Mestiza consciousness of La Frontera/Borderlands in Sandra Cisneros and Helena María Viramontes

Overman, Linda Rader ORCID logo ORCID: (2016) Mestiza consciousness of La Frontera/Borderlands in Sandra Cisneros and Helena María Viramontes. In: Frye, Steven, (ed.) The Cambridge Companion to the Literature of the American West. Cambridge Companions to Literature . Cambridge University Press, New York, USA, pp. 153-169.

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Gloria Anzaldúa, Chicana poet, essayist, fiction writer, and feminist critic, defines the “place of contact between the dominant culture and non-dominant cultures” (Wheatwind) as the “borderlands,” the place from whence a consciousness of difference derives. Looking at Chicana culture “with all our differences amongst us as well as looking at the clash of dominant culture and Mexican culture, with the use of the border as a metaphor,” (Wheatwind) she expounds on this metaphor in her seminal text Borderlands/La Frontera, which explores the complexities of the Chicana identity and what she theorizes as la consciencia de la mestiza.

A Chicana-tejana growing up in the Lower Rio Grande Valley of south Texas and a lesbian, Anzaldúa is of working-class origins. Embracing a hybrid identity, she asserts she is not claimed by any one specific category of sexuality, race, culture, class, or gender, but proclaims:
I am a border woman. I grew up between two cultures, the Mexican (with a heavy Indian influence) and the Anglo (as a member of a colonized people in our own territory). I have been straddling that tejas-Mexican border, and others, all my life. (v)

By exploring a consciousness of the Borderlands, Anzaldúa argues that the Chicana identity is hybrid rather than fragmented. Las Chicanas are a border people confronting the challenges of living between the United States of America and the United States of Mexico. In confronting their challenges, these women are shaped by a mestiza consciousness that “assumes a prophetic voice to create – by mythic, spiritual, mystic, intuitive and imaginative means – a new vision of different kinds of borderlands, sexual or cultural, religious or racial, psychological or creative” (Ramírez, 185–186). La mestiza's domain contains “various kinds of borders simultaneously”; tolerating contradictions, la mestiza operates “in a pluralistic mode” as the “supreme crosser of cultures” (Anzaldúa, 79, 84).

Anzaldúa speaks of this struggle in “keeping one's shifting and multiple identity and integrity” (58) intact by generating the condition of the uncomfortable familiar, that is, “no not comfortable but home.” In acknowledging mestiza consciousness and the multiplicity it engenders, Anzaldúa creates “a third space, the in-between, border, or interstice that allows contradictions to co-exist” (Yarbro-Bejarano, 11). Anzaldúa proclaims in Borderlands/La Frontera as well that “the culture and the Church insist that women are subservient to males. If a woman rebels she is a mujer mala” (Anzaldúa, 17).

Item Type: Book Section
Publisher: Cambridge University Press
ISBN: 9781316155097
Departments: Academic Departments > Institute of Arts (IOA) > Humanities
Additional Information: Chapter 13 within the book. Linda Rader Overman achieved her PhD in Creative Writing at the University of Cumbria in 2015.
Depositing User: Insight Administrator
Date Deposited: 08 Sep 2016 13:28
Last Modified: 12 Jan 2024 15:16


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