chicanas
Chicana lesbian feminism
[c]Race and ethnicity;1987: Anzaldúa Publishes Borderlands/La Frontera[1700]
[c]Literature;1987: Anzaldúa Publishes Borderlands/La Frontera[1700]
[c]Publications;1987: Anzaldúa Publishes Borderlands/La Frontera[1700]
[c]Feminism;1987: Anzaldúa Publishes Borderlands/La Frontera[1700]
Anzaldúa, Gloria

The cover of Anzaldúa’s Borderlands/La Frontera (1987).

(Aunt Lute Books)

Written in poetry and prose in English, with a mixture of Spanish, Tex-Mex Spanglish, and Nahuatl, Borderlands/La Frontera features Anzaldúa’s childhood in the Rio Grande Valley of southern Texas, where she was a migrant worker and learned to speak English at nine years old. Anzaldúa’s personal narrative, combined with scholarly research, political commentary, and in-depth references to mythology, spirituality, and indigenous heritage, broke with the scholarly conventions of the time in both structure and content. While not directed solely at academic readers, Borderlands/La Frontera nonetheless challenged an academy that privileged Eurocentric curricula, lacked instruction in the lives of people of color, barely represented the works of authors “of color,” and had limited people of color as faculty.

Detailing the injustice and harsh realities of the lives of Mexicans on both sides of the border, Anzaldúa recounts and critiques the colonization of Mexico by the United States. In particular, she focuses on the difficulty and complexity of existing simultaneously in a land with two languages and two cultures, an existence reflected throughout the text by her practice of code-switching without providing English translations. She reaffirms Chicano Spanish as a living language and calls on Chicanos to embrace their indigenous roots as part of being mestiza or mestizo (of mixed indigenous and European ancestry). She also challenges the Chicano movement’s sexism, and cites homophobia and the “fear of going home” as reasons why Chicanas are hesitant to come out of the closet within their community.

Anzaldúa foregrounds a Chicano culture that had been marginalized, and she connects it to its indigenous Mexican roots. However, she does not merely glorify Aztec history—she reinterprets it, and challenges and revises the meanings assigned to certain icons. For example, she takes prominent female figures who had been cast as traitors in Mexican history—Malintzin, Coatlicue, and La Llorona—and presents them as powerful deities. Coatlicue, for instance, is reclaimed as the archetypal, serpent, Earth goddess of life and death, who rules the unconscious mind and is the feminine sexual basis of life.

Anzaldúa’s “new mestiza” exists in the consciousness of the borderlands, taking inventory of her cultural inheritance, discarding its tainted aspects, and creating a new way of perceiving reality. The new mestiza is a plural personality with flexible boundaries and a transformative being who is in continual creative motion. While the theorization of mestizaje is outstanding in Borderlands/La Frontera, Anzaldúa’s major goal in writing the book was to use her convergent and divergent thinking processes to mobilize her people and her oppressors toward social justice.

Prior to publishing Borderlands/La Frontera, Anzaldúa coedited with Cherríe Moraga the groundbreaking multicultural feminist anthology This Bridge Called My Back: Writings by Radical Women of Color, published in 1981 (an expanded and revised edition was published in 2002 by Third Woman Press). Anzaldúa has continued her distinctive blend of creative and academic discourse by editing a series of anthologies. She has merged ideology with different genres, including the anthology of poetry, creative prose, and academic writings she edited in 1990 called Making Face, Making Soul/Haciendo Caras: Creative and Critical Perspectives by Women of Color. Other works include the 2002 anthology coedited with AnaLouise Keating, This Bridge We Call Home: Radical Visions for Transformation, which include the writings not only of women of color but also men and Caucasians. Much of Anzaldúa’s life and personal philosophies are documented in Interviews/Entrevistas, an edited collection of memoir-like interviews. She died in 2004 from diabetes-related complications.


Borderlands/La Frontera is an important and popular book that has remained in print with small independent publishers. It was named one of the 100 Best Books of the Century by the magazines Utne Reader and Hungry Mind Review, and Library Journal selected it as one of the 38 Best Books of 1987.

Borderlands/La Frontera has had a remarkable impact on the academy. It has validated personal experience and unconventional approaches to scholarly research and continues to call for an interdisciplinary approach to higher education. It diversified the conventions of literary criticism and became a central text for cultural theory, women’s studies, American studies, and queer studies, among others. It supported the presence of people of color in the academy and championed the use of multicultural texts and perspectives in the classroom. Within and beyond the classroom, Borderlands/La Frontera also contributed to the theorization of identity formation for women of color. Borderlands/La Frontera (Anzaldúa)[Borderlands La Frontera]
Lesbian feminism;Chicanas
Chicana lesbian feminism

Further Reading

  • Anzaldúa, Gloria E. Borderlands/La Frontera: The New Mestiza. San Francisco, Calif.: Spinsters/Aunt Lute Books, 1987. Second edition published in 1999 by Aunt Lute Books.
  • _______, ed. Making Face, Making Soul/Haciendo Caras: Creative and Critical Perspectives by Women of Color. San Francisco, Calif.: Aunt Lute Books, 1990.
  • Anzaldúa, Gloria, and AnaLouise Keating, eds. This Bridge We Call Home: Radical Visions for Transformation. New York: Routledge, 2002.
  • Anzaldúa, Gloria, and Cherríe Moraga, eds. This Bridge Called My Back: Writings by Radical Women of Color. New York: Kitchen Table: Women of Color Press, 1981.
  • Arredondo, Gabriela F., et al., eds. Chicana Feminisms: A Critical Reader. Durham, N.C.: Duke University Press, 2003.
  • Browdy de Hernandez, Jennifer, ed. Women Writing Resistance: Essays on Latin America and the Caribbean. Cambridge, Mass.: South End Press, 2003.
  • Keating, AnaLouise, ed. Interviews/Entrevistas: Gloria E. Anzaldúa. New York: Routledge, 2000.
  • Saldivar-Hull, Sonia. Feminism on the Border: Chicana Gender Politics and Literature. Berkeley: University of California Press, 2000.

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