A Woman Who Lived Sin Fronteras

By Leyva, Yolanda Chavez | The Progressive, August 2004 | Go to article overview
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A Woman Who Lived Sin Fronteras


Leyva, Yolanda Chavez, The Progressive


In the mid-1970s I was an under-graduate student at the University of Texas at Austin, majoring in business administration. It seemed practical for a first-generation college student. The only thing that kept me going during those years on campus was the presence of a small group of Mexican American women faculty whose dedication to community and scholarship inspired me. One woman was Gloria Anzaldua, then a graduate student in her mid-thirties, who taught in Mexican American Studies. She died on May 15 at the age of sixty-one from complications associated with diabetes.

When I heard that she had passed away, memories came flooding back: her constant admonition to "read more!"; her willingness to share her work and knowledge with us; the way that she challenged students to listen to each other.

In the three decades since I sat in her classes learning about Mexican American literature, history, and art, Gloria published groundbreaking works on gender, sexuality, race, and class. She influenced scholars, activists, and countless students across a variety of disciplines.

Born in South Texas in 1942, an area with a long history of racial discrimination and violence against Mexican Americans, Anzaldua attended segregated schools is a child. She leaned English after beginning school but never gave up Spanish. Coming of age between two nations, as well as multiple cultures and languages, Anzaldua understood borders. She wrote, "I have been straddling [them] all my life. It's not a comfortable territory to live in, this place of contradictions."

Anzaldua concerned herself not just with the physical U.S.-Mexican borderlands. She explored "wherever two or more cultures edge each other, where people of different races occupy the same territory, where lower, middle, and upper classes touch, where the space between two individuals shrinks with intimacy." For her, the borderlands were physical, psychological, spiritual, and sexual.

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